2003 Student-Faculty Fellows: Hobart And William Smith Colleges

Mentor: Jack Harris, Department of Sociology
Students: Gwynne Decker ’04; Danielle Faul ’03 (Union College)

Research trip to Vietnam postponed to Dec. 2003-Feb. 2004 period because of 2003 SARS Crisis

Abstracts of Reflections

Jack Harris

We set out to explore how the Vietnamese are transitioning to a market economy and how that transition also reflects movement toward modern and often western methods. One student examined economic policy and modes of business, while the other looked at pre- and post natal women’s medical care. Both students did an exceptional job despite many obstacles. They negotiated the gulf of language and cultural difference with competence, sensitivity, appreciation, patience and grace. Their research work revealed to them and to me the subtlety of human relationships, and taught them the value of dialogue, and especially the value of careful listening and observing. These collaborations advance our intercultural communication and global competency, and opportunities such as this provide a model for international education that broadens and deepens simultaneously. We found Vietnam eager and energetically embracing its new role in the world as a global trading partner and participant in world medical advances.

Gwynne Decker
Global Business, Traditional Culture

Reflection: As I gazed out the window, the images passing by me were so vivid, yet frozen, like the scene of a painting. Two years had passed since I last looked upon those crowded streets with all of their bustling commerce. The air was still the same though, a touch of incense smoke wafting by amidst a haze of exhaust fumes. Vietnam was slipping into another age, the romanticism of it all being swept away by a sea of modernity and global development. A sleeping dragon was stirring and that is precisely why I had to return-to see its awakening. It is the conflicting images of the old and the new Vietnam that are irresistible to me. My plans to return to Vietnam were already beginning to transpire before I had even left the hot southern delta and Saigon. I had made too many friends and too many contacts to forfeit what seemed inevitable, a part of my destiny — a part only to be fulfilled in Vietnam. There were always obstacles to overcome, but despite these, it felt as though Vietnam was always a place to which I could return.

Research Abstract: While in Vietnam, I used several different means of collecting information. The primary source of my research has come from the numerous personal interviews I conducted and is supplemented by written resources obtained in the country. The interviews were meant to cover a wide range of people engaged in economic development, business, and trade, and thus I met with a variety of subjects from local shopkeepers to embassy personnel and foreign investors. Substantial economic progress has been made in the last few years and it seems it will continue at a steady rate in the future. The general consensus among my interviewees was that Vietnam is an emerging force on the global market and with hard work and perseverance it will soon begin to rival other powerful Asian nations.

Danielle Faul
Emerging Technologies, the Global Economy, and Pre-Natal Care

Reflection: Raised in Asia, I have always believed that Asian cultures, religions, and customs have become a part of me. Returning as an adult to Asia, and specifically to Vietnam, has given me a sense of belong. Always wanting to provide maternal medical care to the less fortunate, this research grant has given me an idea of where I would like to one day practice. It was a reminder of how much I love the field of maternal medicine and the idea of one day being a nurse-midwife. During the waiting period for graduate school acceptances, I continue to remind myself that one day I will return to Vietnam and hopefully in the role of a nurse-midwife.

Research Abstract: With the increase of economic prosperity, Vietnam has seen a positive trend in maternal medicine and health. Individually families have begun to prosper from a stronger economy. They are able to access better medical services not only from their own means but because the Vietnamese government has more money to allocate in the quest to improve medical care throughout Vietnam. Maternal and infant mortality rates have been steadily declining during the period of economic growth. Medical facilities, now having more governmental aid, have introduced modern technology and services at a growing rate. This has had a positive effect on the quality of care provided to pregnant women throughout Vietnam. Although, mortality and economic prosperity rates have not improved at the same speed throughout the country, the Vietnamese government has taken an active role to attend to those regions which continue to suffer from poor conditions.

Venues for Sharing

Gwynne Decker

  • Submitted an essay reflecting on my experience and encounters in Vietnam to a publication called the “ALEPH, a Journal of Global Perspectives,” published every year by the Partnership for Global Education at Hobart & William Smith colleges.
  • “Culture Share” presentation at International Week.
  • Orientation program for the next group that will study abroad in Vietnam.

Danielle Faul

  • Will submit an essay that reflects on my research experience in Vietnam to “ALEPH, a Journal of Global Perspectives” published by the Partnership for Global Education.

Jack Harris

  • Partnership for Global Education workshop I am organizing on deepening the immersion experiences for our Vietnam Semester Abroad Program.
  • Presentation to the Department of Education Title VI Grant group at the International Studies Association Annual Meeting.