Loyola University Chicago

Vietnam Center

New for Summer 2020 term!

PLSC 300: The New Global Vietnam: Four Decades of Political, Economic and Social Change

Over the last 25 years, Vietnam has emerged as a fast-growth export economy, a rapidly industrializing and urbanizing society, and an emergent tourist destination. Yet the Vietnam War (1960-1975) and the domestic political crises it triggered still frame how Vietnam is viewed in the US. This new course that will be offered during the Summer 2020 term, introduces the new political, social, and economic life of postwar Vietnam, within broader Southeast Asian and Asia-Pacific contexts. In this culturally immersive 2-week course, we explore the rapid transition from a rigid, isolated Communist political system to a dynamic emerging export economy in Vietnam, and the effects this has had on the people of Vietnam. In addition to local analyses, we place Vietnam in a broader comparative framework that includes China and other countries in the region.

We will travel the length of the country to meet Vietnamese leaders from government, business, education and civil society organizations, and explore the new Vietnam from the perspective of local specialists. In the capital Hanoi we visit official sites of commemoration of President Ho Chi Minh and various key historical sites, as well as the new National Assembly. We will also visit businesses and the Stock Exchange to explore the new global political networks and alliances that post-war Vietnamese have built to compete in Asian and international markets. In the former royal capital of Hue in central Vietnam we explore wartime destruction of the city during the Vietnam War and the postwar reconstruction process of this important political, religious, and educational center.

We then explore the vibrant urban metropolis of Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, the main economic engine for the whole country. Travel to the nearby Mekong Delta introduces the largest and most dynamic economic region in Vietnam. The Mekong Delta and Vietnam overall is in the top 10 of places most threatened by global climate change. We will analyze the political challenges of global climate change, the effects on the local population, and long-term sustainability during field visits with local environmental specialists, and conclude with wrap up sessions in Ho Chi Minh City, before departure to the US.

To be announced at a later date. 

To be determined. 


Hanoi (4 days)

  •  Introduction to Vietnam: from the Vietnam War to postwar emerging economy.
  • Interpretive walking tour of central Hanoi, Old Quarter, and key government districts.
  • Visit to Ho Chi Minh Museum and mausoleum complex + lecture on Cold War and Vietnam War.
  • Visit to National Assembly and key political sites + lecture on postwar Communism and market reforms (and impact of China’s own political reforms on Vietnam).
  • Visit to Ethnology Museum + lecture on ethnic diversity and uneven development.
  • Stock Exchange visit (or business visit) + lecture on development and economic growth.
  • Visit to Project Renew, a landmine removal organization created by a US veteran to address the deadly legacy of unexploded Vietnam War ordnance in postwar Vietnam.

 Hue (2 days)

  •  Focus on the bombing destruction of the city during the 1968 Tet Offensive, and postwar reconstruction.
  • Visit to the Imperial Citadel, and discussion session with local historians on United Nations and international assistance to rebuild the royal city (1990s onward).
  • Visit to Thien Mu Pagoda, the key center of Buddhism in Vietnam, and lecture on the complex politics of religion in wartime and postwar Vietnam.

 Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City (3 days)

  •  Focus on postwar history, rapid economic growth and urbanization, and severe environmental challenges.
  • War Remnants Museum (Dr. Robert) and Independence Palace visits (Dr. Picard).
  • Dr. Picard, lecture on Vietnam War and US involvement in South Vietnam, and postwar politics.
  • Dr. Robert, coursework on post-war development policies, and post-1989 political/business reforms leading to the current globalized Vietnam.
  • Field visit to local food market + brief student field project.
  • Social sector organization visits.
  • Local business visits.                  

 Mekong Delta (3 days)

  • Focus on environmental issues connected to rapid development. Both success stories of rapid agricultural and tourism development, and questions surrounding unsustainable development and environmental destruction, biodiversity loss, climate change impacts, and the effects on the people who live there.
  • Field visits to fisheries, orchards, mangroves, to discover Mekong Delta development success stories, and sustainability and environmental/climate change challenges.
  • Local lecturers on agricultural and industrial development, environmental issues, and climate change.
  • At island homestay, cooking class and analysis of food culture. Local live Vietnamese traditional music and cultural analysis/interpretation by local experts.

HCM City (2 days)

  • Course reflections and wrap-up, farewell activities. (Evening departure.)


*Subject to modification