Thuy Thi Nguyen

 Photo Credit:  Foothill College

Photo Credit:  Foothill College

Thuy Thi Nguyen is the president of Foothill College, making her the first Vietnamese American community college president in California.  She received her bachelor's degree in philosophy from Yale University and her law degree from UCLA.  

Ms. Nguyen recently spoke with PIVOT for Women's History Month.

On her education career path...
Passion and expertise led her to where she is today.  From early age, Ms. Nguyen realized how critical a good education was to the individual and community.  It was through education that she was able to move forward, from a social mobility standpoint, and she is passionate about helping others do the same.  Her expertise comes from training and simply from her life.  From being an immigrant to going through the public school system, she has seen firsthand the social injustice that the "have-nots" have had to endure and wants to correct it.

On being an immigrant... 
When asked how being an immigrant influences who she is at work, Ms. Nguyen says that is like asking "how does it feel to breathe air?"  Being an immigrant is a part of her identity that she cannot separate from her everyday life.  She feels that her past allows her to easily connect with students and parents of all nationalities. 

On finding a balance among work, family, and community involvement...
She concedes that she and her husband, Judge Thang Nguyen Barrett, are in a constant state of balancing and are never 100% balanced.  Her advice is to find someone who supports and understands not just your career ambitions, but your values as well.  Judge Barrett is a product of and very grateful to the community college system so he is extremely supportive of what she does in terms of the cause around the mission of community colleges. 

On the Trump administration...
Ms. Nguyen says that we are challenged as a country and have to remember the conversation around nationalism that the President is putting forth.  For her, nationalism is about understanding the value of immigrants because we are a land of immigrants. This means appreciating all immigrants - whether they are long-term lineage immigrants, those who were forced here by slavery, or refugees such as herself.  Her hope is that we will have a stronger sense of patriotism since our history is what distinguishes us from other countries.

According to Ms. Nguyen, we also need to change the current dialogue.  That is why she signed on with many other college and university presidents in a letter to the Trump administration in support of undocumented students.  In fact, on Trump's Inauguration Day, she commissioned the DREAMers Mural at Foothill College.  While not complete, it is already a beautiful work of art done by DREAMers who are artists and students at the school.  She believes it was cathartic and allows everyone time to reflect.

Ms. Nguyen ended the interview with a message to PIVOT, particularly to the younger PIVOTers:  
"You cannot be successful if those around you are struggling.  Gandhi said, 'The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.'  We should help those around us so the entire community - both the Vietnamese American community and community at-large - is successful too.  With that said, I am hopeful for the younger generation and have enormous admiration and respect for them.  I've seen so many students come together to support each other in the wake of recent events."  

 Ms. Nguyen commissioned a mural by artists and students who are DREAMers at Foothill College. 

Ms. Nguyen commissioned a mural by artists and students who are DREAMers at Foothill College.