Oak Ridge Promotes Sustainability in Vietnam, Singapore through Department of State Exchange

November 9, 2016

The City of Oak Ridge is hosting Veerappan Swaminathan, Co-Founder and Director of the Sustainable Living Lab in Singapore, and Hong Phong Vu, Project Manager at the Vietnam Green Building Council in Hanoi, Vietnam, through the Department of State’s Professional Fellows Program (PFP) under the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI). This two-way exchange embraces the power of individual citizens to find creative solutions to challenges they face in their home communities.

During their month-long fellowship, Mr. Swaminathan and Mr. Vu are getting the chance to see how municipal government operates, from public works recycling initiatives to community development energy efficiency efforts and Recreation and Parks activities. They will tour the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to see some of the scientific advances being spearheaded in East Tennessee. Mr. Swaminathan and Mr. Vu have also been experiencing southern culture, attending a pig roast, visiting Dollywood and cheering on the Volunteers at a University of Tennessee football game. The fellows toured the UT campus as well, sitting in on a political science course focused on the American presidency.

"The degree of community participation in city government and the spirit of volunteerism is phenomenal in Oak Ridge,” Mr. Swaminathan said. “I am excited to bring back lessons on engaging citizens constructively with respect to waste management issues affecting Singapore."

"This exchange program with the Department of State has allowed me to establish appropriate strategies to promote sustainable development in Vietnam by learning from examples and practices implemented by the City of Oak Ridge," Mr. Vu added.

“Our city organization is pleased to once again host the Professional Management Fellows program as coordinated through the International City/County Management Program and the United States State Department,” City Manager Mark Watson said. “This is our third visitation team that is discovering the uniqueness of Oak Ridge and local government in the United States. Our guests, Veera and Phong, are super representatives of Singapore and Vietnam and have allowed our city organization and community organizations to become familiar with their countries while serving as ambassadors for ours.”

The City of Oak Ridge is one of hundreds of U.S. organizations hosting Professional Fellows from more than 40 countries this fall. At the conclusion of the program, October 15 through November 12, all 260+ fellows will gather in Washington, D.C., for the Professional Fellows Congress, a three-day concluding event aimed at preparing fellows to implement follow-on projects upon their return home and network with other colleagues from around the world.

Since 2010, more than 2,300 participants from more than 75 countries have taken part in the PFP in cities across the U.S., with more than 1,000 American hosts have participated in reciprocal exchanges overseas.