Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh City (VNU-HCMC) recently welcomed the first students in its new master’s program in Public Policy for Environmental Protection, which is housed in its University of Technology. Eighteen students, all officials in the government of the Dak Lak Province in southern Vietnam, began the two-year program in February.

VNU-HCMC partnered with the Duke Center for International Development (DCID) in the Sanford School of Public Policy and Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment (NSOE) in 2009 to build its faculty’s capacity for the new program.

The program is designed to help Vietnamese officials address environmental issues caused in part by the country’s rapid industrialization and population growth.

“This program will equip civil servants and others in the public sector with the skills to consider environmental factors and how to mitigate possible environmental impacts in the process of public policy development,” said Hong Tran Thi, director of international relations at Vietnam National University, when the partnership was established.

Nine scholars from VNU-HCMC visited Duke in 2010 and 2011 to spend a semester working directly with Duke faculty. They were paired with NSOE faculty members in their areas of specialization and received guidance on policy analysis from DCID’s Natalia Mirovitskaya and Rosemary Fernholz.

“It was obvious from the very first occasion when the Duke and Vietnam delegations met that both of us had a lot in common, cared deeply about the development of Vietnam and the environmental protection program, and would do everything possible to ensure the program’s success,” said DCID Director Francis Lethem.   

The partnership also resulted in summer internships in Vietnam for two NSOE students and a study on arsenic levels in the Mekong Delta by NSOE’s Avner Vengosh and VNU’s To Thi Hien.

The GE Foundation awarded Duke and VNU-HCMC grants totaling $300,000 to create the program, which supports the foundation’s goal of promoting education, clean energy and the environment.

“This program owes a lot to the concerns of the GE Foundation about the impact of climate change, and to GE’s generous financial support for the program’s design and implementation,” Lethem said.

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