MTSU history class is writing new chapter with tri...

MTSU history class is writing new chapter with trip to Vietnam

Map courtesy of, aUnited Nations Statistics Division

Map courtesy of, a United Nations Statistics Division

As Chuck Hagel, America’s first Vietnam veteran to become secretary of defense takes office, MTSU launches its first study-abroad excursion to Vietnam.

The class of 12 students has embarked on a 14-day trip to bolster their stateside learning and will return home Sunday, March 24.

“This is a new and exciting opportunity for our students to be able to experience the new Vietnam and examine ways in which Americans and Vietnamese view warfare, especially effects of warfare on Vietnamese society,” said Dr. Derek Frisby, who is an associate professor of history at MTSU and a Marine veteran of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Stops on the itinerary for Frisby’s history class, “Public Memory and the Vietnam War,” include:

  • Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam;
  • Pleiku, the strategic locus of U.S. military supply logistics during the Vietnam War;
  • Quy Nhon, the birthplace of an 18th century emperor;
  • Khe Sanh, site of a key battle of the Vietnam War;
  • Hanoi, the capital city where students will be treated to a reception with members of the Marine Security Force; and
  • the “Hanoi Hilton,” where former Navy pilot and current U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and other American prisoners of war were held captive during the war.
Dr. Derek Frisby

Dr. Derek Frisby

At the final stop, Frisby will recite the official Tennessee state poem, “Oh, Tennessee, My Tennessee,” written by Adm. William Porter Lawrence, a Vietnam War veteran.

Dr. David Schmidt

Dr. David Schmidt

Students in the class will be able to gain a global perspective by studying history “on the ground,” where it happened, and to place historical literature, popular culture and cultural approaches to Vietnam in context.

“Dr. Frisby’s Vietnam program is a new MTSU signature program that will allow MTSU students to see and experience the locations and the culture they have learned so much about regarding such a significant part of America’s recent history,” said Dr. David Schmidt, vice provost for international affairs.

Frisby said he hopes to attract more Vietnam War veterans to accompany future classes. Those veterans can enrich the learning experience by sharing their personal perspectives with the students, the professor added.

In preparation for the journey, students already have written summaries of their knowledge of the war and essays on Vietnam’s histories with China and France.

Future assignments will focus on students’ analyses of 21st century Vietnam, which they will compare and contrast with their preconceptions and their impressions of how American media have portrayed the country.

Each student’s cost is approximately $4,100, which includes transportation, admission/guide fees, lodging and 90 percent of all meals.

— Gina K. Logue (