Vietnam reflects global partnerships: Chancellor ventures abroad for graduation; students find home at Troy

Taylor Walding

Variety Editor

Last week, Troy awarded about 50 diplomas during commencement ceremonies in Vietnam, further proving its focus on international learning.

When Chancellor Jack Hawkins first traveled to Vietnam in 1968, he was a platoon leader for the Marines during the decades-long Vietnam War. Today, as Troy’s chancellor, he travels to Vietnam on much happier circumstances: to award degrees at various universities. 

“Vietnam is a much different place than when I was first there,” Hawkins wrote in an email. “When I returned for the first time in 2002, instead of bunkers and concertina wire, I found the children and grandchildren of former enemies now anxious for a peaceful relationship with the U.S. 

“It’s a country that has grown and changed tremendously in past decades.”

Troy is the first U.S. university to award bachelor’s degrees in Vietnam, the first one given 10 years ago in 2008.

“The first time I traveled to Vietnam, I was carrying bullets,” Hawkins said. “When I went there again, I was carrying books. It’s been remarkable to return as an ally and a friend where once we were enemies.”

Hawkins said the desire for education is universal and is evident in the students there.

“The students we have met in Vietnam have the same desires as students here, to learn and build a future,” Hawkins said. “I am proud that Troy can provide an education here and help these students achieve their dreams.”

Students who study at the institutions in Vietnam are eligible to transfer to other Troy locations. Hawkins said many students who start with Troy in Vietnam will eventually transfer to the Troy campus in Alabama because of their desire for the traditional American college experience.

Nam Dang, a sophomore computer science major from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and the president of Troy’s Vietnamese Student Association, said many of the association’s members began their education with Troy at the Ho Chi Minh City location and then transferred to the Troy location.

Though he never attended that campus, he has visited the campus.

“It’s a very cool program,” Dang said. “Vietnamese students can choose to study four years in Vietnam and get the degree over there, but they can also choose to study abroad. They can choose two years in Vietnam and two years in Troy, so they get the full experience of being an international student.”

Dang said he was very happy to see Kaitlyn Beyler, a senior biomedical sciences major from Alabaster, named this year’s Homecoming queen. Beyler was born in Hanoi, Vietnam, and was adopted by an American family at six months old.

“We tried our best to promote and help her with everything, and when we got the news that she got elected, we were very happy for her,” Dang said. “We’re happy for Vietnamese students; we’re happy for international students in general as well. 

“It’s awesome that a Vietnamese student got represented in Troy University.”

About 85 of the 1,000 international students at Troy’s main campus are from Vietnam. 

Beyler visited Hanoi for the first time since she was born during her sophomore year as an ambassador for Troy University. She says she believes the trip deepened her appreciation for fellow students and strengthened her Trojan Warrior Spirit. 

“I was adopted from Hanoi when I was 6 months old and had never been back,” Beyler said. “It was really cool to get to travel there because it gave me more perspective of who I am in a way and where I came from.”

During her visit, Beyler went to the Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi campuses.

“Interacting with them provided me insight into how far Trojan pride and the love for Troy spreads across the world, which was really cool,” Beyler said. “It is really awesome to go to a school that is so big and so diverse, and when I went to Vietnam, I really saw how it was more than just Troy, Alabama.”

Hawkins said establishing Troy in Vietnam was a natural progression of Troy’s work overseas.

“I think this shows that meaningful relationships and partnerships can be formed even across barriers that once seemed impossible,” Hawkins said. “Former enemies can become friends by finding a common goal, in this case education, and I think that’s a lesson that can be applied to relationships in all parts of life.”

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