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Trang applies economics to diplomacy

Trang's position often entails diplomatic assignments with heads of state - such as Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.<br><br>
Trang's position often entails diplomatic assignments with heads of state - such as Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.

In 1999, Nguyen Quynh Trang ’03 was a bright and industrious 17-year-old who had just graduated at the top of her class from one of the best schools in Vietnam.

Traveling to a college half a world away was a journey into the unknown: Studying in the United States was almost unheard of among her peers, and, on top of that, she had never in her life left Hanoi.

Earlier that year she had met Connecticut College Professor of Government William Frasure, Professor of Economics Don Peppard and two students on the College’s first Study Away/Teach Away program in Vietnam.

Impressed, she applied for admission and was accepted.

The reality of the college experience lived up to its advance billing. Trang loved the beauty of the campus and the warm welcome she received as the first student ambassador from her country.

An economics major, she was inspired by the research of economics professors Peppard and Rolf Jensen. They studied Hanoi’s “basket ladies” and showed the important role that these street vendors play in the informal economic sector of the city. She wrote an honors thesis on the subject that she later presented at Australian National University.

After college, Trang joined the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program on Applied Economics and Public Policy, a joint program between Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and the University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City. The program is meant for mid-career professionals in Vietnam, and it was an honor to be selected right out of college.

For two years she worked with The World & Vietnam Report, the weekly newspaper and media agency of Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as assistant to the editor-in-chief. She was recently appointed director of the economic policy research division of the Economics Affairs Department.

“There is a good blend here between economic policy research and putting ideas to work,” says Trang, who helps prepare economic reports for the prime minister.

Meeting Nobel laureates, diplomats and scholars can be a daily part of her job. Denmark’s ambassador to Vietnam personally asked Trang to be the escort interpreter for Queen Margrethe II during the Danish state visit to Vietnam in November.

Keeping up with the queen’s large delegation and ambitious travel schedule required a whirlwind of activity and fast learning curve, but Trang sees it all as valuable experience for her diplomatic career.

Read more about the cultural exchange between Connecticut College and Vietnam.

If you have questions for Trang about her experiences or Vietnam, she can be reached at or

-Lisa Brownell




March 18, 2010