Mansfield Vietnamese Affairs Program

A Comprehensive Vietnamese Affairs Program

Vietnamese professor lecturing on frogs

The Mansfield Center of the University of Montana is developing a comprehensive Vietnamese Affairs Program. The Program involves student and faculty exchanges with Vietnam, degree and non-degree training to Vietnamese faculty, professional exchange programs in such fields as education and civil society, programming on Vietnam and U.S.-Vietnamese relations ranging from trade and health care to contemporary strategic issues, the environment, human rights, and legal reform, and the creation of a new curriculum devoted to contemporary Vietnamese affairs.

The University has been designated as one of the leading institutions in the U.S. Department of State's current educational training initiative in Vietnam and has developed close relationships with Vietnam National University in Hanoi and Can Tho University in the Mekong Delta. In 2011, the 26th annual Mansfield Conference: "Vietnam and Regional Architecture in Southeast Asia" was devoted to Vietnam, including the nation's recent economic reform and its new role in Asia.  The University is committed to assisting in Vietnam's educational and economic development, while at the same time strengthening its growing commercial and strategic engagement with the U.S.  Key Programs include:

UM Study Abroad Program in Climate Change at Can Tho University

Mansfield Center Vietnamese AffairsThe University has received State Department support to create a study abroad program (open to all U.S. students) on global climate change at Can Tho University.  UM is at the forefront of research issues dealing with natural resources, climate change, sustainable agriculture, and rural development.  You can read about student experiences at the Climate Change in Vietnam Program blog or read about UM Vietnam Study Abroad Student Monica Lomahukluh in the 2011 President’s Report on Education for the Global Century. The University's Climate Change Studies Program offers one of the nation's first undergraduate degree programs devoted exclusively to the challenges created by global climate change.

Learn more about the Climate Change in Vietnam Program

Asia Rule of Law Legal Reform Initiative 

Two people looking out over a fieldThe Mansfield Center is working with an NGO partner in Geneva to facilitate legal training and curriculum reform and hopes to expand its Legal Reform Initiative to Vietnam after having worked with groups in China, Korea, and Japan.  The Initiative facilitates cross-cultural learning about lay participation in the criminal justice systems of Asia and examines the role of the jury as a democratizing influence.  We encourage dialogue on these issues by acting as a clearinghouse of information for legal professionals involved in jury reform throughout Asia and the United States, conducting multi-national classroom sessions through technology, encouraging the exchange of academics, legal professionals, and lay people involved in criminal justice, sponsoring conferences on related criminal justice issues, and developing relevant scholarship.  

UM Law Professors Recruited to Keynote at Vietnam Legal Conferences

Students fishing during a Wintersession in Vietnam programThe US Embassy in Hanoi recently selected three representatives of the University of Montana School of Law to present three separate workshops in three cities in Vietnam this year.  Professor Andrew King-RiesProfessor Eduardo Capulong, and ACLU Staff Attorney and UMSL Adjunct Professor Anna Conley each presented a three-day workshop relating to criminal defense issues. In the late summer and early fall of 2013, each professor traveled to a different region in Vietnam to support Vietnam’s development of its legal system workshops.  One day of each workshop was at the police academy discussing such issues as the importance of attorneys, public defender systems, the criminal defense system in general, and respect of individual rights. Two additional days involved presentations to lawyers, law students, and civil society NGOs with a focus on legal aid clinics, the culture of a pro bono system, and legal ethics.

This project aims to connect and build stronger networking of U.S. government educational exchange alumni working in legal and advocacy fields to improve rule of law in Vietnam. Another focus of the project is to raise awareness about law clinics, develop capacity and operations, boost effective client representation, and promote ethics and a culture of pro-bono service among Vietnamese lawyers. The attendees will subsequently develop a law clinic operation handbook to serve as a guide for lawyers and law students about legal aid, effective representation of clients, ethical behavior, and the importance of pro-bono work.  Alumni will organize future training workshops in Vietnam, bringing the legal communities together to train on these topics, learn best practices, share experiences, and exchange knowledge. These topics include how to build and operate effective Law Clinics, fundraising for law clinics, client representation, ethics, and pro-bono services. Ultimately, the hope is that this project will raise awareness on the importance of the criminal defense bar and the important role attorneys play in the legal system.

The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center played a major role in attracting this opportunity to the UM School of Law (UMSL) and in coordinating this international collaboration.  Through the Mansfield Center, UMSL was the only law school in the nation approached to speak at these conferences.  The Mansfield Center has a strong relationship with the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam as well as other embassies throughout East and Southeast Asia.  This rule of law initiative is just one of a slate of programs managed by the Center for the U.S. Department of State.  Other program areas include economic empowerment, women's empowerment, and natural resources.  Those interested in future opportunities that may arise should contact Mansfield Center Associate Director Deena Mansour at