June 16, 2024

Postcard from Vietnam
How Tran Thi Thanh Hue combines her roles as dean and a United Board Fellow


The 2022-23 cohort of the United Board Fellows Program comprises 32 early-career scholars from 28 colleges and universities in nine countries and regions in Asia. The largest numbers of the Fellows are from India (9), Indonesia (6) and the Philippines (6).

Dr. Tran Thi Thanh Hue is the only 2022-23 Fellow from Vietnam. She is neither the first nor the last scholar from the Southeastern Asian country, whose best and brightest are increasingly being represented at various workshops, seminars and programs supported by the United Board.

Education runs in the town and in the family

Hue grew up in An Giang in the Mekong Delta region in southwest Vietnam. Although it is a small rural province, teaching is a very much respected profession there. An Giang University used to be a teachers training college before it eventually became a full-fledged university in 1999 and a member of the Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City in 2019.

Education runs in Hue’s family. Many of Hue’s aunts were teachers who set good examples for her to follow. In her own education, Hue was also inspired by teachers who taught her English and Literature. Their caring attitude and stimulating teaching method left a deep impression on the awakening intellect of the young Hue.

Such good influences and her love of language and literature made Hue’s choice of a major at university a no-brainer. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in English Language Teaching and then a master’s in English Language, and began her academic career at An Giang University.

In 2012, Hue went to Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand for a doctorate in Education. In 2018-19, she was a candidate of the Fulbright Vietnamese Visiting Scholar Program and spent nine months at the Quality Teaching for English Learners Department at WestEd, a non-profit based in San Francisco, USA. These overseas experiences have further enriched her professional knowledge and broadened her horizons, launching her onto responsible positions at her home institution.

The university and the scholar come of age

An Giang University is now the home of over 12,000 students and faculty, offering a comprehensive array of undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs. Hue lives in a faculty quarter on its spacious and scenic campus. Although not a Christian university, An Giang University has long established a collaborative relationship with the United Board. Today, it is one of three universities in Vietnam within the United Board’s network of institutions.

The promising faculty members of An Giang University, Hue and her husband included, are frequent participants in the themed workshops and seminars supported by the United Board. Hue has vivid memories of a seminar on whole person education held in Manila in 2017, where she met some United Board staff and scholars from other countries and started to deepen her understanding of the significance of whole person education and how to implement it in higher education.

Hue’s hard work and loyal service have attracted greater responsibilities at An Giang University. Being Dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages, she is spending a lot of time in boardrooms as well as in the classrooms. Although her workload is substantially increased, she approaches her deanery with conviction and solemnity as it is a position from which she can have influence on policies and make impactful contributions to the curriculum and learning experience of the students.

But she did admit sailing is not always smooth: “Due to limited institutional funding, I am facing many challenges in promoting extracurricular activities for students and teacher-led professional development for faculty members.”

Dawning in Singapore

At the leadership seminar at the Singapore Management University (SMU) last November, Hue was treated to, among others, a talk by Mr. Ricky Cheng, Executive Vice President of the United Board, on fundraising. The talk opened up many possibilities for Hue. “I have been made aware of the art and science of fundraising by Mr. Cheng’s talk and I will share those ideas with my colleagues and look for opportunities to implement them in my Faculty,” she said.

She has also been made aware of the importance and process of identifying institutional purposes, visions and strategic plans. She said, “One of my takeaway messages from the SMU seminar is that the two most valuable assets of any institution are its reputation and human capital, and that either can be lost easily and so a leader would need to protect and strengthen them.”

Another significant lesson she has taken away is that international exchange programs can be delivered in a virtual mode with online sessions presented by guest speakers from international partner institutions. She has been made more confident by the friendships she made and the widened network of peers fostered at the seminar, seeing potentially countless collaborative opportunities between her fellow graduates from the United Board Fellows Program and her colleagues at An Giang University.

Throughout her 24 years of teaching at An Giang University, she has witnessed substantial changes being made in all fields and especially in teaching English as a foreign language, with An Giang University emerging as a hub of talent for the education sectors not only in the province but the entire country as well.

Hue sees similar changes taking place in the Vietnamese society at large. She belongs to the generation of young intellectuals who would be the growth engine of Vietnamese higher education. She is confident that Vietnam will continue its policy of opening and developing into a modern economy, and sees her generation playing a pivotal role in providing a strong and skilled workforce to the country.

The United Board is pleased to see what values the Fellows Program has added to the leadership development of Hue and the others, and will surely see and hear from them again in future.