On May 27, the University of Dayton announced a cooperative effort with HATCH! Ventures to generate a contest at this year’s HATCH! Fair, located in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The HATCH! Battle Junior competition is in combination with UD’s startup competition with $65,000 in prizes. This makes the University of Dayton one of the first American universities to interact directly with student start-ups in one of the fastest growing startup economies in southeast Asia. with an organization that “supports more than 100 companies and more than 10,000 entrepreneurs.”
This push towards economic development in the southeast Asian country follows a town hall meeting run by President Obama on Wednesday, May 25. This meeting was a part of the president’s continuing “pivot towards Asia” and an attempt to increase and strengthen economic connections between the two countries. Addressing problems for the nominally communist country, the president referenced suppression of artistic expression, as well as hurdles for continued business development.
President Obama spoke first of the dangers to the country’s startup economy such as forced bribes and environmental issues, which can push people out of the country for, as he says, “no job is so important that it’s O.K. if your children have asthma and they can’t breathe.”
The New York Times also reports that businesses in the country must pay officials from “20% to 50% of the cost of a project to get it completed.” The New York Times isolated these statements highlighting the president’s attempts to place pressure on the restrictive Vietnamese government in a push for more free economic activity.
CNN reports that the president even made the background beat-box for Vietnam’s “Queen of Hip Hop,” Suboi. This occurred directly before her question regarding what Obama believed the role of the arts in international relations is, to which he responded that it had the ability to bring individuals closer to a “country on the other side of the world.”
After this, CNN states that he continued on his advocacy of increased freedom for the Vietnamese people, and for the government to stop “suppressing the deepest dreams and aspirations of the people.”
The University of Dayton’s program in Vietnam can certainly relate to the hopes the president has placed on the Vietnamese people, as it brings more and more people from the United States in contact with diverse people around the world. The program can allow for the sharing and spread of ideas between cultures on opposite sides of the planet. Bridges can be built along artistic, economic, and idealistic lines between people who are similar but may have never had the opportunity to interact with this program. Ultimately, the university is helping to enrich people on both sides of the Pacific in many aspects of their lives.