Price student earns Fulbright grant to study climate change adaptation in Vietnam

August 7, 2015

USC Price School of Public Policy doctoral student Mylinh Ngo Huang earned a prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant to Vietnam in urban development and planning for the 2015-2016 academic year.

Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential. Huang was among three student research grant awardees chosen for Vietnam in this national competition.

Beginning January 2016, Huang will spend 10 months conducting field research on urban adaptation to climate change in Can Tho City, the largest city in the Mekong River Delta of Vietnam.

“Can Tho is one of the top cities in the world where the impacts of climate change are undeniable,” Huang explained. “Residents are suffering from rising sea levels, tidal flooding and land subsidence. Urban flooding has also been a major issue of concern. Every year there are loss of lives, disruptions to health and economic wellbeing, and major damages to property, infrastructure and the agricultural landscape.”

Gaining new insights, building stronger ties

Through the Fulbright Program, Huang said she hopes “to gain new understanding in ways the city can adapt to flooding and foster a long-term relationship between the Price School and our local partner institutions, the Climate Change Coordination Office in Can Tho and the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics and Public Administration.”

“I’m looking forward to working with our local partners,” she added. “They are incredibly invested in addressing this problem and have shown the highest levels of professionalism and exemplary dedication. There are few places in the world where consensus to address climate change is so strong.”

Huang has spent time in Vietnam, contributing to recent efforts aimed at helping the country deal with the critical challenges of climate change and flooding. She has been retained as a consultant for the World Bank on a proposed $250 million urban development and resilience project in Can Tho City that aims to manage flood risks and urban growth through a combination of adaptive infrastructure and adaptive land use planning.

This past December, she attended the Revised Mekong Delta Regional Plan 2030 and Vision 2050 with her faculty advisor, Price Professor Eric J. Heikkila, who served as a planning advisor on a consulting team led by USC School of Architecture faculty member Kelly Shannon.

And in January 2014, Huang, Heikkila and Professor Sofia Gruskin of the Gould School of Law and Keck School of Medicine led a workshop in Hanoi, where they met with representatives from the Ho Chi Minh National Academy in Politics and Public Administration to create a framework for addressing climate change.

The workshop stemmed from Heikkila’s and Huang’s recent research, “Adaptation to Flooding in Urban Areas: An Economic Primer,” designed to help local government officials identify the most cost-effective responses to climate change. Their paper proposes three main strategies: modifying topography through dams and other physical structures; creating policies that discourage people from living in flood plains and vulnerable areas; and coping with flooding after the fact.

“This Fulbright award for Mylinh Huang is the culmination of several years of focused preparation she has undertaken for her Doctor of Policy, Planning, and Development research project on urban climate change adaptation in Vietnam,” Heikkila said. “She has co-authored a scholarly article, helped organized an international conference, undertaken site visits, developed a strong professional network and worked as a consultant for the World Bank in Vietnam. All of these activities – together with the course work and guidance she has received here at the USC Price School of Public Policy – put her in a strong position to make the most of this Fulbright award.”

Joining renowned company

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. Since its establishment in 1946, the program has given approximately 360,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

“2015-2016 marks the 40th year anniversary of the Vietnam War and 20th year of good relations between Vietnam and the U.S. — I feel especially honored to be in Vietnam during such an exciting time,” Huang said. “I’m also looking forward to being in Vietnam with the two other student researchers and 17 English Teaching Assistants. I got to meet these people at a pre-departure orientation in Washington, D.C. The caliber of talent is exceptional and I’m especially humbled to be among them.”