Vietnam Oregon Initiative matures with PSU support
Author: Julia Babcock
Posted: September 30, 2015

The pace of Vietnam’s urbanization is hyperactive. Once you begin to adjust to the buzz of its cities, it makes you feel more alive, more aware and more connected. When you walk out onto the street and see the chaotic crossroads of commerce, you wonder what will the culture be like in 10, 20, or 50 years. Will there remain a flurry of change? Can this culture sustain its acceleration into the future while maintaining its rich heritage and links to the past? Is hyperactive, hyper connected, and hyper engaged the new normal?

Portland State University has been at the center of these emerging questions in a number of ways in 2015 by applying sustainability concepts to leadership, education, governance, and planning issues supported by the PSU Institute for Sustainable Solutions. 

Starting with an award from the U.S. Embassy through Dang Van.Huan, program manager of PSU’s Vietnam program and Marcus Ingle, program director of international partnerships for PSU’s Center for Public Service to launch the Vietnam Oregon Initiative across Vietnam and also provide planning and process support for the implementation of the 20th Anniversary of normalized relations between the U.S. and Vietnam. 

This summer, a number of high level leaders, faculty, students and community members took part in activities that stand to further academic and economic relationships between Vietnam and Oregon. 

Below is a summary of activities:

  • July 1st, PSU President Wim Wiewel and Director of International Partnership Joyce Hamilla held a press conference in Ho Chi Minh City to announce a $6 million dollar scholarship program between PSU and Vietnam to attract more scholars. Read the press release
  • July 6, PSU President Wim Wiewel, Metro Chief Financial Officer Martha Bennett, and Major Kyle Akers from the State Partnership for Peace Program assisted Ingle, Huan and PSU Alumni Kyle Hubbard to launch the Vietnam Oregon Initiative in Quang Nam Province to build on the leadership trainings, provincial development strategy and Green Growth Investment Forum collaborations between PSU and the province in recent years. 
  • On August 24th, Grace Stainback and David Fiske, Portland State University Masters in Urban and Regional Planning students contributed to a landmark workshop on a proposed national planning law at the Vietnamese National Assembly in Hanoi. The students’ participation in the event furthers longstanding academic, diplomatic and professional exchange. The workshop, “Drafting of the Planning Bill: International Best Practices and Suggestions for Vietnam”, took place at the Vietnamese National Assembly with 150 participants. The proposed law has the potential to dramatically reshape the hierarchical planning processes in Vietnam, and longstanding international experts on Vietnamese planning and governance expressed optimism that this bill could be a turning point in over twenty years of work towards reforming planning in the country. To read more about the event, find the press release. Additionally, Fiske and Stainback spent two months as interns in the UN-Habitat Vietnam office in Hanoi, primarily assisting with GIS and spatial analysis capacity development for a City Development Strategy in two coastal cities, Tam Ky and Quy Nhon taking formative steps towards building a comprehensive, open-source geodatabase for UN-Habitat and its partner organizations. They also delivered a guest lecture for a Sustainable Development course at the Academy for Planning and Development. This is the first time this course has been offered at the university and is part of a shift towards "green growth" themes and strategies in the school's curriculum. This lecture was one of several academic exchange initiatives planned between PSU and APD.  
  •  August 3-September 3: Julia Babcock, facilitator of the Vietnam Forum and project coordinator with the National Policy Consensus Center on campus co-taught a Global Village field course with PSU alum Ashley Hollenbeck. The class provided on the ground opportunities to advance methodologies for using an asset-based community development approach to sustainable development for students from Japan, Vietnam, and Cambodia. In addition, she provided a presentation in Quy Nhon at the UN Habitat City Development Strategy Workshop and at the American Center in Ho Chi Minh City about the opportunities for communities to build partnerships with universities to enhance place-based economic growth based on Portland State University's community service programs and the emerging literature on anchor institutions. To read more about her travels, visit her blog

This coming fall, PSU will continue strengthening relationships through several high level delegation activities  in Vietnam:

  • September 19-30th a 21-person delegation with the the Inspector General conducted study tours to learn about government transparency and anticorruption measures in the U.S. through lectures and site visits throughout Oregon.
  • October 18-20th Governor Kate Brown and a state and business delegation will travel to Vietnam and are tentatively scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng to discuss trade relations and future policy and leadership exchange activities. As part of the delegation’s activities, Gov. Brown will sign an MOU with Vietnam’s Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Many Oregon partners, including Metro President Tom Hughes and IELP Director Julie Huan will be present for the signing.
  • In October 16-25th, the Executive Masters in Public Administration (EMPA) cohort will have their international field experience in Hanoi where they will hold a workshop with UNHabitat and the Ministry of Construction around innovation and technology adoption in cities. The EMPA’s will also meet with APD, the training university for the Ministry of Planning and Investment, to develop research exchange activities such as online courses and video tours to advance emerging concepts around urban sustainability.

As PSU representatives and the larger Oregon community adapt to the Vietnam way of life through cultural exchange, government, community and nonprofit partnerships, the Vietnam Oregon Initiative serves as the conduit to the hyperconnected, ever-changing energy surrounding Vietnam. If you'd like to learn more and get involved, contact Erik Mandell, program coordinator, at