A new Chair of Council for International House

Global philanthropist and executive Vi Peterson is the new Chair of the International House Council.

International House (IH), the University of Melbourne has welcomed international businesswoman Vi Peterson as the new Chair of Council from 2016.

A University of Melbourne and IH alumna, Ms Peterson is an independent international affairs professional and philanthropist, with an impressive portfolio of business experience in South East Asia, Australia and the USA.

She joined IH in 2010 as a member of council, and quickly assumed a key position of support for the college by chairing the IH Risk Management Committee and acting as Deputy Chair of Council to Professor Emeritus Frank Larkins AM from 2013 to 2015.

Ms Peterson said her challenge in taking on the leadership appointment this year will be to consolidate and build on the solid foundation left by her predecessors.

“My time on the Council has coincided with a period of tremendous change for the University of Melbourne, particularly with the introduction of the Melbourne Model in 2008. Under the leadership of my predecessor, the IH Council was quick to respond with the construction of new graduate accommodation,” she said.

“I look forward to working closely with my fellow council members, the IH executive and all IH personnel to spearhead our next development chapter, one in which we are highly responsive to the changing needs of our students; where we continue to create a positive and enriching learning experience in line with the ideals of IH and in support of the University’s Growing Esteem strategy; and one of growing engagement with the alumni, supporters and friends of IH and the international community at large.”

Given her background, no one could mistake Ms Peterson as anything but a quintessential global citizen.

Born in Saigon, raised in Vientiane, Hong Kong and Bangkok and educated at French and American international schools, Ms Peterson lived at IH from 1979 to 1981 while studying a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Melbourne.

She chose IH as her university residence because its ideals and motto (Fraternitas) were a perfect fit for her own multicultural and international background.

“The three years I spent at IH and the University of Melbourne were some of the best years of my life,” she said.

“I had a great time and made lots of friends, as one gets to meet an incredibly diverse group of students from all over the world at IH.”

And her time at IH was not without its typical college ‘experiences’, something all IHers can identify with.

“I can recall fierce water fights in Scheps (in those days, the floors were segregated, so it was girls on the 5th floor against boys on the 4th floor), and people playing pranks on me, such as someone spreading vegemite all over one side of my toast while I was not looking!”

Yet her days as a university student at IH were just the precursor for an impressive career that began as a graduate management trainee with the ANZ Bank in 1981. She went on to occupy a number of senior positions in the bank’s head office, before playing a key role in establishing ANZ’s operations in Vietnam.

In 1996, Ms Peterson was appointed as the Minister-Counsellor (Commercial) and Senior Trade Commissioner for Austrade, based at the Australian Embassy in Hanoi.

Three years later, she beat a new path for herself by establishing her own consultancy business to assist foreign companies conducting business in Vietnam.

Since then, Ms Peterson has contributed her knowledge and expertise on the board of directors of a number of global firms operating in South East Asia. In 2001, alongside her husband former US Ambassador to Vietnam Douglas (Pete) Peterson, she co-founded Peterson International, a consultancy firm specialising in the provision of strategic advice and business solutions to multinational companies involved in trade and investment activities in Asia.

Aside from her business ventures, Ms Peterson is a committed philanthropist and alongside her husband has been involved in philanthropic and voluntary work in Asia. In 2002, the couple co-founded The Alliance for Safe Children (TASC), a US not-for-profit organisation dealing with child injury prevention in Asia. She has also been a donor to International House since 2007.

Ms Peterson speaks English, French, Vietnamese and Thai, and is an Adjunct Professor at the Swinburne Leadership Institute, Swinburne University of Technology.

International House is delighted at the appointment of Ms Peterson as the new Chair of Council. Her strategic guidance and distinguished career will no doubt be a great asset to the college as it moves forward. For more information, email enquiries@ihouse.unimelb.edu.au or phone +61 3 9347 6655.

Published by International House on Tuesday 2 February 2016.

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