Feature: Mastering business in Vietnam

Tra My Nguyen
Tra My Nguyen
On Tra My Nguyen’s desk is a photo of her cradling the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Vietnam executive MBA diploma that she holds dear to her heart. “I am very proud of this photo,” she says. “It is a sign of success for me.” Shortly after graduation, the 2007 Shidler College of Business alumna founded CSC JSC, a joint-stock company headquartered in Hanoi, Vietnam. Nguyen and her team have engaged CSC in a host of successful activities from finance mining to financial and real estate investments.

Shidler’s Vietnam executive MBA program, in partnership with Hanoi School of Business, has provided business executives with the skills and abilities to succeed in a range of leadership positions. It is the youngest of three UH country-specific MBA programs:

• The Japan-focused MBA program started in 1990. Students spend 18 months in business courses at UH Mānoa and language and cultural training at the Japan-America Institute of Management Science, followed by a three-month internship with a company in Japan.
• The China international MBA program opened in 2007, built on the foundation of the China-focused executive MBA program offered 1997-2006. Students spend a year on core coursework at UH Mānoa, followed by nine months of elective coursework at Sun Yat-Sen University School of Business in Guangzhou.
• The Vietnam MBA program was launched in 2001. All classes are taught in Vietnam by Shidler College of Business professors in a two-year executive format that allows students to maintain full-time positions while earning their degrees.

The Vietnam program is the only executive MBA program in that country accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Accreditation assures students of a high quality, relevant and internationally recognized education. And it has attracted excellent students, says William R. Johnson Jr. Distinguished Professor of Marketing Dana Alden, faculty director of several former VEMBA cohorts in Hanoi. “We have consistently graduated top-level managers from well-known companies in Vietnam.”

In a recent survey reported in NDN Money, the Vietnamese equivalent of Money magazine, 55 percent of Vietnam executive MBA (VEMBA) graduates hold the chair, president or chief operating officer post in top corporations.

Christine Tran
Christine Tran
Alden, who originally spearheaded the Hanoi program, recalls an incredible spirit of cooperation in each class. “We’ve built an alumni network that remains strong and supportive of our graduates in Vietnam,” he adds. “Alumni dinners in Hanoi attract many former and current students. The camaraderie is great.” The Vietnam executive MBA was a perfect fit for graduate Christine , a Vietnamese-American San Francisco native who had relocated to Vietnam because of her job. Tran says she had no interest in going to a top 10 business school on the East Coast to land a job on Wall Street, but “wanted to continue working in Vietnam while applying classroom lessons to my workplace.”

Now a senior researcher at a consulting firm in the San Francisco Bay area, Tran praises the Shidler faculty. “They demonstrated real dedication to our learning and understood the challenges students have juggling full-time management positions with coursework,” she says. “My classmates were amazing. I was floored by their generosity, enthusiasm and contributions in the classroom.”

In 2007, the college extended the Vietnam executive MBA to Ho Chi Minh City. The country’s largest city is, like Hanoi, a mecca for young entrepreneurs, overseas investors and young Vietnamese eager to make it big.

Ho Chi Minh City produces 25 percent of Vietnam’s gross domestic product and is predicted to increase its population of 7 million by 50 percent in the near future, notes Shidler Dean Vance Roley. The literacy rate is high—90 percent—and English is the preferred second-language. Ambitious Vietnamese managers and executives are eager to enroll in the program, he adds.

They include alumnus Jonathan Kuba, who moved from Hawaiʻi to Ho Chi Minh City to work for a venture capital fund.

Jonathan Kuba
Jonathan Kuba
The president of IFB Holdings and manager of private investments in two start-up companies sought knowledge on managing and growing businesses to become a better leader and investor.

“The faculty was wonderful and the material was relevant,” Kuba says. “The program confirmed some practical business lessons that I learned in the past and put them into a structured context.”

“We have a clear educational mission in Vietnam,” says Tung Bui, VEMBA program director and Matson Navigation Company Endowed Chair of Global Business. “We want to educate a new generation of business leaders and we hope that our alumni will significantly contribute to the economic welfare of their countrymen through their leadership positions.”

He expects the MBA education market to become more competitive with an influx of other foreign and national universities. Still, he pledges, “we will continue to improve our curriculum and recruitment so that we remain the most respected program in the country.”

This article appeared in the most recent issue of Mālamalama. Visit http://www.hawaii.edu/malamalama/.

VEMBA Class of 2011
VEMBA’s eighth cohort graduated in July, with its alumni added to the Who’s Who of top business executives in Vietnam. In middle of graduates are VEMBA Director Tung Bui, Jay Shidler, and Shidler College of Business Dean V. Vance Roley.