Professor Sunmee Choi of Operations Management has been named as the first dean of the College of Business and Management at VinUniversity, a private university in Vietnam that opens this fall to its first freshman class. VinGroup, Vietnam’s largest company, founded the school according to international academic standards with the goal of quickly establishing a global reputation. Professor Choi discussed the appeal of her new position and her goals for it as a part of a new educational venture on the world stage.
Q1> VinUniversity is a new private university financed by the VinGroup, the leader of Vietnam's economy, and it has been established in adherence to international standards. Congratulations on your appointment. Please tell us about how you feel about your new position.
A1> Vietnam's leading company, VinGroup, has a status there similar to a combination of Korea's Samsung Group and Hyundai Motor Group. It is a large enterprise with a total of 48 affiliates whose operations include construction and real estate development, smartphone and semiconductor production, hospitals, automobile production, and hotel and resort businesses. Recently (2019) Korea's SK Group invested 1.2 trillion won in the VinGroup, securing a 6.1 percent stake in the company. As a driving force in Vietnam's fast-growing economy, VinGroup is establishing a world-class university to nurture the country’s talent and contribute to its national development. We are building a new university for future pioneers in Vietnam, just like Yonsei University has done in Korea. I will be the first dean of the College of Business and Management at VinUniversity, which will open in the fall semester of 2020. I will do my utmost to make the newly established College of Business and Management of VinUniversity reach a world-class level, drawing on my experience in business school management gained here at Yonsei University.
Q2> Why did you apply for the position as the first dean of the College of Business and Management at VinUniversity?
A2> VinUniversity aims to become the best private university in Vietnam and even the best in Asia in a short time. So, VinGroup has been investing massively in its founding and has established a six-year consulting and business cooperation contract with Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania to introduce the systems and curricula of the world's most prestigious universities to Vietnam. I think the reason why VinUniversity appointed me, a professor at Yonsei University, as the first dean of the College of Business and Management is probably because there is something to learn from Yonsei University, which is a leading university in Asia. I was a professor at Cornell University before I joined Yonsei University. That career must have been considered as well. I think I was chosen to help promote communication and cooperation between VinUniversity and Cornell University, which is commissioned to establish the business school. The recruitment and selection process for dean really followed global standards. First of all, the recruitment for the dean was advertised broadly at prestigious universities around the world, and then the screening and interviews were conducted according to the prescribed procedures. Of course, the use of only English in the recruitment announcements and procedures made the competition worldwide. The tangible compensation, intangible benefits, and job description for the dean were benchmarked to the standards of Ivy League universities in the US. VinUniversity will start with three colleges—the colleges of Business and Management, Health Science, and Engineering and Computer Science. The deans of the Health Science and Engineering colleges were appointed from Italy and Greece. I am from Korea and will be the dean of the College of Business and Management. I was impressed that the leading company in Vietnam, which was a wartime enemy of the United States in war, followed the model of American universities to establish its university.
Q3> Please tell us about the values and directions that the newly established VinUniversity College of Business and Management will pursue.
A3> Phạm Nhật Vượng, founder of the VinGroup, founded VinUniversity with the aim of fostering global talent. This has to do with his life path. As the Vietnam War went on, there were numerous losses of young people. At that time, Vietnamese political leaders sent a small number of talented young people with growth potential to study abroad because they believed that they needed excellent talents to rebuild Vietnam after the war. Phạm Nhật Vượng was also one of these young talents who went to Russia to study under a Vietnamese government scholarship. Vietnam adopted the “Doi Moi (Reform)” policy, which is similar to our “Five Years of Economic Development” policy, in 1986 and began to open the economy. Vietnam is rapidly growing into a medium-sized country based on an abundant workforce, diverse natural resources, and effective economic policies. By achieving an average economic growth rate of 6% from 2008 to 2017, it became a representative country that achieved economic growth under a socialist system. For reference, as of 2017, Vietnam has grown into Korea's third-largest foreign trade partner (8.3%) after China (25%) and the United States (12%). However, there is a shortage of talent in Vietnam, considering its rapid economic growth and entry into the global market. The educational goal of the new VinUniversity College of Business and Management is to cultivate global talent capable of leading the Vietnamese economy. It is to provide a curriculum that allows talented young Vietnamese to receive world-class educations without going abroad. Graduates of VinUniversity will be an excellent workforce to lead the future Vietnamese economy.
Q4> The mission of VinUniversity is “to educate and train elite individuals, who are knowledgeable, capable, and passionate about improving themselves and societal conditions, inspiring the current and next generations, and making lasting positive impacts on global development.”As the first dean, are there any areas or goals that you would like to focus on?
A4> I felt very enthusiastic when I was appointed because I am serving as the school's first dean. No matter what it is, it is always important to get the first step right. The reason why Yonsei University has been able to become a renowned global university is probably because of the university culture fostered at the beginning by its founder, Missionary Horace G. Underwood. Instead of instilling the idea that personal advancement or the pursuit of wealth is the purpose of life, he envisioned a university culture of elites dedicated to the community and the country. I will keep this in mind when I start my journey this fall as the dean of the business school. I would like to create, beginning with the freshman class, a school culture that fosters future talent dedicated to leadership.
Q5> Vietnam has been growing steadily over the past few years. Please tell us about your thoughts on how the College of Business and Management of VinUniversity will impact Vietnam and the world.
A5> Vietnam's economy began to grow after it allowed foreign investment in 1987 and the US stopped all its economic sanctions in 1993. Having revealed the shortcomings of the socialist economy, inefficient state-owned enterprises have also been transformed one after another into enterprise groups, which has attracted a lot of foreign investment. Actually, Korea is Vietnam's largest foreign investor. Although the VinGroup itself, as a major component of Vietnam's economy, has a significant demand for manpower, Vietnam's rapid economic growth has created a huge demand for manpower resources nationwide. However, large business schools that have a long list of majors like department stores have fallen behind the times. Therefore, we are planning to implement a specialized strategy that focuses on fostering the core workforce capabilities essential to the Vietnamese economy. I think this is the best way for new colleges to compete with existing top universities. We are conducting a thorough examination of the merits and demerits of selected universities such as Yonsei. We will also do our best to nurture business professionals specifically suited for Asia.
Q6> Lastly, is there anything or any suggestion you want to tell people from YSB?
A6> The late Chairman Woo-choong Kim, a YSB alumni and founder of the Daewoo Group, believed in Vietnam's potential. Young Vietnamese people still respect him. Please remember what he said: "The world is wide, and there are many things to do!" He said this even before I entered college, and it had become a challenge for all young people in Korea at that time. Now thinking back in time, I can't believe that we could not travel abroad freely. We were truly frogs in the well. But Chairman Woo-choong Kim told young people to look at the outside world. We were born in a really small country called Korea. You have to go explore the world with the idea that "the world is wide and there are many things to do." People from YSB are recognized globally. We have both the ability and the potential to showcase our talents confidently. I am going to follow the path of Chairman Woo-Choong Kim and coach Hang-seo Park. I hope everyone from YSB can join me on this journey.