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Archive for December, 2009

The majority of the visit to Vietnam focused on learning about and meetings the women and men of the Vietnam Women’s Union. The Vietnam Women’s Union (VWU) is a vast organization that has deep reach throughout all of Vietnam. The VWU operates at the national, provincial, and district levels, and penetrates through urban areas and into the most rural and ethnic minority communities, providing services and affecting change for women through policy advocacy and ensuring that women are present throughout the leadership of Vietnamese government.

The VWU has two training schools for women, one in Ho Chi Minh City and one in Hanoi (this school is applying for college status as I write), a very successful micro-financing operation (TYM), an extensive office, conference, and hotel facility called the Centre for Women and Development, and the first women’s shelters for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking in the country. Anything to do with women in Vietnam flows through the VWU. While in Hanoi we had several meetings with various members of the Vietnam Women’s Union and subsets of the Union, including the director of the Centre for Women and Development and her staff, the deputy director of the International Relations Department of the VWU, and the Vice Rector of the Central Women’s Training School and his staff.

Our first sets of meetings were at the Centre for Women and Development, where we met various staff members in the counseling and development, micro-financing, and in the VMU international relations bureau. Our primary contacts were Director Le Thi Thuy MBA, Centre for Women and Development, Vietnam Women’s Union and Deputy Director Tran Thu Thuy MA, International Relations Department, Vietnam Women’s Union. Both women are extremely well-traveled and well-versed in women’s issues in Vietnam and around the world. We viewed a thorough video that described the work of the Centre and also received a tour from Madame Thuy of the facilities, including the hotel and conferencing center. Deputy Director Thuy took us through the structure and reach of the VMU throughout the country and expressed interest in having TWC assist the VWU and its Central Women’s Training School in moving from school to college status—but more about that later!

We visited with staff overseeing the women’s shelters, which are called Peace Houses. They discussed the legal and cultural challenges that exist for Vietnamese women who are battered or sold into trafficking. We met with an intake counselor who is housed at the Centre, and then we were taken to one of the Peace Houses, where we saw where the women and children live. As we toured the house I was struck by the bravery of the women who created Peace House and the women who take steps to reside there. At the Peace Houses, women are taught life and transition skills, receive health information for themselves and their children, and engage in job training; many of the women create crafts and knit apparel for sale at the Centre shop. Issues of domestic violence and trafficking, as many of you know, are so deeply complex for the women who are victimized in these ways, and even in Western cultures we are not always adept at understanding the nuances of the crime and the plight of the victims. I greatly admire the VWU for taking on this critical issue and providing a place for Vietnamese women to find safety and shelter.

Madame Thuy and members of her staff hosted the three of us (Tiffani Lennon, Barbara Bauer, and me) for a sumptuous and very authentic Vietnamese meal. We had chicken, beef, shrimp, bok choy, soup, steamed rice, sausage dumplings—the food just went on and on, and Madame Thuy was very generous in the meal she provided. One of the staff members has a law degree, so she and Tiffani had a full-ranging conversation about the ways the law can be used to protect women and children in situations of domestic violence and trafficking. We also had an opportunity for more informal conversation about the structure of education in Vietnam, since education is such an important part of the culture. I am deeply grateful to Madame Thuy and the members of her staff for their warm hospitality and for their generosity of spirit and collaboration.

In another set of meetings we explored a possible partnership with the Central Women’s Training School as that school petitions the government to become a women’s college (that petition is currently awaiting final approval from the country’s prime minister, and if approved, the transition from training center to college will likely take two to three years and includes a significant building project). I enjoyed the meeting we had with Vice Rector and Dean of Business Administration, Tien Quang Tran PhD, and members of his leadership team. Vice Rector Tien Quang Tran received his PhD from the Australian National University in economics, and he has a history of working in the micro-lending area. He is very dedicated to the growth of the Training School and welcomed the opportunity to share the school’s strategic plan. The vice rector used a PowerPoint handout describing the current work of the school, the composition and education of its faculty and staff, and the academic programs and services. There are two particular points of intersection between the school and TWC that are present in both of our strategic plans. First, the school has a program called “100 CEOs” that has actually trained more than 400 mid-level women in the private sector to advance to the senior leadership levels; they are committed to the advancement of women into senior leadership positions. Second, the school is very dedicated to the growth and success of women entrepreneurs, and intends to create a BA in business administration with a concentration on women’s entrepreneurship. Additionally, the vice rector is very interested in collaborative research projects, and we described to him the research proposal we are proposing with YunTech that would be a comparative study on women’s entrepreneurship.

I learned so much during this visit to Vietnam. Our Western notions of order and regularity are simply not present here. People live in something I can only describe as organized chaos. Nothing seems to phase the Vietnamese. They walk, bike, scooter, and drive through streets that have no rhyme or reason; the streets can be one way, two way, or multi-way and everyone just figures out how to navigate the complexity of the road with the assumption that it all works—and amazingly, it does. Men and women on scooters sit straight forward, or ride side saddle, decked out in work clothes and heels, texting and talking on the cell phones that everyone has. Cars honk and blink lights at drivers who are too slow, to warn scooters that they are present, to ward off pedestrians, and to make sure they know that the driver is the boss of the road. Soup and noodle stalls abound everywhere, with all forms of preparation happening on the sidewalks and on street curbs. Women are selling fruit from dual baskets set firmly on their shoulders, and children seem to be taken care of by all as they run playing through the streets. All of this is done with an underlying calm that one wouldn’t typically see elsewhere. This has left me with a very profound sense of the pride, resiliency, and creativity of Vietnam and its people, and I am honored to have experienced this short time among the Vietnamese.

It remains to be seen what kind of partnerships can develop between TWC and the Vietnamese organizations that we visited during our time in Hanoi. Sometimes the logical connections aren’t always apparent up front, and while I know we share a common goal of advancing women locally, nationally, and globally, the means to that end may vary a great deal from a cultural perspective. And while Western culture, and particularly the culture of the United States, has been thrust upon countries like Vietnam, there is no corresponding push for us to learn about cultures such as Vietnam’s. If the college and its students are to lead locally, nationally, and globally, we must make the study and understanding of cultures such as Vietnam’s a priority; to me, this is an essential piece of a thorough and quality undergraduate education for women, particularly as TWC focuses on its students becoming bold leaders at home and around the world. When I return, I would like us to explore how to make global and multicultural studies a more integral part of the curriculum at TWC.

This closes this piece of my blog related to my trip to Taiwan and Vietnam. I wish everyone a very happy and safe holiday season, and a very productive and rewarding 2010. Cheers!

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This is the beginning of my blog so that the students of TWC can know more about the efforts that the college is undertaking to advance women’s leadership locally, nationally, and globally. It’s exciting to have my first effort at blogging focused on the college’s global work. Professor Tiffani Lennon of the college’s Law and Society program has fueled the college’s international initiatives through a grant she received from DU’s Office of Internationalization. This grant is assisting the college in defining its international programs and create opportunities for our students to engage globally. As a result, our first initiative is on women and entrepreneurship (since this is the college’s first center to be established under the TWC strategic plan), and our first stop on our journey is the National Yunlin University of Science & Technology in Taiwan http://www.yuntech.edu.tw/english/indexe.htm.

I haven’t had a chance to write since arriving in Taiwan. I am writing now from the high-speed train from Taichung to Taipei with Chih-Hsuan Chou, whose English name is Cheryl. She is an interpreter by education (undergraduate degree in Taiwan, graduate degree in the U.K.) and she is an administrative assistant in the Office of International Affairs at National Yunlin University of Science & Technology, our host institution during our visit to Taiwan. We’re on our way to meetings in Taipei with national-level ministers, women entrepreneurs, and President Y.B. Yang of National Yunlin University of Science & Technology (known as YunTech).

But back to the beginning of the trip. Tiffani and I left Denver late Sunday evening and arrived at the international airport in Taipei, Taiwan at 6 a.m. the day after—Taiwan is 15 hours ahead of Denver. In most Asian countries, when the relationship between two entities is created, the positional leader of the company or college is expected to be part of the initial visits. I am fortunate to represent the college and its strategic initiatives as dean, and honored to work towards the goal of research collaboration and exchange of faculty and students with YunTech.

Professor Tsungting Chung, a Ph.D. graduate of DU’s Korbel School, has been our host throughout our visit. He has been an excellent host and YunTech is a very impressive university. We began our time at YunTech with a library tour, and the welcome to The Women’s College was in neon lights, in Chinese, at the entrance to the library. The YunTech library was very modern and holds an extensive collection of materials. In addition to the books, periodicals, and electronic resources, the library holds an extensive collection of design work and art. The top floor of the library is continually reinvented by the design students, and it is very contemporary. Art students’ designs are hosted in this space, along with many of the university’s art book collection.

Following the tour I gave a lecture to the class of MBA students taught by Professor Wei-Hwa Pan (he’s also an officer in the Chinese Association of Business and Management Technology), so a full classroom awaited me as we entered the College of Management. I focused my lecture on the college’s strategic plan and the ways in which TWC aligns with DU and the larger mission on women’s leadership locally, nationally, and globally. There were many questions from the students following the lecture, mostly focused on the college, women’s leadership globally, and the challenges women face (that are universal) around societal expectations in work, family, and career advancement. Lunch followed with Professor Chung and some of his colleagues from the College of Management—Professors Wei Hwa Pan, Hui-Yun Yu, and Chin-Yi (Michelle) Chen (about 1/3rd of the faculty in the College of Management). We had a traditional Chinese lunch at the university, and then met Dean of Student Affairs Dr. Arthur Cheng-Hsui Chen in the hallway before meeting with Vice President Chun-Kan Hou Ph.D., one of two vice presidents at Yun Tech. We then watched YunTech’s video to get an overview of the depth and breadth of the university’s academic programs and services. Following that time we briefly met Professor Chung’s deputy director, Professor Philip Hsu, and then had a tour of the Research and Development Office with Dean Chih-Chiang Hua and his associates. YunTech is impressive in its R&D work, and the university just celebrated its 19th anniversary, so there has been a great deal of contributions that the university has made during this time.

We spent the latter part of the afternoon with a most interesting woman, the former two-term mayor, Laura Hseih. Laura is the General Director of the Yunlin Agricultural Association (YunTech is located in a more rural part of the country) and she is leading voice for agriculture in the county—and beyond! She reminded me of an “intrepreneur”—someone who works inside an organization but is deeply entrepreneurial in their approach and sensibilities. We talked a great deal about women’s role in Taiwan, about her efforts to market and advance agriculture in Taiwan (particularly in oranges and coffee distribution). She had an angle and a product for everything that was grown organically in the country—she had orange wine, coffee bean earrings, and spoke extensively about a display in Taipei Train Station that focused on oranges (I’ll upload pictures to the website, it was quite clever). She even convinced us to return on Thursday morning to pick coffee beans and oranges (BTW Taiwanese coffee is exceptional—I never knew!). Also, a news reporter was present and Professor Chung spoke about YunTech, DU, and TWC.

On both evenings at YunTech we had dinner with our DU and DCB colleague Professor Dennis Wittmer, who was here at YunTech for three weeks teaching and assisting DCB students during their travel program to Southeast Asia. It was good to converse with Dennis about the partnership between DU and YunTech thus far, and to consider where TWC will fit in the partnership.

The next morning we had breakfast with Dean Shang-Pin Lin of the College of Management.  Like many educators at YunTech and in Taiwan in general, Dean Lin received his doctorate in the United States; I truly enjoyed my conversation with him and found him very interesting and open to collaborate with the college. Like me, Dean Lin is serving in his third year as dean. Along with Dean Lin we met with several other professors, Dr. Yun-Ken who is chair of the business administration department and international business administration, and Dr. Shuching Chou, a US CPA and a professor of finance, to discuss collaborations between TWC and YunTech. We are currently exploring a short-term program for TWC students to visit YunTech for combination education and cultural experience, as well as a collaborative research project—a comparative study between women in Colorado and Taiwan in women’s leadership, with a specific emphasis on women entrepreneurs. Dean Lin and his colleagues have studied at Harvard University and they use the case study method in their teaching and in fostering greater communication in and among the faculty. I was very impressed with their openness to employing interdisciplinary research and teaching approaches throughout their work. We toured the college and Professor Shuching Chou showed us several ways that the students track the finance markets.

Part of the trip allowed us to delve a little bit into the Taiwanese culture. Two of the women enrolled in the international MBA program were our hosts for the day, and first we visited Sun Moon Lake, a beautiful area in central Taiwan, and had Chang Po Liang as our informative tour guide. We then traveled to the Chung Tai Chan Monastery, where our guide was a Buddhist nun with an MBA! The Chung Tai Chan Monastery is a contemporary Buddhist temple, monastery, and teaching center, and includes both a middle and high school among its educational institutions. Both experiences gave us a little bit of a better understanding of the Taiwanese culture and the rich history of the country; FYI 2009 is 60 years since Chiang Kai-shek and other members of the KMT left mainland China to Taiwan.

Continuing our emphasis on women’s entrepreneurship, we visited YunTech’s incubator center, where we were able to see the various ways in which YunTech supports budding entrepreneurs. There were several companies run by women, two in the fashion accessories area and one in women’s lingerie (I’ll tell that story when I see some of you in person!). Like many incubators that Tiffani and I have visited, the typical occupants are men, and that needs to change! We discussed efforts in the US to promote women’s entrepreneurship, particularly in promoting business ventures that will produce greater revenues.

After our visit to the incubator it was time to get ready for our transition from Yunlin to Taipei . . .

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First impressions of Vietnam

Vietnam is like nothing I expected. We arrived on Saturday afternoon to the Hanoi Airport, which reminded me of a smaller, regional airport than one that accepts international flights. After securing our luggage and getting a car into the city the adventure began. There are millions of people here in Hanoi, and 4 million of them get around by scooters—we’ve seen scooters with whole families, scooters with a weight bench and a full set of weights, scooters with crates of eggs or cans of coke piled high, and even a scooter with a commercial air conditioning unit secured to the back! There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the traffic, and scooters rule the roads, the sidewalks, and even the narrow lanes in the morning market. It’s astonishing. But I digress . . .

Our trip from the airport to the old quarter of Hanoi took around 45 minutes and we crossed the historic Red River and entered the city. Upon our arrival in the old quarter we were greeted by Barbara Bauer, a friend and colleague from Denver, who after years of working in the IT industry on the east coast and in Denver now runs her own companies, GlobalSight Partners, which provides consultation services to businesses interested in international partnerships or operations, and Silk and Stones Travel, which conducts specialized tours throughout southeast Asia. I must admit it was wonderful to see a friendly face from home, and Barbara has been very kind to us in arranging meetings with the Vietnam Women’s Union http://www.hoilhpn.org.vn/?Lang=EN But it’s the weekend, so time for a little old-fashioned touring and getting to know the local environment!

On Saturday evening we took in a Vietnamese tradition, the Water Puppet Show, which is a wonderful and fun way of expressing Vietnamese folklore. Puppeteers are actually in the water and manipulating the puppets from behind a façade of a traditional building. Music and singing accompany the show, and the songs tell the tale as the puppets make their way through the water. This particular theater is inside an old building, and of course there are outdoor theaters as well. With dinner following the show, it was already time to get some much needed rest for the next day.

On Sunday we met Thanh, a very knowledgeable and amiable tour guide, and he accompanied us for the day. When I have traveled in other countries I would rely on a guide map and my own sense of what to do and how to do it. In Vietnam, I have discovered that a tour guide is essential. Between the “organized chaos” of the streets, the language (although as with many countries, English is spoken in all sorts of places), and the complexity of the culture, I found that having Thanh along was important. We first had a walking tour of the old quarter—homes that once occupied a single family now house many more, and the sidewalks teem with activity. Families cooking and eating their meals, men gathering for a smoke of tobacco, women selling wares, scooters occupying sidewalk “parking spaces,” and businesses with goods that seep out of their stores—all this and more happens in the old quarter.

Following the walking tour we headed to the Temple of Literature, the first Vietnamese university founded in 1010 http://maps.google.com/maps/place?oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&q=the+temple+of+literature+hanoi&fb=1&gl=vn&hq=the+temple+of+literature&hnear=hanoi&cid=6403579361188396197 This was a truly peaceful place, where Confucian scholars studied and earned their doctoral degrees. The grounds were filled with ancient statues, topiaries, and tablets that contained the names of each degree recipient etched into stone. These tablets are on top of turtles, which represent knowledge, wisdom, and long life in Vietnamese culture.

Next stop was a visit to the Ho Chi-Minh mausoleum. A very sacred place to the Vietnamese, with full color guard and military present throughout, Ho Chi-Minh lays in rest as millions move through to pay honor to him and his legacy. Ho Chi-Minh died in the 1960s, and, like Lenin in Moscow, he lies in state in perpetuity. It was one of the most unique experiences I’ve had in my life, and I was truly in awe.

A much more sobering experience followed—the visit to Hoa Lo Prison Museum, known as the “Hanoi Hilton” during the war between the U.S. and Vietnam. Only part of the prison remains and even that part is chilling. The prison was originally built by the French to incarcerate the Vietnamese during the French colonization. The Vietnamese then used the prison to incarcerate American pilots during the war, including the man who would be the first U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, Pete Peterson, and current U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ).

We closed the tour around Hanoi with a visit to the Vietnam Ethnographic Museum http://www.vme.org.vn/aboutus_history.asp to honor the indigenous people of Vietnam. There was an outdoor exhibit that included ancient homes of many of the minority tribes and an indoor exhibit of relics, costumes, tools, and other items unique to the various indigenous people of Vietnam.

During the next few days we will be meeting with women dedicated to advancing the status of women and girls in Vietnam. As a nation of resilient people, I am sure that the meetings will give us an important perspective on how to educate and assist girls and women. I look forward to learning more about Vietnam and its people.

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My Taiwan Blog—Part Two!

And the travels continue . . .

Professor Chung joined us early Friday morning for two visits with women entrepreneurs. The first was to Young Baby http://www.youngbaby.com.tw Young Baby’s founder, Ann, was trained as an elementary teacher and decided to use her interest in children and education to develop a unique company—one part of the company caters to families wishing to commemorate the traditional Chinese celebrations for the growth of the child, while another part of the company actually lends toys to families as an alternative to purchase. Ann gave us a very detailed PowerPoint and video presentation on her business, including media clips of coverage that her business received. She’s quite smart and has developed a membership program for her clients, discounts for web-based purchases, and an entire database for customer tracking and marketing. Families have the option of lending the ceremonial costumes and toys to bring to their home, or the ceremony can be held in Ann’s offices. One of the unique things that Ann has introduced is the creation of a commemorative statue of the baby in her or his ceremonial costume. Like many small businesses, she struggles to acquire enough capital to move her business to the next level. She employs on full-time person and brings in additional staff on a part-time basis as needed.

Our next visit was to Le-Bit Industrial Co. Ltd. http://www.le-bit.com.tw which is a family-owned company that creates pillows using memory foam for home and travel, stuffed animals, and toys for children. Our time was with the mother and daughter combo, who are the design and creative team; the husband is a former Toyota salesman and is in charge of marketing. They really want to build their business and that it lasts for several generations, and are working to ensure that this will happen. She is interested in having TWC students assist them in building their client base through innovative marketing.

Following the two visits to these small women-owned businesses, Professor Chung took us to the Palace Museum http://www.npm.gov.tw/en/home.htm The Palace Museum holds the art and artifacts of China from centuries past, with a collection so extensive that it must be rotated in and out of the museum on a regular basis. Although we only had a little more than an hour to tour the museum, seeing antiquities from 600 BCE was well worth the time, and important for us as we come to learn more about the culture and people of Taiwan.

After our brief tour of the museum we headed to the Ministry of Education. There we met with three members of the staff, Alex Chung, Section Chief Miechun Lu, and Cultural Counselor Shan-Nan Chang. Dr. Chang was a wonderful host—he studied in the higher education policy program at Penn State University, and we had a great conversation since we share professional disciplinary areas. The Ministry is very, very interested in our proposed collaboration with YunTech and so I am hopeful that we will be able to launch both collaborative research projects and visits for our students to Taiwan.

It is said that the Taiwanese people are deeply generous, and that was certainly the experience that Tiffani and I had during our visit. Professor Chung was exceptional (he was even in the hotel lobby at 6 a.m. on Saturday to make sure we had checked out of our rooms safely!) and each and every person we met was very welcoming and kind. I am very pleased that the college will be working with the administration, faculty, and students at YunTech and that we have begun what I believe to be an important relationship with a vibrant international partner and friend.

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Starting to blog

As dean I thought it would be fun and informative for me to begin to blog. I believe an active exchange between me and our students will be an asset to our community. I will focus on the strategic plan of the college and what college administrators, faculty, and staff are doing to reposition and promote TWC, and I will also focus on the various activiites related to women’s leadership and advancement that I am engaged in as dean. I welcome your comments and observations, and while I will try to respond to you in a timely fashion, this is my first blog, so I’ll be learning as I go about blogging, responding, and whatever else I need to know about this new way (for me) of communicating with each of you!

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