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UH Graduates First Class from Executive MBA Program in Vietnam

UH professors provide complete course of study

University of Hawaiʻi
Posted: Jul 24, 2003

HONOLULU— The first graduating class of the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa‘s Executive Master of Business Administration program in Hanoi, Vietnam (VEMBA) will be honored in a commencement ceremony on July 26. The graduation marks the first time that an American university has successfully delivered a complete degree program in Vietnam.

"The success of this program and these students exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit that makes UH Mānoa‘s College of Business Administration a pioneer in the field of international business," said UH President Evan S. Dobelle. "These students have the ambition, the multi-cultural understanding and the education to face the challenges and opportunities that are indicative of a global economy."

According to Jim Wills, interim dean of the UH Mānoa College of Business Administration (CBA), a total of 25 students will receive UH Mānoa degrees accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB), the premier accrediting body for business schools. He also noted that the first VEMBA class was 45 percent female with over 70 percent of students coming from Vietnam. The non-Vietnamese students, mostly hailing from the U.S., are individuals who want to earn an American MBA while learning more about Vietnam and developing contacts in the Vietnamese community. Wills went on to add that the majority of the students have work experience in other countries, already hold advanced degrees in other fields and have prominent positions in the public sector or with international firms.

"Based on our unique geographic position and the diversity of our population, it has long been the mission of the University of Hawai'i to identify and strengthen economic and educational opportunities with Asia. Through our partnership with Hanoi School of Business we can offer future Asia-Pacific business leaders an unprecedented opportunity to gain best-practices experience critical to succeeding in an international, market-driven economy," said Wills.

Greg Wong, a member of the first graduating class, is continuing his education at Harvard University where he will pursue a master‘s degree in public administration with an emphasis in globalization.

"My experience in VEMBA program has opened my mind to the immense possibilities of Vietnam‘s transformation from a planned socialist economy to a free-market model," said Wong. "On another level, the VEMBA program was instrumental in bridging the historic divides between Vietnam and America — this program is bringing rising executives together in a learning environment that celebrates differences and explores opportunities for economic growth."

Students graduating from the program are already making their mark. Several successful business partnerships have emerged from the VEMBA classrooms. One of Vietnam‘s most thriving travel agencies now has American and Vietnamese students from VEMBA working in partnership. In addition, six VEMBA students have formed a board of advisors for a children‘s charity — they have drafted a business plan and raised $10,000 for local orphanages in Hanoi.

"UH is the only American university in Vietnam that provides its own faculty to teach every course. All other programs depend, at least in part, on regionally available faculty, who have considerably less experience and expertise in free-market economies, to teach their courses," said Llewellyn Howell, former director of the UH Mānoa VEMBA program. "The caliber of students our program attracts is excellent and the experience level is considerably higher than other schools — these are smart, savvy students who will flourish as Vietnam‘s next generation of business leadership."

According to Howell, the success of the initial class has significantly contributed to the long-term growth of the program. Students enrolled in the second class are currently completing their core courses and applications for the third class are being accepted.

The program was launched in the fall of 2001with a partnership between CBA and the Hanoi School of Business at Vietnam National University (HSB). The two-year program was entirely taught in Hanoi by professors from CBA, assisted by HSB faculty and staff. Distance learning techniques via the internet and an executive format were also offered so participants could keep their full-time management positions while earning their degrees.