Associate Vice-President, International Ian Rowlands in Vietnam

Friday, November 10, 2023

MOU signing celebration at VNU-HCM University of Science

I recently finished a superb first-ever trip to Vietnam, which was literally ‘years in the making.’ Of course, people across campus have connected with individuals in Vietnam for years, but Waterloo International has taken relatively little proactive action in Vietnam in recent years. In 2021, however, that began to change.

In late 2021, as part of a pandemic-inspired strategy of virtual reach-outs to global peers, Waterloo International connected with various Vietnamese universities’ international offices. Not surprisingly, some of the outreach revealed interesting prospects. As the world opened up to travel again in 2022, our attention turned to how our virtual conversations might be strengthened by connecting in-person.

The 2023 meeting of the APAIE | Asia-Pacific Association for International Education in Thailand provided an excellent opportunity for Waterloo International to start engaging with in-person activities within the region. Following the conference, Amelia Burton (Associate Director, International Relations) and Suping Zhao (International Regional Manager, East Asia) travelled to various universities in Vietnam to explore new opportunities and to further connections made virtually.

Ian Rowlands (AVP-International, University of Waterloo) and Dr. Dinh Hoang Bach (Director of the International Cooperation, Research and Training Institute, Ton Duc Thang University)Based on the findings from Amelia and Suping’s trip and collated with feedback from the Faculty of Science’s recent travel to Vietnam, we developed an itinerary for my trip. I had excellent visits to three universities – VNU - Hanoi University of ScienceTon Duc Thang University, and VNUHCM - University of Science – as well as highly informative meetings at government offices and the Canadian Embassy in Vietnam. Coming out of these discussions, I am convinced there is great potential and that tangible work should continue.

Waterloo International is keen to identify where interests between Waterloo and the peer Vietnamese institutions align in order to bring together faculty with similar subject foci to connect (for instance, through a virtual call). Then see if ‘early wins’ might follow (or, alternatively, if ‘exit ramps’ are politely used). It is about playing the long game to quickly mobilize when opportunities arise.

Waterloo International will also continue working with the Vietnam universities’ international offices to find institutional synergies while also working with national bodies in both countries to find opportunities to scale up innovative approaches strategically.

Plate of foodDuring my trip, I had the pleasure of attending the signing of an MOU with VNU-HCMC University of Science that came from the great work the Faculty of Science did while visiting Vietnam in the spring and Waterloo International’s facilitation of the agreement process. This MOU is a joint celebration of the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Science and Faculty of Mathematics providing opportunities for collaboration in research, co-organization of workshops and symposiums as well as faculty, staff and student mobility.

Exciting times are ahead! I invite Waterloo colleagues to share with us – at – your activities, interests, and priorities for higher education work with institutions and individuals in Vietnam. And, finally, thank you to my colleagues for welcoming me so warmly, and for spending time with me, during my travels. (Thank you, Vietnam, for the wonderful food too!)