The US fosters ties via exchange programme

The US is fostering a mutually beneficial relationship with Vietnam through a mid-level professionals exchange programme.

Head of this programme Marcus D. Ingle, director of International Public Service & Fellow at Portland State University, talked to VIR’s Ninh Kieu about the benefits the programme will bring

Why does the US Department of State fund this programme?

We are very fortunate to have this programme. This is one of several exchange programmes the State Department have organised. The programme is a unique two way exchange, meaning we bring mid-level professionals from Vietnam to the US, but also take Americans to Vietnam. The State Department has adopted the programme to foster mutual beneficial relationship with people in other countries, not just Vietnam but all around the world. The way they want to achieve this goal is through allowing exchanges at student, mid-level professional and high-level. So this is just one way of fostering the relationship between the US and other countries. Most people around the world when they think about the US think about movies and what they see on TV, but that isn’t the real America. And when Americans go abroad, many of them only go for a few days, so they don’t see the real Vietnam.

What is the real goal of this programme?

For this programme, the goal is economic empowerment, but we approach it from the perspective of a public-private partnership and sustainable development. For example, how can government work with the public sector? How can they work together with the business community for a better economy and how can we think long term about sustainable development? The US wants to help Vietnam, because Vietnam is competing with China and Thailand, so you need innovation, so we like to work with Vietnam on creating new knowledge that fits Vietnamese characteristics.

This programme selected just 16 mid-level professionals from Vietnam and the US each. Do you think it is difficult to achieve this goal with just a small group?

I think the overall goal is ambitious. But this is a long term goal that we understand it not going to be completed by the implementation of one programme. There are many steps, and this programme is one step. I think we set specific goal for our programme and I think we’ve been successful in our goals, like giving opportunities for Vietnamese to know more about American culture and vice versa. So I think we did a good job in term of fostering mutual relations, but these things don’t happen over night.

Why did the Department of State choose Portland State University (PSU) to implement this programme?

There is a Japanese word call “nemawashi”, this means before you plant the seed you should prepare the soil, so that the soil will allow the seed to grow and at PSU we have many soil already prepared. We have many programmes in Vietnam and we have a network. So from 16 people, they will have a network of many people, and they will leverage this. The network has power in the long run.

How do you evaluate the Vietnamese mid-level professionals sent to the US?

We hosted to 16 mid-level professionals from Vietnam representing the public, private sector and non-profit sectors. Overall, we have received very positive feedback from Vietnamese. When people worked with the Vietnamese in the United States, they were surprised how intelligent Vietnamese were. You know Americans don’t understand very much about Asia and about Vietnam. When they meet people from Vietnam, they are surprised and they want to come to Vietnam to see why the country has wonderful people. So when they come here, they want to know about the culture, they want to know how they can be helpful, how they can contribute, it can be a project, how can they be more involved.