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Extended Visit to UC's College of Applied Science
Adds Up for North Vietnamese Mathematicians

Date: May 1, 2001
Story and video by: Mary Bridget Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos by: Dottie Stover
Archive: Campus News

Ask Tue Nguyen which are his favorite American films, and he laughs and answers honestly, picking his words with diligent effort: "The ones where they speak the words very slowly."

Nguyen, a mathematician from North Vietnam, watches television movies almost every night in the Calhoun Hall room he, until recently, shared with fellow academician Toan Quoc Nguyen, also from North Vietnam. Those movies, entertainment for us, serve as an education in English for him.

Tue Nguyen and Toan Quoc Nguyen

For both Nguyens, who share a common surname but are not related, their weeks at UC are serving as an intense education. They are meeting with faculty and students, observing classroom and lab work and studying text and curricula, all in an effort to learn UC's methods for teaching information technology. Most of their time is spent at the College of Applied Science as they are being hosted by the college's information engineering technology program.

At the National University of Hanoi, where they teach, computer science education focuses solely on theory. Both want to learn more about cooperative education, senior thesis projects and other tools common at UC for practically applying knowledge gained in the classroom. "I did not understand co-op until I came," explained Toan, adding, "Asking about co-op costs was a first thing."

The visit, which may be the first of future student and faculty exchanges between UC and the National University of Hanoi, came about after interim dean Richard Newrock, a physicist, met the dean of the Hanoi school's technology college at an academic conference.

That meeting led to an invitation from the college for Tue and Toan to come to UC. This visit may lead to future exchanges. "We're talking about future faculty and student exchanges now," said Larry Gilligan, math, physics and computer science department head. "We're looking at, perhaps, their students spending two years in school there absorbing theory and then coming here for applied work and co-op and hands-on experience -- as long as their language skills are good enough to function in the workplace."

For both Tue and Toan, language and its intricacies have provided both challenge and humor. Toan, who is self-taught in English, which he learned by studying from books, admits he laughs at his own mistakes. Tue, who studied English for one year in night school, also shared that it was frustrating when he knew a word and said that word; however, because of his accent, people had difficulty understanding him. He added, "People have been very good to us. People have helped us. People speak slowly. They hear us patiently, take time to be with us."

Toan returned to Hanoi at the end of April, though not until after trying Cincinnati's famous three-way chili and visiting Eden Park. Tue will remain until the end of May, sampling UC educational offerings as well as the city's cultural ones, including the Natural History Museum, the Taft Museum, Music Hall and a College-Conservatory of Music performance.

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