For the last three years, I’ve held a leading role in Vietnam’s USAID BUILD-IT Alliance. BUILD-IT usher me into the fast-paced world of global project implementation, strategy and proposal management, public diplomacy, and the power of public-private partnerships. We leveraged multi-million-dollar USAID contributions to pilot 15 innovation competitions engaging +3,000 university students and +300 faculty, build three maker spaces across Vietnam, and integrate AWS, Oracle, Autodesk, and Rockwell Automation technologies into the curriculum at six universities.


The USAID BUILD-IT Alliance is a comprehensive university capacity-building project, implemented by Arizona State University, in Vietnam that helps Vietnamese engineering universities adopt the latest mindsets and methods in STEM education. BUILD-IT is an alliance of US industry partners and Vietnamese universities, mentored by Arizona State University, reaching towards their shared goals to see Vietnamese engineering graduates better prepared for work and life. Within BUILD-IT I oversee Applied Projects, Makerspaces, and Industry-linked Learning Certificates.

President Obama praises BUILD-IT during his 2016 visit to Vietnam


Industry-linked applied projects push learning by doing to learning by doing professional challenges. It replaces theoretical readings and exams with projects that industry value. Learners develop technical, soft, career skills they’ll need through work and life. Over the past three years, BUILD-IT aligned industry partners such as Dow Chemical, Oracle, Amazon Web Services, and Rockwell Automation to sponsor pilot 15 innovation competitions engaging +3,000 university students and +300 faculty. These competitions include nationwide AWS hackathons, Rockwell Automation competitions, and ASU’s signature EPICS and eProjects Programs. These programs support each partners’ workforce pipeline and social missions. Starting in 2022, our university partners will adapt our pilot competitions into their curriculum to sustain these industry-linked programs.

Applied Projects draws benefits for students and sponsors


Makerspaces are multi-functional workshops with both the space and tools needed for project-based learning. BUILD-IT mobilized its partners to push the maker movement into Vietnamese institutions. I managed USAID BUILD-IT’s venture to build three maker Innovation Spaces at our partner universities. Through 2019, I oversaw a $120K makerspace construction sub-contract, negotiated equipment, and license donations to give thousands of students access to professional engineering tools. In 2021, a partner university followed our guidance and began building a self-funded makerspace – signaling that the momentum we started took off within public universities.

Here you can see the grand opening of a Makerspace that I coached from concept to reality


Entering the workforce, graduates need foundational skills in today’s tools and technologies. The most efficient avenue for skills development is integrating professional certifications into a program’s curriculum. As Vietnam strives to capture opportunities in the digital economy, fast-changing curricula benefit from direct support from industry leaders. Industry-linked learning assures that faculty have the know-how and tools needed to prepare students for today’s STEM careers. I’ve worked with industry partners to integrate AWS, Oracle, Autodesk, and Rockwell Automation certifications and lab equipment donations into the curriculum.

Ironically, my father also works for Oracle


To get students, sponsors, and diplomats excited about BUILD-IT’s impact, I’ve directed communication strategy, processes, and a direct report to produce bi-lingual television, press releases, playbooks, social posts, and support a revamped project website for America and Vietnam audiences. With our stories appearing on USAID’s website, ASU’s official Website, and through Facebook. We’ve been able to promote our impact and encourage women in STEM.

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  1. Yes, Deren, our work domain is almost the same: mine with a focus on economic development aspects including capacity building in higher education in developing countries. I was also coordinating a Dutch government-funded project aimed to build an Applied Statistics Department in Rwanda. This included capacity building (training of national lecturers and mentoring Rwandanese Ph.D. students at Tilburg University). My most recent projects include WorldBank and UN-funded projects on competition policy advice in Saudi Arabia and FAO Food Security premise in the countries of Central Asia. For brief summaries of the projects I got involved, please see my CV (I will send it to you by e-mail). Maybe we can find commonalities between your and my projects to write joint papers for publication on the diffusion of knowledge and innovations. I am now writing a paper on COVID-19 and its impact on global growth and a paper on an innovation diffusion model. They may be too technical but the underlying ideas are simple. Just look at some of the papers I published (Google it with my name). Let us see how it goes.

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