Chancellor Jack Hawkins, who led a combat platoon in Vietnam, returned to that country in 2002 to mark a milestone in his second career of higher education.
Hawkins, chancellor of Alabama’s Troy University, was there exploring the possibility of expanding his institution’s degree programs to Southeast Asia.
“What I realized in Vietnam is that the Vietnamese had moved on better most Americans had,” he said. “What I found there was change and a lot of promise.”
Troy began offering courses in Vietnam in 2004 and four years later became the first U.S. university to award bachelor’s degrees there. About 1,000 Troy alumni live in Vietnam.
These efforts are part of Hawkins’ goal to make Troy an international university, which he sees as a key part of the school’s strategy to thrive in an increasingly challenging higher education market.
Troy has about 135 institutional partners in 31 different countries, including almost 60 higher ed partnerships in China alone.
Troy was a pioneer of a program that allows Chinese students to start their higher education at home, spend two years at Troy and then complete their degrees at a university in China. Those students graduate with both an American and a Chinese degree.
The program was adopted by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in 2004 and spread to other campuses. “Today, after 20 years, I think it’s one of the most effective international linkages you can find,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins and his administrators are now talking to education officials in Vietnam and China about partnering on environmental research programs in polymer science and pollution. “We don’t build buildings in far away lands, we build programs,” Hawkins said.
At home in Alabama, Troy’s international student population has grown from 40 students when Hawkins became chancellor to now enrolling students from 80 different countries.
And the university provides $1,000 scholarships to encourage its American students to study abroad. The state of Alabama sends the school $48 out of every $50 charged to drivers who buy Troy-branded license plates, pushing the scholarship fund to almost $7 million.
Hawkins wants all students to experience the wider world and its customs even if those students decide to return to live and work in their small Alabama hometowns. “Our mission is to graduate students who are globally competitive, and you can only be globally competitive when you’re globally aware,” he says.
Read our full Portrait of a Leader profile of Troy University Chancellor Jack Hawkins