Vietnamese Graduate Students in the U.S. Support Students in Vietnam
From December 17-21, 2003, the First Annual VEF Fellows' Conference was held at the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. During the conference, these Fellows devised a creative initiative called the Support Fund for Poor Students in Vietnam.
According to the initiative, these graduate students will earmark part of their monthly stipend to help poor Vietnamese students, who show promise in their respective fields, to work on their graduate theses. The Fund will be managed by the Fellows themselves, and all grantmaking decisions will be made utilizing simple procedures. So far, these Fellows have successfully raised US$10,000. VEF's Board members have enthusiastically supported the initiative and are committed to enriching the Fund.
Ninety out of one hundred twenty VEF Fellows compromising two cohorts (2003 and 2004 respectively) attended the conference. These students are currently pursuing either Masters or Ph.D. degrees at thirty-seven top American universities in forty-five different fields such as Natural Science, Medicine and Information Technology.
Many prestigious professors and scientists from both American and international institutions participated in and delivered speeches at the conference. Most notably, Professor Nguyen Van Hieu, Rector of the College of Applied Sciences and Technology (Vietnam National University-Hanoi), and Professor Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences, were present at the conference. Also present were representatives from the White House and the U.S Congress, His Excellency Mr. Nguyen Tam Chien, Vietnamese Ambassador to the United States of America, many of VEF Board Members, and Mr. Kien Pham, Executive Director of VEF.
During five days at the conference, VEF Fellows and distinguished guests discussed scientific research, study methodology and experiences, scientific teaching and applications, scientific research methodology and administration, and technology applications. These discussions took into account the reality and circumstances of present-day Vietnam and what VEF Fellows can expect upon return after completing their studies in the U.S.
In addition, VEF Fellows discussed among themselves, as well as with American experts, about how to organize their lives and study while attending American universities, as well as how to integrate and establish relationships with Americans, international students, and professors alike. The difficulties, along with solutions to achieve the best academic results in a new environment, were also points of discussion.
On December 20, the initial scientific research results and achievements of VEF Fellows during their current period of study in the U.S., including some co-authored projects with American and international scientists, were presented and discussed at the conference.
Mr. Kien Pham, VEF Executive Director, noted that this was the first VEF Fellows conference, and that it would be held annually to enable Fellows to meet and network with each other. The conference also aims to strengthen the connections among scientists, opening up new opportunities for VEF Fellows to interact and build long-lasting working relations with American and international scientists.