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Vietnam: Culture, Social Change and Development (SIT)


Todd Heidt

Director, Eleanor Stellyes Center for Global Studies

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401-4999



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This SIT program examines how, after emerging from decades of war and isolation, Vietnam today is experiencing tremendous growth and, over the last decade, has had one of the strongest economics in Asia. In this context, you will consider emerging critical issues such as sustainable resource management, intense urbanization, changing family and marriage patterns, and managing integration with global networks and institutions.

Major topics of study include:

  • Pressing issues caused by rapid urbanization within the context of the Doi Moi "Renovation" economic reform
  • Challenges of sustainable development and current strategies for new rural development in the Mekong Delta and Da Lat Central Highlands and different models in each region
  • The effects of war, development, and tourism on Vietnam's rich but increasingly fragile cultural heritage
  • Gender and development pressures among Hmong and Red Dao ethnic minority groups in the Sapa mountains

In this program, you will examine the interplay of Vietnam's traditional culture and value systems and the country's more recent economic, social and environmental changes. Through close engagement with an outstanding array of academic and community experts, you will experience how global, regional, and local forces are dynamically interacting to shape Vietnam today.

You will spend six weeks in Ho Chi Minh City, the program's base, while studying at the Hoa Sen University, the program's in-country host institution. You will enjoy thought-provoking lectures and discussions on Vietnam's economic development and social transformation, learning from esteemed lecturers and guest speakers, including scholars from the Fulbright Program Center. During this portion of the program, you will examine Vietnam's membership in the World Trade Organization; its regional development through ASEAN and APEC, and its post-embargo relationship with the United States, especially in regard to the two nation's bilateral trade agreement.

During the program's educational excursion in the Mekong Delta and Northern Upland, you will engage in a community volunteering project, an integral part of the program. The project's hands-on learning approach is an example of the experiential learning model; additionally, projects are specifically designed to assist a local community. Projects vary each semester. Past volunteer projects have included:

  • Developing a bio-digester in Hoa An village in the Mekong Delta to serve as a local energy source
  • Participating in organic farming at an elementary school for Hmong children in Sapa
  • Installing clean water pipes for a Hmong community in Lao Chai village in the Sapa mountains

Future projects are expected to focus on the use of organic farming methods or, alternatively, social and public health and health policy issues. You may also have the opportunity to help build a library for an elementary school in Sapa for a Hmong community

The Field Methods and Ethics course focuses on concepts of learning across cultures and from field experience. The course emphasizes:

  • Cross-cultural adaptation and skills building
  • Appropriate methodologies
  • Filed study ethics and the World Learning / SIT Human Subjects Review Policy
  • Developing skills in observation and interviewing
  • Gathering, organizing and communicating data

Assigned papers provide an opportunity for you to test the tools introduced in the course while providing occasions for discussions about ethics and intercultural readings. Throughout the course, you will work to develop your research topic for your Independent Study Project.  In the final month of the program, you will complete an Independent Study Project (ISP), which will give you an opportunity to pursue original research on a situation or topic of particular interest to you. The ISP will be conducted in Ho Chi Minh City, or, with program approval, in another location appropriate to the topic. You will select an ISP advisor from among the array of researchers and professional associated with the program.

Learn more about the Vietnam: Culture, Social Change and Development program and other SIT programs.

Credits: 4.5 for the fall or spring semester

Advisor: Professor Nancy Eberhardt

Click here for more information about the application process, program selection, and more!

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Printed on Monday, May 23, 2022