UA professor and students bring ‘Voices of Vietnam’ to life


Patrick Chura and students

Dr. Patrick Chura, center, is pictured here with the students he taught during his five-week stay in Vietnam.

The next time Dr. Patrick Chura teaches the senior seminar, “American Literature of the Vietnam War,” he will be offering his University of Akron students a new and richer perspective.

He’s just returned from a five-week stay in Vietnam, teaching the same course to undergraduates at Ho Chi Minh City Open University. A grant awarded through the Fulbright Specialist Program made the trip possible.

“For a long time I've wanted to go to Vietnam because I felt the need for more direct knowledge from a Vietnamese perspective,” says Chura, a professor of English who specializes in American literature and culture studies.

The culmination of the course was an oral history project — Chura’s Vietnamese students interviewed their elders about the war, learning more of their own history in the process. Chura scripted the translated interviews into “Voices of Vietnam,” a play that the class performed to an audience of students, parents, faculty and others.

“I could see pride on the students' faces when they brought guests up onto the stage at the end of the play to speak in their own voices about the war and its legacy,” notes Chura. “When the student actors introduced themselves and said, ‘This is my voice,’ there was strong emotion, made stronger by the fact that speaking out is still closely monitored there. They did something in an academic setting that went beyond what they thought was possible.” 

Chura considers the play a gift to his UA students, who will read and perform it this fall.

“I'm looking forward to asking the American students how it feels to speak the ‘Voices of Vietnam.’ The play we created in Vietnam can help them see history from another angle and teach peace for the future.”