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Thu-Huong Nguyen of Seattle, Wash., studied urban and regional studies and Africana studies; minored in Asian American studies
Main Cornell extracurricular activity -- why is it important to you?
Serving as treasurer and president of Asian Pacific Americans for Action (APAA), an organization that strives to be at the forefront of Asian American activism and advocacy at Cornell. During my involvement, I helped to organize the largest East Coast Asian American student conference with more than 1,500 students from 30 colleges; successfully campaigned for an Asian/Asian American center and a new assistant director and dean position for it; and coordinated a myriad of hip-hop shows, comedian performances, educational workshops and collaborative events with other organizations. APAA, with its awe-inspiring, social justice-oriented student leaders, has been the most transformative aspect of my college experience.
While at Cornell, what other accomplishments/activities are you most proud of?
Traveling to numerous cities and countries. My friends and I established a competition our first year: to see who can participate in the most school-sponsored off-campus trips. During my five-year dual degree program, I left Ithaca for four semesters. After freshman year, I participated in the Department of City and Regional Planning's Brazilian Cities summer session program. Later on, I spent my junior academic year abroad in Alexandria, Egypt. I traveled to seven countries between these two study abroad experiences. On a related note, I am also proud of having passed all 60-plus credits of Arabic courses. I am a huge proponent of alternative, outside-the-classroom learning. This semester I took advantage of the Cornell in Washington Program. While completing my final set of undergraduate courses, I interned for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. There, I authored a manual to guide Asian American and Pacific Islander-serving community-based organizations to existing federal service programs and grant opportunities.
Your most profound turning point while at Cornell?
Winning the Activist of the Year Award by the Student Activities Office. For the first time, I realized that others saw me as a leader, and so I began to see myself as one as well.
Did any of your beliefs or interests change during your time at Cornell?
My large scheme professional goal has not changed drastically: to improve the quality of life of poor and low-income communities and communities of color. During my time at Cornell though, I discovered more paths to get to this goal.
What are your plans for next year; where do you see yourself in 10 years?
The Monday after Slope Day, I started work as a regional coordinator for the Urban Institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center, a D.C.-based economic and social policy research institution, to help research housing issues across the United States. Before I turn 30, I plan to travel to 30 countries.
What Cornell-related scholarships/special financial benefits did you receive?
I have benefitted from Cornell's comprehensive financial aid package, including: the Architecture, Art and Planning Scholarship Fund, Class of 1934 Scholarship, Ganz Scholarship, William G. Hoyt Memorial Scholarship and N. Weiffenbach Scholarship. Without the support, I wouldn't have been able to attend this university. In addition, support from the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, the Latin American Studies Program and the Latino Studies Program allowed me to undertake various research opportunities.
What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?
Living with an international student from Taiwan to whom I was randomly assigned; as a food science major, my roommate taught me what I was eating as we shared countless meals in the dining hall.