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Boise State’s MBA graduates in Vietnam have a history of becoming prominent leaders

Boise State President Marlene Tromp, National Economics University Chancellor Bui Duc Tho (center) and delegates from both universities met for an agreement signing ceremony, photo Patrick Sweeney

During the 1990s, Boise State was the first American university to deliver academic programs in Vietnam. Between 1994-1999, Boise State provided master of business administration degrees to 84 Vietnamese faculty members and businesspeople from around the country. In addition, the university helped establish Vietnam’s first international standard business school at the National Economics University in Hanoi. Several of those graduates have become leaders in education, business and government throughout the country. Here is the first of three profiles of graduates who rose to the top of National Economics University written by Nancy Napier, an instructor for Boise State’s Executive MBA program.

Bui Duc Tho has a gentle, quiet face, with a constant tentative smile. He rarely gets excited or angry, staying even keeled and focused on his task. That calm and composed demeanor no doubt helps in his current job as one of the top leaders at the National Economics University in Hanoi, where he was Vice Rector in 2019 and now is the Chancellor of the University Council (2021) – and by age 46 – quite an accomplishment anywhere.

President Tromp and Bui Duc Tho during an agreement signing ceremony between Boise State and National Economics University, photo Patrick Sweeney

Tho was born shortly after the end of the American War in 1975, grew up in a poor family in Hanoi where his mother told him that “the only way to change his future was to study hard.” Studying hard is something Vietnamese parents told and still tell their children. But in Tho’s day, it was especially true given the devastation and poverty following the end of a long war.

Tho studied at the National Economics University, where he now works, majoring in economic management, before joining the staff of the university. He received his MBA from Boise State in 1999 in the third cohort of faculty and businesspeople who studied for the degree. He earned a Ph.D. from Kyung Hee University in Korea, becoming one of the few young people at the National Economics University to earn a doctorate from a foreign university.

Bui Duc Tho alongside his wife Pham Thuy Giang and his two children in Vietnam

Tho and his wife Pham Thuy Giang, an associate professor at the Banking Academy of Vietnam, have two children, aged 9 and 15, who are following their father’s footsteps by studying hard at some of the best schools in Hanoi.

Tho’s cohort of Boise State MBA participants was able to spend an entire semester in Boise in the fall of 1998, where they learned to swim, dance, and ski alongside taking classes and doing internships. Tho learned one marketing concept first-hand. His professors had told him that some companies let customers tbuy a product, use it for a period of time, then return it for a full refund. Tho couldn’t believe this was true. So, while he was in Boise, he purchased a camera, and decided to test its 30-day return policy. He used the camera for 30 days and returned it to the store. He was shocked to receive a full refund and an apology that he was unsatisfied with the camera. He turned that experience into a case study for his students in Vietnam.

-by Nancy Napier