Vietnamese, Dutch scholars visit

computer science visitComputer science professors from Vietnam and the Netherlands visited Lynchburg College for two weeks in late February to create and strengthen exchange programs.

In the meantime, three LC computer science students are studying abroad during the current spring semester at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.

The Vietnamese connection began when Dr. Randy Ribler earned a Fulbright to teach at Vietnam National University, Hanoi (VNU-HN) in spring 2006. Then, in 2013, Dr. Ribler, professor of computer science, was one of nine US scholars selected by the Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF) to teach at Vietnamese universities as part of its US Faculty Scholar (USFS) Program.

Dr. Ribler said VNU has a world-class computer science program. “We had a mutual desire to continue working together and to expand the relationship between our two institutions,” he said.

That relationship has continued with joint classes online with colleagues in Vietnam, who shared lessons via Skype. Dr. Pham Ngoc Hung and Truong Anh Hoang are two of those colleagues who came to LC in February.

Both said they were struck by the small class sizes and the close relationships between students and professors. “Everything, every building, is very student-oriented,” Dr. Hung said. Dr. Hoang said he was struck by the idea of peer tutoring, something he would like to take back to Vietnam.

The connection with the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences started with Elmer Hoeksema, who also teaches computer science. Dr. Hoeksema once lived in Bedford and loved the area so he approached Alex Akulli, director of LC’s Center for Global Education, about establishing exchanges with his university.

“The world is truly becoming a global marketplace,” Professor Hoeksema said, adding that students need international experiences to understand that marketplace.

In both Vietnam and the Netherlands, many classes are taught in English, Akulli said, so our students have the opportunity to take classes without knowing the local language, though of course, it’s hoped they will learn some.

“It’s very important to establish partnerships with universities of such high caliber,” Akulli said, adding that LC has recently signed partnership agreements with Vietnam National University-Hanoi and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa. He is working on a number of others as well.

At Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Professor Hoeksema said they have an entire “domain” dedicated to “Creative Industry,” which includes programs in computer science, art, fashion, and design. Students take classes by theme, unlike here where there is a greater variety of courses, he said.

All three visiting professors said they like the campus experience their students could get at LC. At VNU-HN, only about 10 percent of students have campus housing, while in Amsterdam, all the students live off campus.