Vivian Nguyen

Smith College

Vivian is a first-generation Vietnamese-American double-majoring in Government and Middle Eastern Studies. A daughter of refugees, she is motivated to eradicate educational inequity faced by displaced peoples and other underserved communities like that of her hometown in rural Appalachian Kentucky. A speaker of three languages, her passion for connecting with others has led her to studying Arabic in Ibri, Oman funded by a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship. Vivian is currently conducting a year-long independent research project on refugee identity at the Kahn Liberal Arts Institute. She serves as a two-time Chair of Smith Advocacy for Refugees, Chair of SmiThrift (a biannual charity fundraiser), Co-Chair of the Vietnamese Student Association, and Treasurer of the Class of 2020. She works as a Vietnamese tutor and Logic TA in addition to volunteering as an English tutor for a Syrian refugee. She plans to earn a PhD in education and pursue a career in education research and policy.

Kathleen McCartney
Smith College

Personal Statement

Although I was not blind to educational inequity, I once believed that, with hard work, one could maneuver through the system and excel. Tutoring Khang-a third-grade immigrant boy with language difficulties, learning disabilities, and limited resources-made me question that belief. What would have happened if I had not tutored Khang subject by subject for three years? Could he have gone from straight Fs to straight As and blossomed into a confident child?

At Smith, Khang's struggle inspired me to take courses in government and education and advocate for educational equity. As Chair of Smith Advocacy for Refugees, I spearhead initiatives to improve education attainment for refugees through scholarship campaigns, clothing and school supply drives, and policy discussion panels. At Reader to Reader, I led other mentors as we read and discussed books with public school students to improve students' reading, writing, and critical thinking skills. Interning for Project Coach, I drafted grant applications and program evaluations to help raise academic outcomes for inner-city students.

I have seen the struggles of at-risk children but I have also witnessed the life-changing impact of proper support. I intend to help build a more equitable path for our students, especially the underserved.

Vivian Nguyen
Government and Middle Eastern Studies: Class of 2020
written 2019

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