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Life of the mind. Thu Nguyen '05, PLU's first ever Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellow

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Rare fellowship will take student down the international path

By Katherine Hansen ’88

Thu Nguyen arrived in the United States at age 9 and started fourth grade without understanding a word of English.

“It was hard at the time,” said the PLU junior. “You pick it up, you just kind of have to.”

Now a triple major in political science, global studies and math, Nguyen ’05 is the first PLU student ever to be named an esteemed Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellow with the Woodrow Wilson School of Foreign Policy at Princeton.

The fellowship, run through the U.S. State Department, was awarded to only 20 students in the country this year. It includes expenses for her last two years of undergraduate education, admission and all expenses for graduate school, paid State Department internships during the summers and a four-year position with the U.S. Foreign Service upon completion of her graduate studies.

At age 20, Nguyen’s list of achievements is already long. She is a President’s Scholar and a Washington Achiever who has won both Wang Center and Severtson research grants to study the politics of music in Vietnam. She set up her own internship this summer with U.S. Foreign and Commercial Service in Vietnam.

Nguyen came to PLU thinking she would go on to law school, but after the international study opportunities she has had, she began to look a different direction.

“As a student researcher, I see things so differently now,” she said. “My goals evolved, and I realized maybe I could do more. My life will be internationally focused. Foreign service is a great opportunity.”

Nguyen is a passionate advocate for multiculturalism, and worked as a diversity advocate in the Diversity Center last year. This year she created a new job for herself: multicultural student outreach coordinator. She said she has always looked at her “minority status” as a positive, and wants to be a liaison to encourage more student involvement.

“I appreciate it and use it to my advantage to see things from a different perspective,” she said. “I really want to do something for our students of color.”

She also volunteered at Remann Hall, the juvenile detention facility in Pierce County, helping inmates there with schoolwork. For that, she received another honor, the Mortvedt Award for Public Service.

“Thu is a remarkable young woman who epitomizes the drive of students at PLU,” said Eva (Frey) Johnson ’95, director of the Diversity Center. “She is actively searching to find her best path, and PLU is helping her grow as a young female leader of color.”

At the end of spring semester, scrambling through finals, preparing to go to Washington D.C. for fellowship orientation and getting ready to go to Vietnam, Nguyen was even busier than usual.

“I sleep four to five hours a night,” she said. “I don’t do it to overachieve – it’s not stressful at all. If I’m not doing it, I think I would go crazy.”

Nguyen, who has a broad smile and a frequent laugh that complements her serious, ambitious side, says she does make time for fun with friends.

“I am very selective about doing things that I want,” she said. “I love this life of mine.”

Attaway Lutes: 2003 Athletic Hall of Fame inducts six memebers


English professor Charles Bergman gave a lecture at the University of Virginia in late March called “Animals and Their Critics” on why literary critics have difficulty responding to animal themes in literature. He also gave a reading/slide show at the University of Virginia from his recent book, “Red Delta,” which was named the 2003 Benjamin Franklin Award winner for the best book in the Science/Environment category. His previous book “Wild Echoes: Encounters with the Most Endangered Animals in North America,” has been published in a second edition by the University of Illinois Press.

Two Humanities faculty were selected to participate in National Endowment for Humanities Summer Institutes 2004. Deborah Miranda, English, attended “Working from the community, American Indian Art and Literature in a Historical and Cultural Context,” at Evergreen State College in Olympia. Roberta Brown, French, attended “French Writing from the Americas, 1650 - 1800,” at the Newberry Library in Chicago.

Christine Moon, psychology professor, gave a presentation on “Creating Smarter Babies: Implications of Recent Fetal Research for the Care of Preterm Infants” at the biennial meeting of the Northwest Association of Neonatal Nurses in Seattle April 27.

Photo Credits

By: Jordan Hartman ’02
PLU junior Thu Nguyen named Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellow, which guarantees her graduate study at a top-notch school and work in the Foreign Service.


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