For the last three years, I’ve managed programs for the USAID BUILD-IT Alliance. BUILD-IT is a comprehensive university capacity-building project 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. BUILD-IT was announced by President Obama during his 2016 visit to Vietnam.

BUILD-IT was announced by President Obama during his 2016 visit to Vietnam


Project-based learning is an educational pedagogy that emphasizes “learning by doing.” It replaces theoretical readings and exams with real-world projects. Project-based learning helps learners develop both technical and soft skills needed in their careers. Over the past three years, BUILD-IT has piloted a recurring series of project-based Learning competitions and trained faculty to adopt these programs into their curriculum. I’ve managed about twelve programs that have drawn thousands of students to project-based learning. Starting in 2022, our university partners will adapt our project-based learning methods into their curriculum. They will teach some of the same programs taught at Arizona State University, Yale, and Purdue.

Have a look into a project-based learning final


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. In 2021, a partner university followed our guidance and began building a self-funded makerspace -signaling that the momentum we started took off.

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 tools and technologies 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. Over the past three years, I’ve managed faculty trainings for US technologies like Oracle & AWS.

Ironically, my father also works for Oracle
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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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