Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship

The Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship is an entrepreneurship education resource that provides classes, coaching and assistance to entrepreneurs. It builds relationships among and between CSB/SJU students, faculty, alumnae/i, and community members to create and strengthen the entrepreneurial spirit.

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E-Scholars Journey to Vietnam

By: Paul Marsnik

In January 2023, ten students from the E-18 Cohort set off on an extraordinary adventure – a two-week trip to Vietnam. This expedition offered them a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in Vietnamese culture, traditions, and business.

“The primary goal of the international trip is to get students outside their comfort zone,” said Paul Marsnik, the director of the E-Scholars program. “When you are out of the comfort zone, that’s when the greatest learning takes place.”

The trip commenced with a flight from Minneapolis to Seattle. On the layover in Seattle, an unexpected issue came to light – it was discovered that the information on three students’ Vietnam visas did not match the information on their passports. The students were informed that they would not be allowed on the international flight. It appeared that, for these students, the international trip would be over before it even started.

“Our flight was scheduled to leave in less than 2-hours and there was no way they were going to let us on that plane with the misprinted visas,” said David Durenberger, E-18. “So we used Paul’s mantra ‘Embrace Ambiguity’ and started looking for a solution. After about 20 minutes of searching, I found a website that promised to deliver a ‘Visa on Arrival’ in 60 minutes or less. We kicked into action and within an hour we had the necessary documents on our phones.”

After a good night’s sleep in Saigon, at the famous Continental Hotel, the E-18 Cohort, embarked on the long-standing E-Scholars tradition known as the Scavenger Hunt. Teams of 3 or 4 E-Scholars were given 5 hours to complete a list of tasks and then create a 5 minute presentation. Some of the tasks included:

Most of the time in HCMC and Danang was spent doing business visits that the students had set up weeks or months in advance. Small groups of students visited technology companies, local artists, a soccer training facility, a surf shop, a real estate investor, a craft brewery, and much more. One small group of students visited the 3M facility in HCMC. One of the highlights of the trip was a full-group visit to Everfit, a technology company founded by E-9 Long Nguyen.

“It turns out that Long was having a grand opening for his new office space in Danang, so he invited the E-Scholars to attend,” said Paul Marsnik. “Long and his partner gave speeches, there was music food, and drink, and government officials were in attendance. It was spectacular, and so inspiring to see an E-Scholar alum having tremendous success as a global entrepreneur.”

Of course, the trip wasn’t all business. On weekends and during downtime there was some time for tourist/cultural visits as well. The full group spent one afternoon/evening on a food tour guided by Vietnamese college students. The E-scholars were transported by scooter to the most popular street stalls and hidden alleyways in the city and they sampled delicacies where the locals really love to eat. The full group also took a day trip to the village of Hoi An, a UNESCO world heritage site near Danang.

The success of this unforgettable trip would not have been possible without the support and cooperation of various people and businesses. Special thanks were extended to Long Nguyen (E-9) for hosting us at the Everfit HQ in Danang, Trang Pham (E-7), who acted as our Vietnamese translator and guide, as well as Vinh Ho (’98) and Patrick Leung (’73), who provided essential guidance throughout the journey. Their contributions were integral to the journey’s success and the lasting memories created by the E-18 Cohort.

College of Saint Benedict Saint John’s University

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Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship

350 Simons Hall
Collegeville, MN 56321

Paul Marsnik
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Becca Brzezinski
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Center for Entrepreneurship
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