Thomas Vallely returned to Vietnam in 1985 as a Massachusetts State Representative, invited by Senator John Kerry as part of a goodwill delegation. The trip marked the beginning of Vallely’s commitment to fostering exchange between the two countries. In 1981 Vallely became the first Rappaport Urban Scholar and graduated with his MPA in 1983. Vallely received a B.S. from the University of Massachusetts/Boston
Thomas J. Vallely, senior advisor for Mainland Southeast Asia at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and the former director of the Vietnam Program, a position he currently holds and has held since its inception in 1989.
Vallely has used the Vietnam Program’s research to engage in candid and constructively critical dialogue with the Vietnamese government about the country’s strategic challenges. Under Vallely’s leadership, the Fulbright School has emerged as a center of excellence in public policy research and teaching and a pioneer in developing new modes of institutional governance in Vietnam. In addition to his work at the Kennedy School, Vallely serves as chairperson of the Trust for University Innovation in Vietnam, an organization dedicated to supporting the establishment of Fulbright University Vietnam, Vietnam’s first private, nonprofit university.
A primary focus of Vallely’s past work is institutional innovation in Vietnamese higher education and science. He draws on the Program’s experience designing and developing innovative educational initiatives in Vietnam to pursue a dialogue about higher education reform with Vietnamese and international stakeholders. Vallely highlights the central importance of governance to achieving better outcomes in higher education and believes that international universities must revise current paradigms of academic exchange to support institutional innovation in Vietnam effectively.
Vallely has worked in Cambodia, Myanmar/Burma, Mongolia, and Ukraine. In these countries, he has focused on the political economy of reform. Before becoming director of the Vietnam Program, Vallely was a senior research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School, where he worked on strategic and military issues in East and Southeast Asia. He has worked as a political consultant and was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1980, serving until 1987.
UPDATED JANUARY 2023