The Search for Creative Solutions
Hanh Nguyen reaches a simple conclusion when he reflects on his postgraduate studies at Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines. “My time in Ateneo changed me,” he says. “It developed my leadership ability and the ability to search for solutions in difficult circumstances.”
These are just a few of the qualities that Hanh believes that academic leaders in his native Vietnam will need as they face the challenges of the twenty-first century. Currently a lecturer of English at An Giang University, Hanh obtained his MA in English Language and Literature Teaching from Ateneo with support from the United Board Faculty Scholarship Program. He chose Ateneo as he believed that the quality of English language instruction in the Philippines was first in the ASEAN region.
Hanh returned to An Giang University in 2010, and in the English department where he now teaches, there are over 800 English major students. As exhilarating as this is, it also presents a real obstacle. “We need native speakers to teach our students everyday English,” he says, “but every year, fewer and fewer native speakers come to the university. Of course, we have e-resources like YouTube instructional videos, but our main challenge is how to attract more teachers when we are so remote.”
Hanh credits his time at Ateneo for helping him to create new solutions. “When I was at Ateneo, I had to use English at all times in order to communicate,” Hanh recalls. He believed this type of immersion would also benefit his students, so he took a leading role in establishing the university’s English Speaking Zone in 2010. Within the English Speaking Zone, students are required to communicate exclusively in English, and as chairman of the zone, Hanh designed activities and assignments intended to spur creativity and encourage group learning.
“A good academic leader,” Hanh says, “needs to be in tune with the people around him or her. You need to discern well, and understand both the needs of your people and their qualities, for if you understand your people, then you can utilize their strengths well.” Armed with these insights and a drive toward creative solutions, Hanh embodies the Faculty Scholarship Program’s goal of enhancing the quality of teaching and learning.
(First published in Horizons, December 2015)