Virtual seminars enrich faculty ties with Da Nang University

Saint Michael's Business & Accounting professors trade ideas with counterparts in Vietnam over summer on learning outcomes, approaches to teaching and more

July 21, 2021
By Karen Popovich and Mark Tarnacki

Business and Accounting faculty from Saint Michael’s College and faculty from Da Nang Architecture University in Vietnam this summer have had several virtual seminars to exchange insights about learning outcomes, approaches to teaching and other ideas.


In October 2019, Saint Michael’s hosted two international fellows from the Washington-DC-based American Councils Professional Fellow Program (PFP) and the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative (YSEALI). The fellow from Vietnam, Ms. Mai Thi Thao Chi (preferred name Chi), is a lecturer at Da Nang Architecture University (DAU) and is a founder of the social project called A Better Vietnam —  a project that helps Vietnamese students improve their English by providing online, one-on-one, free lessons with native English- speaking tutors. Chi teaches marketing and entrepreneurship courses at DAU.

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Signaling their LOVE for teaching and shared exchange: Top row: Professors Alicia Norris, Karen Popovich, Steven Doyon. Middle row: DAU faculty (Ms. Hanh, Ms. Chi (former Saint Michael’s Fellow), and Ms. Giang Le). Bottom Row, Professor Tom Van Dzura and Ms. Phuong Pham of the DAU faculty.

While at Saint Michael’s, Chi worked closely with Professor Karen Popovich of the Saint Michael’s business administration and accounting program. “We had a wonderful time as the fellows lived on campus and Chi attended and participated in several of my classes and also lectured on social entrepreneurship, covering points on starting social projects and small businesses,” Popovich said. “The fellows also met local innovators, entrepreneurs, and leaders from a variety of small businesses and organizations like Church Street Market Place and Burlington’s maker-space called The Generator.”

Professor Popovich and Ms. Chi were competitively selected by the American Councils for a reciprocal 2-week learning and exchange experience in Vietnam, which had to be canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, Chi and Popovich continued connecting virtually during 2020, and in March 2021, they were approved by American Councils to develop a professional exchange seminar with faculty from their respective programs. In June and early July 2021, during four seminars, faculty from both programs met to exchange curriculum, learning outcomes, and teaching strategies for engaged and experiential learning – even when teaching online.

Summer 2021 Seminars: Sharing Experience in Building Curriculum and Teaching

In one seminar, Saint Michael’s Professors Alaba Apesin, Robert Letovsky, and Xinting Zhen joined Popovich, Ms. Chi and more than 30 business and accounting faculty from DAU. During that session:


Professor Apesin shares screen and discusses her teaching philosophy.

  • Professor Apesin discussed key motivating factors for student participation as well as how she applies different learning models in class for students; she has developed a learner-focused approach that prepares students for technological advanced and interconnected globalized workplaces (Image at left).
  • Professor Zhen shared insights from two years of competitions — an valuable experience of engaged learning, she and her colleagues believe — with three student teams for the Vermont CFA Society’s CFA Research Institute Challenge as well as the hands-on and intensive data analysis and project approaches to her Financial Investments course.
  • Professor Letovsky offered his take-aways from simulation experiences as students not only gain practical skills to theory-based classes but have an opportunity to reflect on what they have learned.

A second seminar connected the Saint Michael’s accounting faculty – Professors Steve Doyon, Alicia Norris and Tom Van Dzura in a smaller seminar of eight, allowing more time for questions and answers from the DAU accounting faculty.  Each Saint Michael’s accounting professor discussed his or her approach to beginning, intermediate and advanced accounting courses. The faculty exchanged ideas on how to involve students with individual and collaborative problem-solving, lecture and demonstration, discussion boards, real-world financial reporting, reflective writing, critical thinking and analysis, as well as presentation skills.

They also covered the importance of the Saint Michael’s Career Education & Alumni Engagement Center (CEAEC) and the role staff there play in helping students with resumes, internships, and career destinations. The Vietnam participants especially enjoyed the concept of the annual Career Symposium.  DAU faculty shared how they take their students to a manufacturing organization at least once a year for hands-on learning. Popovich said, “I loved seeing how our faculty, in both seminars, just lit up when talking about students and classes. It was also fun to see faculty on both sides think about new ways of working with students.”

Two other small-group seminars with DAU “heads of departments” for Accounting, Business, and Finance met with Ms. Chi and Professor Popovich in her role as chair of the Business Administration and Accounting Department*.

After the seminars, Chi said ”Our Accounting faculty were excited to listen to how you at Saint Michael’s connect Accounting students with the real business world.  We appreciated providing you with information our program and our subjects.  We want to thank all of the faculty for their time and sharing.  My colleagues really like everyone’s energy and enthusiasm for teaching!”

Popovich said the seminar was informative for her, “as I was able to share the connections between the liberal arts and business administration and accounting. The DAU faculty were impressed with our liberal studies curriculum, since the majority of classes DAU students take are business-related. We talked about how the liberal arts actively engages students with ideas and the process of creating new understandings – really, how they bring their heads and hearts to work as responsible, ethical global citizens. We also discussed the Saint Michael’s College vision of Do Well and Do Good and how the business administration and accounting faculty share in student experiences as students discover the passion of becoming lifelong learners.”

“All four sessions were energizing,” Popovich said. “It was fun to meet new people and to share our love for teaching and helping students achieve their academic goals. I especially appreciated all faculty from Saint Michael’s and DAU who attended in the late evening or early morning as Vietnam is 11 hours ahead.”

She acknowledged that summer is busy for everyone, “and what was most impressive to me was how we came together and enjoyed learning from each other. We also developed ideas for continued collaboration among smaller groups of faculty, and hope to build relationships for students in the future!”

* Professor Popovich’s term as chair ended on June 30, 2021. The new department chair is Professor Paul Olsen.

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Group shot of the large group seminar with Professors Apesin, Letovsky, Zhen and Popovich along with DAU faculty from business, accounting and finance.

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