Monday, November 23, 2009

Vietnam Ambassador Hails Universities, Sustainability Lessons Among Pittsburgh's Most Valuable Exports

Pittsburgh's colleges and universities, and the intellectual force behind them, represent one of the region's most valuable assets and most desirable export commodities, in the opinion of Michael W. Michalak, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, who visited the city recently to meet with leaders of the academic, energy and technology communities.

"I was very impressed with the (city's) educational platform, with the whole educational park (in the Oakland area), where you have a number of universities, all with cross-registration programs and very strong international commitments," he said at the end of his visit earlier this month, which was hosted by GlobalPittsburgh. "That could represent a great export opportunity for Pittsburgh."

Vietnam is suffering from a lack of high-quality education programs, Michalak said, and is seeking to develop western-style university programs to improve economic and social opportunities for its citizens.

The Ambassador said he has encouraged representatives of local higher learning institutions to send a small delegation to an education conference in Vietnam scheduled for mid-January. Several local universities already are working to develop partnerships with universities in Vietnam.

Also of interest to Vietnam are Pittsburgh's lessons on environmental transformation, Michalak said.

"There would be short-term and long-term opportunities to take Vietnam down a more sustainable path," he said. "Vietnam's environmental consciousness is in the process of being raised. We have seen more citizen protests, and they are looking at how to tighten up their own regulatory frameworks to stem the tide of pollution and become more sustainable."

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GlobalPittsburgh arranged numerous meetings for Ambassador Michalak, including sessions with top leaders from key corporations and research institutions, as well as with heads of many of Pittsburgh’s colleges and universities, according to GlobalPittsburgh President Roger Cranville.

"Vietnam is interested in creating partnerships with and learning lessons from Pittsburgh in the field of education, as well as in the energy and technology sectors," Cranville said. "Welcoming Ambassador Michalak to Pittsburgh is a very important step in developing these partnerships, which will be of great benefit to the Pittsburgh region."

Ambassador Michalak started his visit with a morning session at Chatham University with regional academic leaders to discuss the Ambassador's focus on education in Vietnam, including opportunities to build bridges between Vietnamese and American institutions of higher learning, and to explore opportunities for student recruiting and exchanges, cooperation and collaboration. Vietnam is now the fastest-growing foreign student market in the United States and currently ranks 20th among all countries sending students to the United States.

Later in the day, the Ambassador delivered a lecture titled “U.S.-Vietnam Relationships, Education Links, and Technology Opportunities” at the University of Pittsburgh. The lecture was presented by the Asian Studies Center of the University of Pittsburgh in conjunction with numerous other campus departments.

Ambassador Michalak offered his ideas on the U.S.- Vietnam political and economic relationship, as well as the importance of educational links between the U.S and Vietnam. He discussed faculty & student exchange, executive training, and university collaboration. Other topics will include priority technologies, products and service needs in Vietnam, including intellectual property security.

A career foreign service officer with extensive knowledge and experience in Asia, Michalak was sworn in as the U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam on August 10, 2007. Prior to that, he served as the U.S. Senior Official to APEC, Bureau of East Asia Pacific Affairs.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Ambassador Michalak received his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Physics from Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., and Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., respectively. He received a second Master's degree in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. He speaks Chinese and Japanese.

GlobalPittsburgh works with the U.S. Department of State and other international organizations to arrange and coordinate visits by foreign individuals and delegations interested in learning more about Pittsburgh’s centers of excellence, including energy, technology, health sciences, green design and education, and in studying the region’s economic and environmental transformation.

For 50 years, GlobalPittsburgh (formerly the Pittsburgh Council for International Visitors) has welcomed volunteers and hosts to act as tour guides, dinner hosts, home stay hosts and drivers for visiting delegations and individuals. For more information about GlobalPittsburgh programs, visit www.GlobalPittsburgh.org, call 412-392-4513 or send email to info@pciv.org.

For further information about Ambassador Michalak’s visit, contact Thomas Buell, Jr., VP-Communications, at 412-720-2218 or tcbuell@versopartners.com.

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