Community of Color Advocate
Behavioral, Social, and Health Education Sciences, MPH ’22
"...Rollins’ emphasis on both having research and academic knowledge in applied field work appealed to me as someone who came straight from undergrad."
“I think the impact of intergenerational trauma and mental health stigma within the Asian-American communities, specifically with my family’s immigration journey as Vietnamese war refugees, impacted a lot of why I wanted to go into this field,” Nguyen, a first-generation, low-income Vietnamese American explains.
After graduating from Stanford University in spring of 2020 with an undergraduate degree in human biology with a concentration in the biosocial determinants of global child health, Nguyen moved to Atlanta and started at Rollins’ Department of Behavioral, Social, and Health Education Sciences that fall. In addition to her MPH degree, she is seeking certificates in both social determinants of health and human rights.
“I’m very interested in increasing awareness and representation of communities of color and low-income populations—whether that’s in scholarly work or working on the ground in communities—and to gain the skills to be an effective advocate for these communities,” says Nguyen.
She chose Rollins for several reasons, including the personable faculty with diverse interests, its close proximity to her hometown of Memphis, and Atlanta’s diversity of culture and food.
“I also think Rollins’ emphasis on both having research and academic knowledge in applied field work appealed to me as someone who came straight from undergrad. It helped bridge the gap between like, ‘What are we really learning in classrooms and how can we actually go into the community and apply that hands-on?’ I wanted to get that experience from my MPH in order to move forward with these skills,” Nguyen says.
One course that stands out to Nguyen during her academic journey thus far is Health Equity, taught by Venice Haynes, PhD, MSPH. “The class talked about different types of racism and how that plays into implicit bias and positionality,” says Nguyen. “It provided not just a space for self-reflection, but also to actually talk about how do we implement this in public health and move forward with it.”
Nguyen has put her interests to work at several jobs during her time at Rollins. This past spring, she began a Rollins Earn and Learn position as a research assistant under Subasri Narasimhan, PhD, MPH, who works with Emory’s Center for Reproductive Health Research in the Southeast. Nguyen’s focus was research around upcoming abortion policy laws.
“It’s connected a lot to why I’m interested in social justice and advocacy and just the limitations and restrictions that people are really fighting for—like basic human rights in the South around women’s autonomy. That work has been really rewarding,” she says.
Additionally, this summer, she landed an internship with the CDC through the Ethics and Servant Leadership Program in the Candler School of Theology.
“Doing that program has been very eye-opening in terms of it being my first exposure to government work. Finding really good mentors at the CDC has been very helpful,” she says.
Though Nguyen isn’t sure if she’d like to go into government work, she plans to apply to the Presidential Management Fellows program or to an ORISE fellowship this upcoming year.
Nguyen is also open to nonprofit work, and has experienced that through her applied practice experience as a program evaluation intern with the Refugee Family Assistance Program in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Nguyen’s role included interviewing African refugees’ case workers to talk about how COVID-19 has impacted their clients’ needs and their personal training around mental health issues.
“It’s been very personal,” Nguyen says, recalling Vietnamese interpreter roles she held in her family growing up, as well as volunteering at a free clinic during her undergraduate studies. “I wanted to go into Rollins looking into refugee and immigrant work as a daughter of refugees myself.”
As for what’s next on her path, Nguyen is going with the flow. “I’m open to different horizons and different opportunities. Saying yes to things I didn’t think would be that helpful in the past has actually shaped my course,” she says.