Sometimes it takes a delegation to host a delegation.
The Fox School’s Center for Executive Education extended its networking arms to bring together a team of Temple University faculty, industry experts and professionals to help a delegation of government officials from Vietnam better understand the relationship between the U.S. government and business enterprises.
The Center coordinated lectures, workshops, tours and on-site visits for the group during its extended stay in early November.
“Their visit gave us an opportunity to tap into resources we don’t normally utilize,” says Rich Morris, associate director of business development at the Center. “So outside of the Fox community, we reached out to the broader Temple system and then beyond Temple to connect with additional subject matter experts and other entities within Philadelphia to set up field visits.”
Field visits to the headquarters of Philadelphia Gas Works and SEPTA showcased the information being shared in lectures and workshops.
“That was key in the design of the program,” says Renée Hartwell, assistant director at the Center. “It is crucial to the learning experience to go outside the classroom. It would be hard to do 10 days of lecture-only learning. Going on-site really helps put the learning into action.”
While the delegation spoke a different language from the team assembled by Morris and Hartwell, there were very few topics that were foreign to the delegation.
“A lot of the business principles translate around the world, so they are familiar with the practices and concepts being discussed,” says Ho Tram Anh, the group’s translator who works for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Vietnam. “I think there are immediate takeaways from this experience, especially for the people who manage the state capital and the businesses. This program tackles issues around state-owned enterprises and the potential privatization of companies. That is of great interest to them.”
After several lectures on government history and how federal, state and local governments work, the group delved into specific topics including anti-corruption laws, Social Security and policies related to government assistance and Medicaid, and how the U.S helps vulnerable populations.
“Anti-corruption is one of the key topics that interests the delegation most because they represent the Party Commission of the Central Authority as well as businesses,” Ahn says. “The Social Security system was also of particular interest. They did not expect something so comprehensive that relates directly to the benefit of the people.”
Transportation was another issue on the delegation’s agenda.
Allison Hastings, manager of the Office of Communications and Engagement at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, led a session on how her organization helps plan transportation projects that move both people and goods through the region.
“One of the things that I thought would be interesting to the group is that our staff informs the elected officials who make decisions about projects,” she says. “Our elected officials have to rely very much on our professional and technical staff for information and background.
“Also relevant is the fact that our transportation system has grown over 300 years. We still have a lot of legacy needs and not enough funding for it.”
Kim Scott Heinle, who focuses largely on customer service as an assistant general manager at SEPTA, continued the transportation discussion, meeting the group at Reading Terminal Market for lunch and a tour before heading to the transportation authority’s Market Street headquarters.
“Philadelphia’s transportation history runs deep and has experienced many changes,” he says. “It’s important to have a good relationship with our customers and we do everything we can to accomplish that.”
Heinle brought together staff from SEPTA representing its police department, general counsel’s office, citizens advisory committee, customer service team and market research group for a panel discussion. The topics included federal and state government funding, infrastructure upgrades, SEPTA’s high-speed rail, electronic key cards and privatization.
“They were interested in getting a better understanding for how the government funding works and how much is SEPTA’s budget derived from federal funds versus state funds versus the money riders are paying,” Morris says. “That gave them a better understanding as to the benefit of having a state government-owned entity as opposed to being private.”
Morris believes the delegation’s visit to Temple was valuable for everyone.
“The delegation could have sat in their offices and watched videos or read articles about us, but actually coming and hearing from people who are part of it, having the faculty talk about the history, and then going out and actually visiting the sites that were talked about makes this a unique experience.”