Exploring Public Policy in Ho Chi Minh City

Imagine for a moment a different world, a place in which students find deep meaning in everything they learn. In that universe, learning changes who people are and how they view the world. It makes them into better problem solvers, more creative and compassionate individuals, more responsible and self-confident people.

-Ken Bain, What the Best College Students Do

At White Mountain, we encourage our students to be curious. Research has shown that students learn best when they are engaged and passionate about what they are studying. Our LASR (projects related to Leadership, Arts, Service and Research) program is emblematic of this. LASR also helps students develop habits that correlate with college success, like critical thinking and communication skills. Although most stay local for their LASR project, White Mountain junior Zoey Feng had the chance to spend last semester in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, learning about those most affected by poverty and natural disasters. 

Her independent research project involved implementing and adopting strategies to help influence public policy and change the harsh conditions of those living in poverty and deprived of basic human rights. In a meeting with government officials in Phu Phú Quoc, Ðao (an island now famous for tourism after recovering from Typhoon Durian in 2006), Zoey challenged how the local government coped with natural disasters and other policy issues. She connected with local celebrities to promote awareness around these issues and others.

Read her reflections and more about her project below.

I devoted my time and effort last semester to studying policy issues and seeking solutions to alleviate these problems. The humanitarian trip I took to Vietnam enabled me to better understand the lives of its local citizens and grasp the socio-political situation there. This experience introduced me to the field of social science and helped me understand complex policy problems on a deeper level.

I had the chance to volunteer in a tiny, remote village called ShamXint, which had been directly hit by a major typhoon and flood twice. I worked with villagers to pressure the local government to remove worn out dams in the area. In order to bring awareness to the problem, I thought of how celebrities would publicize world issues by being a spokesperson for different causes. Perhaps, too, this could be a way in which the dam issue could be brought to light. Before leaving, I worked with a few local celebrities in hopes of making the issue more susceptible to public sympathy.

Click here to read more about other LASR projects and independent research at White Mountain.

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