Vietnam University looks to PSU’s model of service learning
Author: Institute for Sustainable Solutions
Posted: June 14, 2012


Professor Marcus Ingle (second from left) helps lead a workshop for Eastern International University and community partners in Vietnam's Binh Duong province.

 Portland State University (PSU) is taking its internationally recognized community-based learning model to a new university in Vietnam to help its faculty and students get hands-on experience tackling urban sustainability issues.

“Like Portland State, Eastern International University wants to develop university-community partnerships that make their region a better place,” said Marcus Ingle, a professor in PSU’s Hatfield School of Government who has worked on sustainable development and collaborative governance issues in Vietnam since 1993.

Located in Binh Duong province, Eastern International University is nested in a large urban development called New City. The city is designed to be a hub of government, education and business, and was financed by state-enterprise developer Becamex Corporation.

The province experienced a 14 percent spike in its economy last year, mostly in the high-tech, industrial manufacturing and service sectors. Now it is attracting more residents to work and study here, but pollution and other environmental issues persist.

 “It’s an industrial place that’s grown up too fast, and now they’re trying to find a balance,” Ingle said. “They want to create a economically competitive but livable place for residents.”

The community-based learning model is taking shape in Eastern International University’s three degree programs – business, nursing and engineering. Business students are already involved in the University’s first sustainability course that holds class session on campus and at different locations in the New City.  Nursing students will set up an on-campus subsidized clinic where students will train while they serve those who can’t afford medical care. And engineering students will intern in local corporations to help improve automation, supply chain management and energy efficiency. 

In May, Ingle led a “Leadership for Sustainability” workshop at Becamex headquarters for Eastern University staff and community partners. Assisting with the workshop were the Ho Chi Minh National Political Academy and the UN-HABITAT, two of PSU’s strategic partners in Vietnam. Participants strategized how the University’s community-based learning activities can advance sustainability in Binh Duong province through mutually beneficial public-private partnerships.

New exchange programs will bring Vietnamese students for Eastern International University to study at PSU, and Ingle hopes 10 to 20  students from PSU will visit Binh Duong each year. “Binh Duong and other rapidly urbanizing regions in Vietnam serve as great laboratories for our students to look at their sustainability practices.” 

The Binh Duong program is part of a newly developed International Sustainability Investment Strategy (ISIS) to facilitate research, education and outreach partnerships between PSU, the City of Portland and Vietnam in the areas of climate adaptation governance, eco-city development and student education. PSU established a Vietnam Forum in January to facilitate these research and professional opportunities and deepen existing networks