MU professor brings Vietnam into the classroom

By MATTHEW DIXON

neighborhoods@columbiamissourian.com

Growing up surrounded by forests and streams in Atlanta led to a lifelong love of the outdoors for an MU professor, something he worries is uncommon in today’s society.

“It’s unfortunate that many of today’s youth spend way too much time inside,” said Mark Morgan associate professor at MU’s School of Natural Resources, Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

Morgan’s interest in nature led to him being chosen as a Fulbright Scholar, which has allowed him to study and teach at Vietnam National University. He began teaching in August 2010 and will return to MU for the start of the spring 2011 semester.

The Fulbright Scholarship program is an international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S government. It gives professors the opportunity to study, teach and contribute to finding solutions for shared international concerns.

As part of the program, Morgan will be teaching a class in social research, which focuses mostly on national parks, more specifically the Cuc Phuong Park, and the people who live there.

“Vietnam has 53 minority groups, some of which live inside their national parks,” Morgan said. “Tourists can visit a tribe if they want to pay an additional fee. For them, tourism is a supplementary source of income. In addition, tourists can spend night with the tribe and watch a cultural performance. I find this to be very interesting and worthy of study.”

Morgan has been able to study this with his social research class, something the Vietnamese have been unable to do.

“Vietnam is a developing country and cannot afford this type of research,” Morgan said. “Therefore, I decided to use my students in the research methods class to conduct a visitor survey in the national park.”

Morgan’s students will collect and analyze data and present their findings to Vietnamese park managers.

Although teaching and studying are the primary reasons for his trip to Vietnam, Morgan said the experience also gives him the opportunity to gain an understanding of the Vietnam War. Morgan was too young to take part in the war and the war wasn’t really discussed in schools when he was a student.

“I have not been to Vietnam before,” Morgan said. “I was too young for the war.”

Morgan is still adjusting to the differences between America and Vietnam.

“It is quite different from Atlanta, Georgia,” he said. “There are a few similarities, such as crowds, traffic jams, and pollution. But the differences here are astonishing. There are no Wal-Marts or McDonalds in Hanoi. The only U.S. based restaurants are Pizza Hut and KFC. Somehow I think I will be able to resist the temptation.”

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