Ambassador Kritenbrink Remarks: Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF) Legacy Celebratory Event

Thursday, September 13, 2018
Pan Pacific Hotel, Hanoi

What a pleasure it is to be here today to celebrate the success of the Vietnam Education Foundation. I would like to extend a warm welcome to Deputy Minister Nguyễn Phương Nga of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as Dr. Kum Dongwha of the Vietnam Korea Institute of Science and Technology (VKIST).

Today, the U.S. – Vietnam relationship is stronger than it has ever been. Over the past two decades, our two nations have come together to find common purpose based on common interests – from addressing war legacies to growing our trade relationship to preparing for natural disasters – the cooperation between our two countries has and continues to deepen.

And as we celebrate the work of the Vietnam Education Foundation as it closes, we know that the collaboration brought about by VEF will continue to pay rewards for years – and generations – to come.

Six hundred and twenty-six Vietnamese students have had VEF Fellowships since the program began in 2003, a majority of them have earned doctoral degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Medicine, so-called STEMM fields. That is 600 of Vietnam’s best and brightest – side-by-side with America’s best and brightest in laboratories, in classrooms, on research teams – in more than 100 of America’s most highly regarded universities.

This combination of America’s science and technology higher education – the best in the world – with smart and talented Vietnamese students is already paying dividends in Vietnam.

Today, many VEF alumni are working in academia and research institutions throughout the country. VEF alumni are also entrepreneurs creating new products and services for Vietnamese and international consumers. They are building partnerships with U.S. research institutions to improve scientific knowledge in Vietnam and strengthening scientific collaborative efforts that are absolutely essential to solve the most pressing problems of our age.

But that’s not all – the end of the VEF program means the beginning of VEF alumni taking their knowledge and experience to their home communities. The U.S. Mission in Vietnam recently awarded $500,000 in small grants to VEF alumni who will undertake a variety of projects – their initiatives will promote health care linkages between U.S. and Vietnamese institutions, help farmers find sustainable solutions to their problems, and develop “soft skills” for talented STEM leaders.

One group of alumni has implemented the “VEF 2.0” program, which supports outstanding Vietnamese students in the STEM field to apply for leading graduate programs in the United States. This program has already helped 31 students to get admission – and full scholarships – for PhD and Master’s programs in the U.S.

When I think of shared challenges such as climate change, food security, and sustainable development, I am encouraged to know that U.S. and Vietnamese scholars and institutions will continue to work side-by-side to address these global challenges. This collaboration will not only benefit our citizens, but the entire world.

Congratulations to the VEF Board of Directors, the VEF staff, and your Vietnamese and other government partners who made VEF the success that it is today.

And congratulations especially to the VEF alumni. This is an opportunity to look back with pride on your accomplishments, to re-connect with other VEF alumni, and to work together to advance the development of science and technology in Vietnam.