MISSOULA – Eight students and one professor from the University of Montana are in Vietnam through Jan. 19 to study climate change impacts and adaptation in the Mekong Delta for the seventh annual Winter Session in Vietnam study abroad field course.
Accompanied by Nicky Phear, program coordinator of UM’s Climate Change Studies Program, students study with Vietnamese experts; explore national park lands with Vietnamese guides and park rangers; and work alongside Vietnamese farmers who all see the impacts of climate change and who are innovating new ways to address its effects on Vietnamese agriculture, forestry, water, eco-tourism and society. Students are sharing their experiences at the Deep in the Delta: Stories from Vietnam blog online at https://umvietnamstudy.wordpress.com/.
During the program, as they visit the forests, rivers, islands, deltas and peat swamps in Vietnam’s southern provinces, participants experience how local researchers, farmers and activists are changing how Vietnam approaches climate change through projects like implementing biogas systems on farms for energy production, reclaiming damaged or lost farmland and wildlands by removing invasive species and replanting natural habitat, conserving wildlife in national parks, and linking Vietnam’s economic and environmental health by developing eco-tourism.
“Seeing the innovation in climate change adaptation, in a country far less economically poised than the U.S., was both humbling and inspiring,” said 2015 Winter Session in Vietnam participant Shanti Johnson. “As we continue to debate climate science locally, in Vietnam, people are already meeting it head-on with ideas that are so simple, yet brilliant – and I've been telling people about them.
“A trip that, for me, started as a whim has now resulted in three years of study and work in Southeast Asia. I have to laugh, because I never thought a winter session course would have that effect."
The seven-year program has sent more than 75 students to Vietnam for its field-based, experiential classes. Designed to be both an in-depth study and accessible to students from all majors, the program has provided the opportunity to study abroad for students from a diverse array of fields including environmental studies, resource conservation, business, political science, biology, chemistry, journalism and law.
One of the first programs of its kind in the U.S., Winter Session in Vietnam was launched in 2011 with a grant from the U.S. Department of State. The program has continued to grow during the past six years, building on UM and the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center’s strong institutional ties with Vietnam.
The Mansfield Center at UM promotes better understanding of Asia, U.S. relations with Asia and ethics in public affairs in the spirit of Sen. Mike Mansfield (1903-2001) and his wife and life partner, Maureen Hayes Mansfield. The center houses programs that focus on the peoples and cultures of modern Asia and ethics in public affairs – the core interests and hallmarks of Sen. Mansfield’s career.