Kim Scipes, Purdue Northwest associate professor of sociology, spent eight weeks during summer 2017 teaching at Ton Duc Thang University (TDTU) in Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam, and experiencing the Vietnamese culture.
Referred by a friend who taught in the Labor Studies Program at TDTU, Scipes was introduced to the university’s chair of the Sociology Department, Le Thi Mai. This led to Scipes’ invitation to Vietnam as the first keynote speaker at the TDTU conference on Education and Social Integration in 2016.
This year Scipes was invited to return as a guest instructor where he taught qualitative research methods, based on sophisticated interviewing skills and techniques, to more than 70 Vietnamese students.
Teaching in Vietnam
Founded in 1997, Ton Duc Thang University is located in the highly populated Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. It is the only university in Vietnam that requires students to take an examination in English as a graduation requirement, Scipes noted.
The best part of the trip was teaching the students, Scipes said. “They were very eager to learn, and worked extremely hard. Since I taught in English—there was no translation—they were working in a second language, and we were in class five hours a day, twice a week.
“This was a very successful trip. Over 80 percent of the class earned a grade of 80 or higher on their course examinations,” Scipes added. “They also had to interview an educator, recent graduate or senior student for 30 to 45 minutes on how we could improve education at TDTU and then write up their findings in a three-page research report in English—and almost half of them got a grade of 80 or higher on this assignment.
“The people were very warm, and delighted I’d come to teach their students. Faculty, staff and the students worked hard to make me feel welcome,” Scipes said.
He already has been invited to return and teach in summer 2018.
Experiencing the culture
The trip was highlighted by a visit to the Citadel of Literature in Ha Noi, Vietnam’s first national university founded in 1070. “It was a humbling experience to stand in a space occupied by educators almost a thousand years ago,” Scipes remarked.
After Ha Noi, Scipes visited Chiang Mai and Bangkok in Thailand, and Phnom Penh in Cambodia. He then traveled from Phnom Penh across the Mekong Delta back to Ho Chi Minh City before returning to the United States.