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Released September 3, 2003

By David Tisdale


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Released January 27, 2003

By Phil Hearn

students in viet nam

HATTIESBURG – The University of Southern Mississippi's unique Vietnam Studies program has won a prestigious national award for innovation in making study abroad more accessible to a wider student population.

The Southern Miss program was among winners of the second annual Andrew Heiskell Awards for Innovation in International Education, announced Monday at the Institute of International Education (IIE) in New York City. Vietnam Studies received an honorable mention for 2002-2003 in the Study-Abroad category.

  Only nine programs were recognized for excellence among more than 600 IIE-member institutions of higher learning nationwide.

"The Heiskell Awards celebrate and encourage the most outstanding initiatives being conducted by IIENetwork member campuses to increase international educational exchange and global awareness on campus," IIE President Allan E. Goodman said in presenting awards in four categories, which also included Internationalizing the Campus, Outstanding Faculty Program and Presidential award recognition.

Southern Miss's popular Vietnam Studies program, created and directed by history professor Andrew Wiest, has attracted widespread attention for its academic design, study-abroad opportunities, focus on veterans and presentation to working adults. In 2002, the program received the Association for Continuing Higher Education (ACHE) Region VII Distinguished Program Recognition Award.

"I congratulate our history and international studies faculty and staff who put this innovative study-abroad program together," said Southern Miss President Shelby Thames. "The national recognition this brings our university is priceless."

Offered through a joint effort of the Southern Miss College of International and Continuing Education, the Department of History and the university's Center for the Study of War and Society, the program encompasses traditional classroom learning, a study-abroad component in Vietnam, noncredit programming, a burgeoning archival collection, an alliance with the Veterans Affairs and a collection housed in the Armed Forces Museum at nearby Camp Shelby.

Susan Steen, Southern Miss director of international studies, noted the university offers a variety of study-abroad opportunities in more than 30 countries worldwide.

"Vietnam Studies is a terrific example of innovative and life-changing study-abroad programming," she said. "This program is truly one of a kind – and with the Heiskell Award, Vietnam Studies has once again proven itself to be a ground-breaking program."

Wiest, a Hattiesburg native and military history expert said, "The Institute of International Education is made up of more than 600 different colleges and universities, and the fact that were among only a handful to win an award clearly places us among the elite study-abroad programs in the world. The program is economically self-sufficient, receiving no external funding. It is a model of efficiency and a testament to the hard work of our small and dedicated staff."

His six-year-old Vietnam War course, traditionally offered during the spring semester each year, regularly involves the participation of veterans – many of whom suffer from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Veterans also accompany students in the study-abroad program.

Dr. Brian O'Neil, assistant professor of history and professor of record for the Vietnam Studies program, led a study-abroad group to Vietnam last year and will lead another group there this year during May 12 to June 1. The application deadline is March 12.

"The most innovative aspect of the program is that we take American veterans with us to share their experiences on the exact site of some of their most horrific battles," he said. "While there, the U.S. vets also meet with Vietnamese veterans and, in many ways, their meetings symbolize a new era in U.S.-Vietnam relations.

"The program is rapidly gaining a national reputation and, in addition to Southern Miss students, it is attracting students from leading universities across the nation," O'Neil added.

"The students learn firsthand about the Vietnam War, while gaining valuable insights into contemporary Vietnamese society."

The Heiskell awards are named in honor of noted publisher and philanthropist Andrew Heiskell, the former chair and CEO of Time Inc and a longtime advocate for international education. Heiskell is chairman emeritus of the New York Public Library and a dedicated member of IIE's Board of Trustees.

The Institute of International Education is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. An independent, nonprofit organization founded in 1919, the institute is the world's most experienced global higher education and professional exchange organization.

Fox Valley Technical won Heiskell's Study-Abroad award for its Transatlantic Automotive Technology Project. Lake Superior College's Mexico Study Abroad Learning Community joined the Southern Miss Vietnam Studies program as an honorable mention winner.

The institute launched a "Best Practices" Web page Monday on the IIENetwork Web site at to showcase all of the winning programs and those receiving honorable mention, as a resource for the international educational community worldwide.

For more information on the Southern Miss Vietnam Studies program, call O'Neil at (601) 266-6494 or Wiest at 266-5076.

Download an audio clip of Dr. Wiest
discussing the Vietnam Studies program

download the audio clip for the vietnam studies program







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Last updated: February 11, 2003



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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM