Rider University's EMBA Trip to Vietnam 2011


Rider University's EMBA program again visited Vietnam in 2011 and again chose Runckel & Associates to arrange all visits and to serve as the key resource of the EMBAs during their time in Vietnam.  The purpose of the trip was to compare Vietnam which is lesser known and lesser written upon to modern day China which was to be visited the following week.  The group arrived in Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday afternoon, May 24, 2011 and were met by Runckel & Associates principal Chris Runckel and Vietnam based travel guide Van Nguyen that Mr. Runckel often works with on Vietnam travel requirements.  After a free night to rest up from the long trip, the next day was spent is trying to learn more about modern day Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), the commercial hub of Vietnam.  It involved visits to Notre Dame Cathedral & the Central Post Office,  the History Museum and the Reunification Hall(former Presidential Palace of Vietnam during the pre-1975 period).

After lunch to sample local Pho (the endemic quick meal in Vietnam), the group spent the afternoon focusing more on Vietnamese Culture with a visit to the Vietnamese Traditional Medicine Museum where the group learned about Traditional Vietnamese medicine and how it differs from Chinese Traditional Medicine.  Vietnamese Traditional Medicine is having a resurgence of interest and usage by Vietnamese throughout the country and this visit helped the group not only learn about traditional medicine but also to learn more about Vietnamese architecture, history and popular culture.  This museum is not on most tourist group itineraries but it certainly should be as it offers interesting and educational insights into Vietnam and its culture.

The group then ended the afternoon with a fun and informative chance to learn more about Vietnamese Traditional Music in a show arranged specially for the group by Van Nguyen at Vietnam Alive Travel.  This was a non-touristy presentation by some of the true masters of Vietnamese traditional music and included a chance to hear traditional Vietnamese music and have it explained to you - both the names and meaning of the instruments and songs plus also the meaning of the songs and their significance.  The group not only enjoyed this as listeners but also became directly part of the production and learned to play many of the instruments and even to join some of the folk dances.

The following day Thursday, May 26, 2011, the group visited the U.S. Consulate for a presentation on the current economic and political outlook by Consulate Economics Officer Brian T. Neubert. 

After a quick lunch, the afternoon started with a meeting with HSBC Bank and then went on to Harvey Nash in e-town where the group learned about Harvey Nash operations in Vietnam and the outlook for both Vietnam and for the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and Computer Software industry in Vietnam.  This was followed by a mixer with Harvey Nash staff where the EMBAs met with current employees of Harvey Nash to discuss their work, their views of Vietnam and its development and other issues.

On Friday, May 27, 2011, the group spent the whole day in Binh Duong province which is approximately an hour by car from downtown Ho Chi Minh City.  In Binh Duong, the group first met with and was briefed on the operations of Becamex, the largest industrial park operator in Vietnam and the largest Vietnam infrastructure company.  Becamex which is currently a 2 billion dollar company has over 30 subsidiaries and focusses mainly in operations in Binh Duong but also has industrial parks all over Vietnam through its VSIP subsidiary which it co-owns with  the Government of Singapore.  Later the group visited My Phuoc Industrial City run by Becamex and then was hosted to a sumptuous Vietnamese lunch by Becamex in one of the high class Binh Duong Province restaurants nearby Becamex's main office.  In the afternoon, the group visited the Acrylic Idea Factory, a U.S. owned maker of motivational and award items and later the super modern facilities of SAB Miller, the brewer of Miller Beer plus many other beverage products. 

This was followed by a visit to Binh Duong New City and a visit to Eastern International University (EIU) where the group met with University officials and was briefed on EIU's University programs which are just commencing at their new modern campus which the group toured. EIU, a private University belonging to Becamex is designed to build the educational capabilities and human capital in the province and to serve as a magnet for innovation, research and entrepreneurial new businesses.

Back in HCMC, Saturday, May 28, 2011 was the groups last full day in Vietnam and even though it was a weekend the group spent all morning in a knowledge transfer project with 3 professors and 6 students from Dong Thap University. who interacted with the group to discuss efforts to build a microcredit project in Dong Thap. 

This session included student explanations of both the challenges of building community support and a discussion of how the project had both changed the poor families in Dong Thap and also how it had changed the outlook and response of the Dong Thap social work faculty students who all noted how they had benefited from participating in the project.

A final dinner at the Blue Ginger restaurant ended the day.  The Director of the Rider EMBA program and 3 professors in the program plus all the 17 Executive MBAs felt the week had gone quickly and that they had gained greatly during the visit.  All felt that the learning objectives were met and that Vietnam had fascinating opportunities for business and investment plus was a great place to build new friendships and understanding.

About the Author

Christopher W. Runckel, a former senior US diplomat who served in many counties in Asia, is a graduate of the University of Oregon and Lewis and Clark Law School. He served as Deputy General Counsel of President Gerald Ford’s Presidential Clemency Board. Mr. Runckel is the principal and founder of Runckel & Associates, a Portland, Oregon based consulting company that assists businesses expand business opportunities in Asia. (www.business-in-asia.com)

Until April of 1999, Mr. Runckel was Minister-Counselor of the US Embassy in Beijing, China. Mr. Runckel lived and worked in Thailand for over six years. He was the first permanently assigned U.S. diplomat to return to Vietnam after the Vietnam War. In 1997, he was awarded the U.S. Department of States highest award for service, the Distinguished Honor Award, for his contribution to improving U.S.-Vietnam relations.


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