Mackenzie Returns to Vietnam—As Fulbright

Originally posted: January 18, 2012

G. Calvin Mackenzie sees the irony. Forty years ago the Goldfarb Family Distinguished Professor of Government was in the U.S. Army, fighting against a communist Vietnamese government. This semester, as a Fulbright scholar, he is working for the government of Vietnam, helping to set up American studies programs.

Mackenzie, author or editor of more than 15 books on American government and politics, looked forward to returning with a different mission. “It’s a beautiful country,” he said. “The people are lovely and the economy is thriving.”

Through the Vietnamese Academy of Social Sciences in Hanoi, Mackenzie will work on developing curricula, training and gathering resources for faculty, and likely conducting seminars or lectures for scholars studying America. “If I can help them understand some things about how American government makes decisions—or most of the time doesn’t make decisions—maybe that’ll be useful,” he said two weeks prior to leaving.

American studies programs in Vietnam, he said, will be different from those in America. “To them American studies probably doesn’t mean deeply delving into American literature,” he said, but rather training people on how to do business with Americans. “I think their government understands if you’re going to have a modern economy you’ve got to staff it with well-trained people.”

Based in Hanoi, Mackenzie plans to travel throughout Southeast Asia on Fulbright-related assignments with his wife, Sarah (Sally) Mackenzie ’70. A professor at University of Maine, she was awarded a Fulbright to teach and consult with the government regarding school reform, teacher preparation, and leadership development.

The Mackenzies applied for Fulbrights together. Because Cal Mackenzie had served as a Fulbright in China in 2005, his candidacy was prioritized below those who had never received a Fulbright. Sally Mackenzie received her award first, and the Colby professor was made an alternate. “I was actually looking forward to being the trailing spouse,” he said. But alas, a month later, Mackenzie got the news that his services, too, were needed.

“We both had interesting things to do there.” he said. “I think that’s what made this happen.”

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