Construction for the new VinUniversity broke ground in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2018, with Cornell leadership advising and consulting on the project. The first cohort, numbering less than 300 students, arrived at the university in fall 2020. Cornell partnered with Vingroup, a Vietnamese enterprise and property developer, to build the new university, which will be the first private non-profit university in Vietnam.
“VinUniversity is an exciting effort, and one of great academic interest for Cornell faculty and students,” said Prof. Emeritus Max Pfeffer, global development, and director of the Cornell-VinUniversity project. “It was exciting to learn about a university that was being formed from scratch and that was to become the first private non-profit university in Vietnam.”
The project also builds on a history of Cornell involvement with foreign universities, including in China with Peking University. VinUniversity expands these ties, and sets the stage for more involvement in Vietnam.
“The ties between Cornell and VinUniversity build on Cornell’s longstanding scholarship in Southeast Asia,” Pfeffer said. “We expect that Cornell will have expanded ties to Vietnam because of the Cornell-VinUniv Project.”
Pfeffer joined the program a little over a year ago, but his first visit to VinUniversity was in 2019 while construction was in progress. He is currently in Hanoi with other members of the project team who are visiting the university for its beginning of the year convocation event.
The newly established university includes undergraduate colleges of business, engineering and health sciences, with Cornell consulting for the business and engineering colleges and the University of Pennsylvania consulting for the health sciences college.
Cornell faculty hope for VinUniversity to be internationally recognized as a world-class university and satisfy QS 5-star rating standards, a rating standard that evaluates institutions of higher education.
“Its development takes place in the vibrant emerging market of Vietnam, a phenomenon that many will find intriguing,” Pfeffer said. “Cornell’s engagement with VinUniversity aligns with Cornell’s identity as a land-grant university dedicated to the public good and extends this mission internationally.”
Cornell faculty have been involved in the University’s work in Vietnam as well. Professor Keith Taylor, asian studies, was first approached by the S.C. Johnson College of Business when planning for the project began, and now some of his former students have been hired to teach classes there.
“I hope [VinUniversity students] obtain a good education that will open opportunities for a satisfying life,” Taylor said.
Beginning in winter 2021-2022, Cornell students worked with VinUniversity students on an engaged learning project in Vietnam. Pfeffer explained that the project aimed to help a local non-governmental organization develop policies to alleviate the effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACE).
“This experience has inspired me to seek more global and cross-cultural collaborations in research related to public health, medicine, and the social sciences,” said Sara Baaser ’23, a student at Cornell.
Baaser said she hopes to use the skills, knowledge and experiences gained by conducting international research to guide her into becoming a learner and supporter of research in community engagement projects.
The student teams that Baaser was part of, called ACE Pathfinders, presented their research during a meeting in January 2022 attended by leaders from Cornell and VinUniversity, Vietnamese government policymakers and non-governmental organizations. Yamada Homi, a student in the College of Health and Sciences at VinUniveristy, said the places and families the teams visited had a significant impact on her.
“[The project] greatly influenced the way that I view my own environment,” Homi told the Cornell-VinUniversity project team. “I would like to send my gratitude to both universities and SCDI for providing us this opportunity to reach out and grow with the community, by empathizing and sharing ACE victims’ stories.”
Pfeffer expects that VinUniversity will continue to expand and strengthen ties between Cornell and Vietnam.
“We hope that continued ties with VinUniversity will result in continued opportunities for engaged and cross-cultural learning,” Pfeffer said.