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Food for Thought luncheon presents “Inventing a University in Vietnam”

Retired from Bates College as Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Bill Hiss traveled to Vietnam last March to help create those offices at the new Fulbright University Vietnam. Taken almost 25 years ago, this photo shows him discussing American higher education with a class of high school juniors in Vietnam, some of whom became the first students to attend college in the U.S.

When Ngan Dinh, a member of the Bates College Class of ’02, asked Bill Hiss to help create the first liberal arts college in Vietnam, it was an irresistible invitation. Retired from Bates as Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Hiss traveled to Vietnam last March to help create those offices at the new Fulbright University Vietnam.

He will share his experiences at USM LAC Senior College’s next Food for Thought luncheon on Friday, September 14 at 12 p.m. The event will take place in Room 170 at USM’s Lewiston-Auburn campus at 50 Westminster Street in Lewiston.

Hiss and his wife, Colleen, first met Ngan when she was in high school. Relationships between the USA and Vietnam had improved and students were being offered the opportunity to study at American colleges. Ngan was the first student from Vietnam to study at Bates. She then earned her Master’s degree at the University of Chicago and her Doctorate at Cambridge University. Returning to Vietnam, she became a professor in a graduate Fulbright program in public policy. Today she serves as the founding Dean of the undergraduate college in the new university.

The government of Vietnam set aside 70 acres of land and, with further support, including funds from the United States, Fulbright University Vietnam will open this fall with 50 students, gradually expanding to 2000. What is it like to build a university “from scratch,” particularly in a country only two generations removed from a war zone?

There are now more than 25 Vietnamese student who have studied at Bates. The “Where It All Began” photo below shows Hiss speaking to then-high school junior Ngan’s class about American higher education. Seed money from Bates helped establish VietAbroader, a program to disseminate information to high schools in Vietnam about international education. It now has 30,000 members.

The public is invited to attend. Doors will open at 11:30 a.m. If you wish to have lunch, the cost is $8, and an advanced reservation is required. To reserve, call 753-6510 before noon on Wednesday, September 12. Food may also be purchased at the campus cafeteria.

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