RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Quang Le, right, and Kien Cao are among 10 masters of business administration students from Vietnam studying at the University of Hawaii's Shidler College of Business.
Foreigners get MBA crash course
Vietnamese students learn marketing skills in the UH program
When Hieu Nguyen and his classmates from Vietnam look around Waikiki, they can't help thinking that beaches back home are more beautiful.
Then, as befitting masters of business administration students, they marvel at how Waikiki is marketed as a beach destination.
"Waikiki is considered a paradise," Nguyen said. "I think it's the marketing." A developing country like Vietnam should learn how to market its beaches and attractions, he added.
Nguyen and nine other students from the University of Hawaii's executive MBA program in Hanoi are taking an event and sports marketing class at the Shidler College of Business and staying in Waikiki for three weeks.
"The University of Hawaii is very famous in Vietnam," said Hoai Duc Cao, noting the graduate school's top 25 ranking in international business programs by U.S. News and World Report and the program's accreditation.
UH-Manoa has been offering the Vietnam MBA program in Hanoi since 2001, said Dana Alden, the program director.
Professors from the Shidler College of Business travel to Hanoi for a week to teach, and give assignments and readings through e-mail before and after the visit.
Vietnam's economy is booming, Alden said, and there's a demand for business education. UH-Manoa will begin offering an executive MBA program in Ho Chi Minh City this fall.
"We want to have the experience of a U.S. university," said Nam Kinh Phan, who noted that students in American classes are able to question and engage professors more than if the class were taught by a Vietnamese instructor.
This is the second group of Vietnam students to come to Hawaii.
The visit is an optional part of the curriculum; 22 of the other students in the program are still in Vietnam.
The group of six men and four women here this week ranges in age from 27 to 45 and have an average of about 10 years of business experience in Vietnam.
Nguyen, who had lived in the United States since 1983, was going to school at the University of Colorado. But he returned to Vietnam to start up a business.
As managers and business owners in Vietnam, they either paid the $5,000 cost of the trip themselves or their companies paid for them.
In addition to Hawaii, the group will also travel to California and Las Vegas.
Their class visited the Polynesian Cultural Center and the Waikiki Aquarium to talk with executives there about how they market special events.
Other students in the marketing class say having classmates from Vietnam enhances their education.
"They have a lot of real-world experience," said Terrance Thornburgh, who is getting an MBA and a law degree at UH-Manoa.
"Our society is getting globalized," said Nichole Okuna, a Travel Industry Management student. "After you graduate, we're going to be dealing with so many situations with people who are from abroad."
The students from Vietnam have invested their own money in stock brokerage firms listed on the Vietnamese stock market. So far, their investment has been profitable.
If it continues to make money, they will sell their shares to finance a trip back to Hawaii in December -- so they can receive their diplomas at winter commencement ceremonies.