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Alumna turns up heat on climate change in Vietnam

Workshop creates framework for climate change


A USC-led workshop on climate change was held at the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics and Public Administration. (Photo/courtesy of Mylinh Ngo Huang)

By the end of the century, Vietnam’s average temperature is predicted to rise by as much as six degrees Fahrenheit and its sea level by up to three feet compared to the 1980-1999 period. Mylinh Ngo Huang, a candidate in the professional doctorate program at the USC Price School of Public Policy, is taking steps toward finding a solution.

On Jan. 13-15, Huang and her faculty advisers Eric Heikkila from USC Price and Sofia Gruskin from the USC Gould School of Law and the Keck School of Medicine of USC led a workshop in Hanoi, where they met with representatives from the Ho Chi Minh National Academy in Politics and Public Administration, Human Rights Institute, to create a framework for addressing climate change.

The workshop stems from Heikkila’s and Huang’s recently published 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. It 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.

As a result of the workshop in Hanoi, the participants developed a framework dubbed FRITE, which stands for forum, research, intervention, training and evaluation.

The initial forum will bring together experts and stakeholders to identify climate change priorities in Can Tho, a flood-prone city in the Mekong river delta that will serve as the test subject. These priorities will focus research efforts, which will inform appropriate interventions to address flooding and climate change. Huang and her partners will then devise a curriculum, so that the Ho Chi Minh National Academy can make the intervention replicable and scalable by training leaders and stakeholders in other Vietnamese provinces. Lastly, an evaluation will assess effectiveness and identify areas for potential improvement.

“What we’re doing is drawing on existing knowledge and finding a way to link it to professional practice,” said Heikkila, director of international initiatives at USC Price. “We’re working directly with the people, the leadership of Can Tho — these are the individuals who are responsible for formulating a response. And the fact that they are interested in working with us and learning from us as they also help inform us is very gratifying. It makes the work meaningful and truly down to earth.”

After graduating from USC with a double major in psychology and economics, Huang worked for 10 years in real estate and urban development, frequently as a consultant in Vietnam.

“I wanted to come back to school to study more in urban development and create a project on something substantial that’s going on in Vietnam,” Huang said, “and their number one problem right now is flooding and climate change.”

Huang had the opportunity to take her recent research on climate change into the field, thanks to a grant from the Center for International Studies at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences that partially funded the workshop.

The project has drawn interest from numerous international organizations.

“It’s great for me, because as a student, I’m going into the doctoral program researching a real-life, practical issue,” Huang said. “Here I am, with USC helping us form the theoretical foundation, and our partners in Vietnam providing a context to test that and put it into practice.”

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Alumna turns up heat on climate change in Vietnam

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