While each new school year brings its challenges and new experiences, for Dr. Benjamin N. Muego, political science and Asian studies, fall 2009 promises to be especially remarkable. He will be traveling to Vietnam as the first U.S. faculty member to teach at the Hanoi University of Education (HUE).
Through the end of January 2010, Muego will teach American government, international relations, and methodology, as well as conduct a seminar for HUE faculty and staff on the concept of shared governance in American higher education. It will be a learning experience for him as well, in which he will study the Vietnamese language along with pursuing his own research on military and security issues in the region.
It is not the first time Muego has made a groundbreaking trip to the Southeast Asian nation. In 1993, he was part of a People to People Citizen Ambassador Program delegation to Vietnam—the first visit by American academics allowed by the Vietnamese government after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. The group of 35 international-relations faculty from around the United States met with officials at seven institutions, including HUE, which was then called Hanoi National Pedagogical University.
Muego stayed in close communication over the years with the former director of HUE’s Office of International Relations, Dr. Vu Van Thanh, and the dean of the geography college, Dr. Nguyen Viet Thinh, who is now the president of HUE and a member of Vietnam’s National Assembly. During that first visit, Dr. Thanh suggested that to really develop a true and meaningful understanding of the country, Muego should organize a field study with students and other faculty.
“Bowling Green thus became the first American university to have an organized and structured relationship with a Vietnamese university,” Muego said. The trips, begun in 1995, have been conducted five times and averaged from 10-15 graduate and undergraduate students from leading institutions all over the United States.
A number of HUE administrators and faculty have visited BGSU since 2000. “Four years ago, a group from HUE and the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training met with former president Sidney Ribeau and other BGSU officials to learn about the financial structure of Bowling Green,” Muego said. “BGSU represented all U.S. universities to them as they are moving away from the Soviet to the American model of higher education. It’s a great opportunity for Bowling Green to make an impact there.”
In welcoming Muego to HUE, President Thinh wrote, “We do hope that this exchange will be the continuation of the relationship between our two universities. There has been a growing need for institutions with common interests to share their expertise, particularly with regard to bridging the gap between theory and practice.”
The author of three books and numerous articles on security and political issues in Southeast Asia, Muego is also an adjunct professor of Southeast Asia Studies at Ohio University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies; an adjunct professor of Southeast Asia Studies at the School of Professional and Area Studies of the U.S. Foreign Service Institute (which recognized him with its Distinguished Adjunct Faculty Award in 1997-98), and an adjunct professor of security assistance management at the U.S. Defense Institute of Security Assistance Management. He was an East-West Center Fellow in 1990-91 and is the current president of the Fulbright Association of Northeast Ohio.