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Program provides graduate fellowships for top Vietnamese students

Jeff Unger, News Bureau


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Forty-one outstanding students from Vietnam will be undertaking graduate studies in science and technology this fall at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a result of an agreement between the university and the Vietnam Education Foundation. The number is the most of any of the 37 U.S. graduate institutions participating in the VEF Fellowship program.

The U. of I. and the foundation provide support for the students in the form of travel expenses to the U.S., the waiver of application fees, and the fellowship, which provides a living allowance, a supply allowance and a tuition waiver.

The VEF is a congressional initiative to bring the U.S. and Vietnam closer through educational exchanges. The foundation, in its second year of operation, receives the support of the national academies of science and of engineering in selecting the Vietnamese students to receive the VEF Fellowships.

VEF has more than 100 Fellows at U.S. institutions, mostly for doctoral degrees. All VEF Fellows are required to return to Vietnam after completing their academic programs in the U.S.

“As we enter into the graduate education of these young scholars who have had no prior contact with the United States, there is every indication that they will help to form enduring bridges between the U.S. and Vietnam, and between their home institutions and the University of Illinois,” said Richard P. Wheeler, the dean of the Graduate College at Illinois.

“It is our honor to have the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign among the VEF Alliance Schools,” said Frank Jao, the chairman of VEF. “We select the best scholars in Vietnam, and the University of Illinois will train them for a life of contributions to science and education. We are grateful for this joint effort.”

VEF is governed by a board of directors whose members include Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State; John Snow, the Secretary of the Treasury; Margaret Spellings, the Secretary of Education; U.S. Rep. Chris Smith; U.S. Rep. George Miller; U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel; U.S. Sen. John Kerry; and six people appointed by President Bush: Charles Nguyen, the dean of the School of Engineering, Catholic University of America; Jao, the president and CEO of Bridgecreek Development Co.; Herbert Allison Jr., CEO of TIAA-CREF; Marilyn Pattillo, professor of clinical nursing, University of Texas at Austin; Robert Bryant, professor of mathematics, Duke University; Toi Van Vo, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, Tufts University.