Vietnam Program at HKS, the Fulbright School

The Vietnam Program at the Kennedy School has been studying Vietnam’s development for over twenty five years. Its flagship initiative is the former Fulbright Economics Teaching Program (the Fulbright School), and now the current renamed Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM),  a Ho Chi Minh City-based center for public policy research, teaching, and policy dialogue. The Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM) studies the challenges facing Vietnam, as the country strives to increase its participation in the global economy and raise income levels of most Vietnamese.

Ongoing research projects conducted jointly by Vietnamese and American scholars focus on the challenges of urban development, local economic development strategies and competitiveness, building a modern metropolitan administration, environmental issues in the Mekong river, financing infrastructure for Ho Chi minh City, and a range of other macroeconomic and social issues. FSPPM's mid-career program, policy papers, and online publications provide policy makers and practitioners with an array of avenues to educate themselves, gain a deeper understanding of the challenges they confront, and help them to acquire analytical tools to assess complex issues and articulate policies.

Under the guidance of a faculty mentor, the Director's intern will participate in activities in support of the School's academic programs and research initiatives. A research project on a topic selected in consultation with the School will be a major component of the intern’s work. Interns must possess strong writing and research skills. Interns will not be assigned administrative duties, though they may occasionally be asked to assist with a general task. Please note that interns will work under sometimes demanding conditions, due both to the difficulties inherent with living in a developing country as well as to the fast pace of the School's activities.


2017 Intern Reflection:

My time at the Fulbright University in Ho Chi Minh City was informative and academically challenging, and invaluable as a cultural experience.

The internship allows students to engage in individual research projects as well as work as research assistants to professors. Since I felt I didn't have an in-depth knowledge of the Vietnamese economy, I worked as a research assistant at first and then researched my own topic (an estimation of long run elasticities for demand in Vietnam), and I ended up using a lot of the econometric tools I learned at Harvard, which I supplemented a lot through self-study.

I learned a lot through my own research and by reading the research of the professors there, and most of my work was self-directed. Because of this, my questions need to be clear in order to get the technical assistance I needed. It might be helpful for future interns to request a few discussions to plan the scope of their project early on. The work culture is laid back as far as interns are concerned.

Vedant Bahl '20

2016 Intern Reflection:

I am working at the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program (FETP) in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam this summer. FETP is a public policy school that currently only teaches masters students, although it was recently announced by John Kerry that the school will become a full-fledged university in the coming years. In the fall, FETP and the Vietnam Program at the Kennedy School will hold the Vietnamese Executive Leadership Program (VELP) in Cambridge, where policymakers and executives from Vietnam come to learn about policy challenges currently facing the country in a series of lectures and discussions. I have been tasked with writing a section of the report that will be presented at this conference. Specifically, I have been preparing a document that explains the effects that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could have on foreign direct investment in the Vietnamese textile and garments sector. As part of the writing process, I have engaged in research at the school and have interviewed several individuals involved in the manufacturing industry.

Possibly the best part of this internship is the experience of living in Vietnam. Living in Ho Chi Minh City means that you are in the middle of an exciting and vibrant developing city, with lots of coffee shops, eateries, and boutiques, often owned by the families that live in the same buildings. Even though the flight to Vietnam was not cheap, the fact is that the cost of living here is very low. This means that as an intern, I can decide to have lunch at a street food stall or at a fancy restaurant and not have to think twice about it (although I do still prefer street food).

Dan Holmqvist '17

2015 Intern Reflection:

The Fulbright School offers hands-on opportunities for those interested in the public policy and economic climate of Vietnam, as well as the chance to spend a wild summer abroad in the wild, nearly overwhelming city of Saigon. Vietnamese language skills are not required (though recommended), and the staff is ready and willing to accommodate researchers’ interests. So far, I’ve looked at Vietnam’s ASEAN Economic Community integration, the South China Sea dispute, and the narrowing development gap in Southeast Asia. The professors and other students are brilliant and the job itself offers a great deal of time for pursuing personal projects.

What’s more, my fellow interns make coming to work every day a joy and a pleasure. Every day they force me to try something new for lunch, and many weekends we’ve spent exploring Saigon together. I’ve found time outside of work to do thesis research, but the bulk of my experiences here have been spent with friends – going to concerts, museums, boxing classes, outdoor markets, and trips to the Mekong River Delta, Cu Chi Tunnels, and, later this month, Cambodia. More likely than not, an intern will be challenged to choose between a wealth of newly-presented opportunities, both within and outside the internship – life here never really seems to slow down.  And you’ll be better for it. 

Jordan Feri '16


Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Economics/Business, International, Research