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Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement

Meet Vivi Nguyen, our new Graduate Assistant

August 02, 2013

  • Vivi Nguyen

How did you come to find yourself in Portland and working for Lewis & Clark/attending graduate school?

I actually found the Lewis & Clark graduate program first, which attracted me because of its emphasis on social justice and diversity. The schedule seems very well equipped to actually carry out that mission, and I really connected to that.

Tell us a bit about the graduate program you’re pursuing.

I’m in the Professional Mental Health Counseling program. I’m just starting out, but so far I love the theory classes and learning about the different approaches. An introductory course I’m taking has a really intriguing lessons about privilege and oppression - those we experience and those of others. It has helped me to focus my awareness of these issues for myself and those around me. Next semester we’ll go more in depth into social justice curriculum, which will be very complimentary to my work here.

What were your first impressions of Lewis & Clark?

I’ll just tell a story about my interview day: I had just flown in from CA for the interview. I found myself downtown taking Trimet buses, the 12 and then the 39. I had an hour to spare. I thought to myself, “Perfect, I’m all set.” Then, it’s 12:20, very close to when my interview is supposed to start, and I’m still waiting for the bus. I called the office to let them know, and I got to my interview a several minutes late. I was nervous, but everyone was so understanding. They really appreciated that I’d called ahead, and even gave me props for taking public transportation! It showed me that the professional community here is accommodating and understanding, which made me excited for the job. Plus, people are just nice here, in general!

What are you most looking forward to while in this position?

I’m fascinated by new cultures, languages, and personal stories. There’s such a variety of students and groups here on campus. And there are so many components and areas of the job, which really appealed to me because I love working with a wide variety of people. As a Sociology major, I think I’ll really enjoy the Lewis & Clark environment for that reason.  

What are your passions? What issues are most important to you?

So many… The first thing that comes to mind is music and other creative outlets. I love playing the guitar. Also, I recently started writing poetry when I was inspired by books I’ve been reading on social oppression. And I’m a big fan of cultural geography, learning about different facets of different cultures, everything from language to customs. I’ve also been involved in LGBTQ advocacy for a long while in various ways, and I’m excited to see how I can support the queer community here.

How do you hope to apply your degree after graduating?

Well, it’s constantly shifting. But several years ago, my cousin asked me what I wanted to do, and I said I wanted to be a LGBTQ youth counselor. I’m finding my way there, which is really exciting, but I think I want to expand my reach to anyone who is oppressed and be a supporting figure. I have a personal passion for working with underrepresented people. But I’m just one semester in, so who knows!

Where did you grow up, and how did that experience impact you?

I was born in Vietnam. I lived there for just 4 years, so it didn’t have too much of an impact on me directly. But my family definitely imported their traditional values in the move to the states. I had a pretty strict family upbringing. I found that I was not encouraged to ever speak up, which made me a bit resentful. I then came up against very individualistic Western culture, which was a stark contrast to my more collectively-minded family upbringing. It’s been interesting to try to find a balance, and I to this day I think about it a lot. Growing up, my family would tell me that I couldn’t be American because I’m not White, and at school people identified me as Asian. But it wasn’t really how I identified. It was only later that I learned that I could be both.

What do you hope to accomplish as the new DIME graduate assistant?

    Right now I’m just in the observational phase. I’m so new to Portland, and I want to get a feel for how I can best be effective in the role. But I’m excited for any way that I can help incorporate more safe spaces and places for dialogue, which are important anywhere. It’s very abstract right now, so I’ll have to get back to you on the specifics. I’m really here to learn, so I’m be soaking it all in and going from there.