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Deanna Klein and students.
Deanna Klein and students.

MSU Profiles

Faculty share knowledge with Vietnamese

Life changing - that is how Minot State University instructors described their teaching abroad experience in Vietnam.

"I can honestly say that even in all of my previous travels to other countries, nothing has had a greater impact on me than my travel to Vietnam," said Andy Bertsch, business administration professor. "The experience was life changing."

The opportunity to teach abroad came about after Minot State University's College of Business hosted visiting professor Hung Vu Thanh from the National Economics University Business School in Hanoi, Vietnam, during the 2014-15 school year. After returning home, Thanh invited Bertsch and Deanna Klein, Department of Business Administration chair, to teach operations management and management information systems respectively for NEU's English-speaking Master of Business Administration program. For three weeks last fall, Bertsch and Klein taught at NEU.

"Everyone in Vietnam was genuinely happy — although very poor, they were all very happy," Bertsch said. "They are friendly, generous and accommodating. Many times, I was invited into homes for tea or dinner or as an overnight guest, often by complete strangers. Many Vietnamese want to improve their English-speaking skills, so they are eager to practice with a native English speaker."

The entire industrialized portion of Vietnam recognizes that its gateway to the world is through English, the international language of business. Since 1990, the study of English has been mandatory from the elementary school level onward. So, NEU created its MBA program taught in English only. There are no interpreters, so Bertsch and Klein taught in English only. Students were not coddled, so some struggled while others did well.

"The Vietnamese value education and knowledge above financial wealth. Knowledge was much more of an honor than wealth," Bertsch said. "They hosted a party for Dr. Klein and I that coincided with National Teachers Day, and we received flowers. The entire nation honors teachers on this day. It's such a valued profession."

Andy Bertsch and students.

Bertsch and Klein taught classes with 35 to 37 students. NEU's MBA program resembles the British education system, so it is seminar based. The educational system is not state funded, so students must pay tuition. Every fall, NEU's MBA program, the largest in Vietnam, allows 120 students in. It utilizes a competitive application process, and students have to take 14 classes and then write a master's thesis. There is no established sequence of classes because it is based on the availability of American or European English-speaking professors to teach the classes.

"The students were so gracious and appreciative that we would teach at their university," Klein said. "They are young adults that travel in crazy, chaotic traffic after working long days to attend graduate classes four evenings a week and one day during the weekend. They get home, do homework and their personal chores, and then get up early to start it all over again. Their work ethic is amazing, and they are hungry to succeed. Many are first-generation university students of whom their families are very proud. The things I learned were hopefully as valuable as what I could bring to them in the classroom. We had engaging discussions and many laughs."

Klein enjoyed her experience outside the classroom too.

"The people of Hanoi are hardworking, and they treated us like family," Klein related. "I got to ride on a motorbike with a server from the hotel because she insisted she take me to see the sites of Hanoi!"

Vietnam is a communist nation, and the Vietnamese War was fought to stop the spread of communism following World War II. After the exodus of Americans from South Vietnam in 1975, North and South Vietnam were reunified. It surprised Bertsch that the Vietnamese were not particularly upset about the war itself, but rather they only mentioned their disappointment of the use of Agent Orange, an herbicide or defoliant, during what they call the American War. They regret the devastating effects it had on innocent people.

Both Klein and Bertsch plan to teach at NEU again. Klein described the ending of her Vietnamese teaching experience.

"While there were so many favorite memories, one of them was the last night of class," Klein concluded. "The students insisted we celebrate by going to eat at one of the outdoor vendors (known as street food). They ordered so much food and taught me a 'cheers,' or toast in Vietnamese."

Because of their great experiences, both Bertsch and Klein urge everyone to take advantage of any study-abroad opportunities that arise.