Syracuse University Magazine


Connecting Overseas with High School Students

At the International School Ho Chi Minh City and the Ho Chi Minh City-American Academy in Vietnam, qualified high school students are taking college courses in calculus, academic writing, economics, biology, public affairs, web design, and creative nonfiction writing through Syracuse University Project Advance (SUPA). Since many of the Vietnamese students hope to attend U.S. colleges and universities, this is an opportunity for them to gain course credit and confidence, as well as get a taste of American culture. “There’s a college readiness aspect to offering concurrent enrollment courses because many students are seeing what a real university syllabus looks like and what it takes to be successful in college,” says Christina Parish G’06, director of Project Advance. “In Vietnamese culture, students tend to be reluctant to ask questions and are used to lecture-based courses, so working with our more interactive and inquiry-based educational approach prepares them for our academic culture in the United States.”

In operation since 1973, Project Advance has grown steadily over the past 42 years, partnering with more than 800 teachers serving 11,000 students in 240 schools both here and abroad. Joshua Davis G’10, communications manager for Project Advance, says although they are not marketing the program abroad, word of mouth continues to increase its popularity overseas. “In 2012, we began offering courses in Dubai and Vietnam to help smooth students’ transition from high school to college, and from one culture to the other,” he says. “Growth is not our goal, but we are currently exploring new opportunities with schools overseas that have expressed an interest in SUPA. Before we enter into a partnership, we must make sure there’s a good fit and that our academic standards are not compromised.“

Along with the other high school teachers who participate in SUPA, teachers from Vietnam attend a one- or two-week professional development institute on campus led by SU faculty who prepare them to teach regular first-year courses offered by the College of Arts and Sciences, the Maxwell School, and the College of Engineering and Computer Science. The visit to campus is also a good way for the teachers to become familiar with the University in general. “The direct connection with campus is important for the high school teachers because they have an opportunity to learn from and be mentored by SU faculty, as well as interact with their peers,” Parish says.

Heather Carreiro, deputy head of school and writing and textual studies instructor at the Ho Chi Minh City-American Academy (HCMC-AA), says teaching SUPA courses in Vietnam has been an amazing ­experience. For one of her class assignments, she required students to read scholarly articles about the concept of “contested space” and how to analyze the spaces they encounter. They then had to do original research and write an analytical essay about a space of their choosing, such as the student lounge or traffic patterns on a bridge. “I love it when students think critically and deeply about the world around them,” Carreiro says. “This is a skill set that will not only help them in college, but in anything they do in life.”

Participating Vietnamese high school students can earn up to 17 college credits, which are transferable to most U.S. colleges and universities. In the past three years, many have received scholarships and admittance to such universities as Northeastern, American University, and Georgia Tech. “What I enjoyed most about taking SUPA classes is that they gave me challenging educational experiences,” says Truong, a 2015 HCMC-AA graduate. “The teachers were fun, friendly, and professional, and with the small class sizes, I got to talk to the instructors as often as I liked. I would prefer to struggle in high school so I can enter university feeling fearless and confident.” —Christine Yackel

Photo courtesy of SU Project Advance