SCHOOL’s OUT – For Summer


It’s May and the first year at the American University of Vietnam – where I am founding president of this amazing project – has drawn to a close.

It is time to reflect on the year that was (although most students are clamoring for summer courses and eager to continue learning!)

Against impossible odds we launched last September with a cohort of 20 students taking introductory college courses (while we wait for the completion of a campus in Da Nang and final approvals from various Vietnamese ministries).

We put together an eclectic mix of faculty; the only requirements being a commitment to Vietnam, familiarity with teaching students for whom English is not a first language, a graduate degree from a legit American university, and a capacity for uncertainty.

We succeeded.  Working with 7 week modules, instead of the old-style 15 week semester (an innovation suggested by former US Senator and New School President Bob Kerrey) we attracted candidates with credentials from SUNY Stony Brook, Grinnell, Emory, TCU in Texas, Indiana, Winona State in Minnesota, U Washington, and the University of Miami. Masters, PhD’s, even one MD.

Most importantly were the students.

They learned, developed as critical thinkers, bonded, created clubs, a Facebook page, went on field trips for leadership development and team-building and worked collaboratively; the best elements of American higher education were present in Ho Chi Minh City.

Of the 20, 17 return for the fall. One transferred, offered a full scholarship in the US; one moved with his family to Canada, another had academic and financial challenges. An eighty-five percent retention rate is awesome – better than many very good colleges in the US.

One third of the students were not quite prepared for college and would have benefitted from a college prep program; one third worked hard, struggled and passed; one third excelled, capable of doing work at any university in America.  Most educators I know would be pleased of such a distribution.

Year 2 will have its own set of challenges –typical of a start-up, education in general and particularly in a place like Vietnam.  But today, as a proud father, with lots of aunts, uncles, grandparents involved we catch our breath, reflect and smile for a year well done.


About Dr. Roy Nirschel

Thirty years experience as an educator; international traveler, occasional writer, on a personal journey. Author of My Seasons in Saigon (available at Upon the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States I promised to go to Mexico; I did! Carol and I are here now. In the spirit of full disclosure, I promised to go to Mexico if Hillary Clinton was elected president too. The Seasons in Saigon are over; I am uncertain about Vietnam for many reasons despite my love for the country. Now it is Mexico time.

One response to “SCHOOL’s OUT – For Summer”

  1. Rachel says :

    Congratulations! Your accomplishment is incredible. I wish you the best of luck in the second year. I plan to visit Vietnam in the next academic year for a third time to continue recruiting for my university. It’s such an amazing people and place. I could definitely fall in love with Vietnam.

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