J.David Armstrong, Jr. is president emeritus, retired, of Broward College, one of the largest and most diverse institutions in America, serving 65,000 students in Florida State, USA. He is currently Vice President, International Relations at EQuest Education Group, and has just been appointed President of the St. Nicholas School, Da Nang – a member of EQuest Group. He had the first share about new position.
In his new role, how will he lead the students of St Nicholas School, Da Nang towards an academic career?
First and foremost, I was impressed by the many wonderful things of the St. Nicholas School.
First of all, I will collaborate with SNS leaders, teachers, students, and parents to find ways to continue to grow and improve the learning environments. We believe that providing students with an outstanding academic preparation is the foundation. It is especially important to learn language and communications skills, and for international success learning English is critical in addition to knowing Vietnamese. Written and verbal skills are important, as well as being able to listen and discern and think critically, along with presentation skills for the world we live and work.
Knowing English opens the door to the world for students. With this foundation, as well as math’s and sciences as your academic foundation, we will build from there. For example, we can partner with our sister online school which I am involved with, Ivy Global School, to have students participate in Career webinars where leaders in business and industry from the US and around the world share with students their options for careers after they graduate.
We can also explore opportunities for high school students to have internships, and with other partners we have courses for students to explore in areas of interest such as coding, computer science, and other information technology fields that are growing in Vietnam and around the world, for example. We will make sure to have robust access to the growing resources available to use online and with sister schools that are part of our family of EQuest schools across Vietnam and in the USA.
After reading about your experience and accolades, what professional accomplishment are you most proud of today?
My greatest accomplishment has been, and will continue to be, bringing more opportunities for students to succeed in education, in careers, in life. As president of Broward College in Florida we were successful in increasing our student success rate through graduation rates, transfers to great universities, and students accepting career opportunities in many fast-growing industries. We want to make sure that all students have the academic and student services support to succeed.
As our president and leader, do you follow an educational philosophy?
First, I share and support the Mission and goals for our schools and students proposed by out parent organization, EQuest Education Group, which are the following: MISSION — Bringing the best educational experience to students and training you to be ready to step into the industrial revolution 4.0 as a global citizen; Provide a world-class education at an affordable cost; Contribute to change Vietnam to become a bilingual country; Help future leaders attend the world’s top schools.
EQuest also supports high schools nationwide according to 3 models: bilingual training; focus on physical development and comprehensive capacity; liberal education. So, for me a liberal education based on a core curriculum that is similar to classic courses taken by most students around the world provides a common knowledge and understanding of the world that makes our students prepared for success in our global society. Within the common goals, it is important for outstanding faculty to develop teaching methods and practices that promote critical thinking skills, problem solving, collaborative and active learning practices. We will strive to support our excellent teachers to find resources and tools to engage and support student learning for their success.
What do you think of the community is cultivated in schools?
I have been reading and learning about St. Nicholas School from here in the USA by reading online, talking with our school leaders, as well as with the leadership of our parent organization, EQuest. It is clear that SNS has built a strong culture to serve students. I like very much this part of the mission statement I read: “…the students will be trained to learn about Integrity, Creativity, and Empathy. These are the three core characteristic values we would like to build at the school. Each student at St. Nicholas School will be trained holistically to reach their dream careers, as well as making good contributions in the community, just as St. Nicholas had done throughout his life.” These are wonderful goals I support, that can be incorporated in a liberal arts core curriculum and supplemental activities and learning.
Additionally, I think it will be important for us to think about how to build a “global community” for our students with exposure to other cultures and places and career options. There are many ways for us to do this, for example through “pen pal” relationships with students in the US, participation in art or digital media or language arts competitions across our schools, including in the US, and exposure to career options through leaders of business and industry. Together, working collaboratively and inclusively with our faculty and parents and leaders, we will support a great culture and community for learning in the St. Nicholas School.
And finally, can you share your feelings in your new role, President of the St. Nicholas School, Da Nang?
It is truly an honor to be asked to serve St. Nicholas School, its students, parents, teachers and leaders, in the role of president. I have been involved in education leadership for more than 30 years in the USA and it is my joy and passion. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing students and families at graduation celebrations, and then to see them go on to success at universities and careers and life. These are the greatest rewards in life for me.
Also, I first came to Vietnam 10 years ago to begin working with our EQuest family schools. I immediately fell in love with Vietnam, the culture, the food, the exciting growth, but especially the people and children. I have also worked in other developing countries and have had the opportunity to work in China and other Asian and South American countries, but Vietnam is where I want to be to help make a difference for the children, the students, the future of this beautiful country. “I love Vietnam” and I look forward to seeing you soon in person.