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Applied Service

Lessons from online learning part of Hoang’s success story

France Hoang

From The Ichabod - Winter 2019

Every stage of France Hoang’s life thus far has a remarkable story or an accolade to go with it.

As a child, an evacuation organized by the United States government pulled Hoang and his family from war-ravaged Vietnam. Grateful for the opportunities that came with an upbringing in the U.S., Hoang was an academic standout, graduating with honors from West Point and Georgetown University Law Center.

After working for all three branches of the U.S. government and being appointed associate White House counsel and special assistant to President George W. Bush, Hoang, mcj ’00, is now a partner at FH+H law firm in Washington, D.C., and a board member of boodleAI, a peer-to-peer fundraising platform that helps nonprofits find donors.

Bridging the gap between West Point and Georgetown and the illustrious career opportunities that followed is a degree in applied studies from Washburn University. A SWAT commander and deputy chief of police at Fort Leavenworth by day, Hoang was a Washburn student by night, pursuing his master of criminal justice in some of the university’s earliest online courses.

At the time, he was pleased with how many lessons from class could be applied instantaneously. Even more important is how many remain with him today.

Repaying a Debt

Hoang knew from his earliest years in the United States what he wanted to accomplish in life, it was just a matter of how his goal would be achieved.

Born in 1973 in Saigon, Vietnam (now Ho Chi Minh City), Hoang’s father was a South Vietnamese Army officer, and his mother a Vietnamese civilian working for the U.S. Naval attaché. The family was informed in the closing days of the Vietnam War they had only hours to get to the airport for an evacuation in 1975 known as Operation Frequent Wind.

Hoang, his parents, sister and grandma were among the 130,000 evacuated in what Hoang calls “a forgotten chapter in U.S. history” as well as “one of the nation’s greatest humanitarian acts.” The Petersons, a host family in Tumwater, Washington, took the Hoangs in, and France came to realize it was through good fortune and American people that led to his rescue from Vietnam.

“I grew up feeling I owed a debt to America, the American people and the American military,” he said. “I felt obligated to repay that debt, and that led me to join the military.”

Dialed In to Education

Hoang graduated in the top 1 percent at West Point and summa cum laude from Georgetown Law, where he received his juris doctor. His military deployments include Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia, and he was stationed at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas when he discovered Washburn as a nearby option to receive his master’s degree.

“The online format made it really convenient for me to pursue education and work at the same time,” Hoang said. “I had a great experience, basically taking classes at night, then I’d go to work and apply the lessons I learned from the night before.”

Former instructor Gerald Bayens, now associate dean of the School of Applied Studies, has kept in touch with Hoang since his graduation and served as his ambassador when he was named a Washburn University Alumni Fellow in 2017.

The degree program "was a hybrid format of face-to-face assignments, email correspondence and finally dial-up internet prior to courses being fully online,” Bayens said. “As a graduate student, (Hoang) had a practical background and offered a lot of information that was beneficial to others.”

The sounds of dial-up internet connection still remind Hoang of his time logging on for courses, but that’s far from the only memory the 45-year-old carries with him from Washburn.

Lasting Impact

By definition, courses in applied studies teach students how to turn education into implementation, and since receiving his master’s degree, Hoang has been a model alumnus for the program.

“The idea of an applied education – not just learning for learning’s sake – is more important than ever,” he said. “In today’s day and age, you can pick up an iPhone and ask Siri or Google for knowledge, and it’ll spit it out. How to apply knowledge for an impactful change – that’s a skill. At Washburn, all the classes took that approach, and I know it developed skills and abilities that I’ve used.”

Hoang now has more than 20 years of national security experience, has served on several boards and supports a number of veteran reintegration causes. He spent time as chief strategy officer of MAG Aerospace, which operates manned and unmanned aircraft systems on five continents, and FH+H was the fastest-growing law firm on the 2013 Inc. 5000 list.

“I’m not surprised at all by any of it,” Bayens said of Hoang’s accomplishments. “He did really good things in D.C. in the Bush administration, and good things with MAG Aerospace. Even now with cybersecurity and infrastructure, he's an absolute go-getter. It's in his DNA. He's always looking to achieve something else.”

Spring 2020 Alumni Mag

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2019-20 spring edition online and look for it in mailboxes in May.

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