[Alumni Throwback] Andrew Nguyen
Tell us about a favourite memory working with UVSA/VSA.
My favourite memory with UVSA Ontario was when we were planning for our 1st Annual Leadership Summit. After attending my very first UNAVSA conference in New Orleans, I wanted to have a similar event in my own region, but I did not anticipate for it to take place during my term. The event fell together quite nicely and had a great foundation, as our team planned it from the bottom up. Planning and executing this event was one of the highlights of my VSA career because it made me realize many things about my region. It taught me love for my region, it taught me patience for my team, and it taught me pain for it was my last event being part of UVSA.
Our executive team’s vision was to gather representatives from each VSA school affiliated with UVSA Ontario, as well as out of region representatives at the Summit. I could not believe how much spirit and passion our VSA members had and being able to commemorate all of their accomplishments during the year made me so proud of all the youth leaders within the community. There were many familiar faces, but I noticed a lot of fresh faces who were also inspired to take on leadership positions within their VSA after attending our Summit. Being able to see the first encounters of constituents meeting and learning from other constituents, part of our affiliated schools, at the Summit was very uplifting. This Summit was a reminder of how much love I had and still have for my region.
Patience is a virtue and Summit truly tested my patience as a leader. The whole UVSA Executive Team planned and executed Summit; we were exhausted with responsibilities prior to and during Summit. This involved our team taking on committee director positions, family leader positions, and recruiting presenters and performers with our limited time. Through the stress of everything, the whole team really bonded as we looked back at such a successful first annual event. Some of my greatest memories involve events that have required a lot of input and effort and Summit was definitely one of those events.
Not to be mistaken with literal pain and suffering, but figuratively, in that it was tough accepting that this was my last official event during my Co-Presidency term with Michelle. Summit served as the grand finale event where we jam packed what we believed UVSA Ontario should encompass all in one day. This involved: workshops that focused on mental health advocacy, cultural awareness, and professional development; family programming that helped VSA member schools get to know other members within the same region; a panel discussion that hoped to touch upon civic engagement issues within the youth community; a gala awards ceremony dinner that celebrated VSAs’ and VSA members’ accomplishments; and an afterset that wrapped up the whole event. It was unbelievable that in such a short planning period, we all managed to execute this event and it made me so proud to see such positive reception from our constituents. Sadly, that was my last event as the Co-President of UVSA Ontario and it was bittersweet saying my farewells to the Executive Team following the transition period. I am proud that Summit came to fruition and as an alumni, I cannot wait to see the memories that future UVSA Ontario teams will make with future Leadership Summits and I plan on being an avid supporter. Thank you UVSA, next.
What is the greatest lesson/accomplishment you learned during your time with the association?
The greatest lesson I learned during my time with VSA actually stems from my experience within the McMaster Vietnamese Students’ Association (MVSA). Over the course of several years within the association, I met so many inspirational peers who not only provided me with an unconditional support system, but taught me the importance of having mentors in your life.
MVSA was the first club I felt a great attachment to while I attended McMaster University. Before I joined the club, I had the mentality that I could get through university by just attending classes, endless studying, and joining a few academic clubs here and there. It was not until I joined MVSA that that mentality changed as I saw so much support emulated by everyone on the association. Everyone in MVSA wanted to see each other succeed academically, professionally, and even socially. I built a great bond with the upper year executive members, who would provide me with academic resources to succeed, guide me by providing that foot in the door for opportunities on campus, and be there as a mentor for those daily university struggles.
Looking back on my time with MVSA, I feel indebted to the people I met within the association as they made my university experience all encompassing. For those who remember me during my upper years, I took on way too much as I tried to balance a full course load, applying to graduate school, researching for my thesis, being a part of too many academic, social, and cultural clubs to count on my fingers, all while trying to have a life outside of university. Without the mentors that I met, I would not have been able to survive my last years of university. They were always there to hear me out and helped shape me into the resilient person that I am today. Although I graduated, I continually try my best to keep in contact with current MVSA members as I believe in paying kindness forward and providing them with the same mentoring that my peers once and still give me to this day.
What advice would you give to current and past members of UVSA/VSA?
If there is any advice I could give to current and past members of UVSA/VSA, it is to get out of your comfort zone and try new things when the opportunity presents itself. Sometimes you need that push that will propel you to try novel things and that is exactly what happened during MVSA Elections when I was contemplating on the positions to run for during my last year on MVSA.
I considered staying in the same position as I was comfortable in it and was too nervous to take on greater responsibilities in a bigger role. Ritchie Truong, the MVSA President during that year, suggested that I run for the position of President, which I initially thought was a wild idea. I was not confident in my ability to lead an executive team nor felt I was qualified, but Ritchie was a believer of trying new things and pursuing growth choices. He felt as though I could commit to such a position while balancing my other university endeavours. I decided to take that leap and ran for the position and became the Co-President of MVSA. Being the Co-President was challenging, but it allowed me to grow as an individual and as a leader; I learned how to work alongside executive members with differing working habits, grew my network through connecting with VSA members within Ontario, and learning invaluable transferable skills that have helped me in my professional and academic pursuits.
Had it not been for Ritchie, who gave me that push to try something new, I would not have had the confidence to try even greater things, such as getting involved with UVSA Ontario and now with UNAVSA. Ritchie really taught me that life’s purpose is not about playing it safe, but about taking on opportunities that will challenge yourself and allow you to grow as an individual. For that, I continually advocate to my peers within VSA to get out of their comfort zones and make personal growth choices, through undertaking opportunities that are presented to them, whether it be through leadership positions or professional pursuits. You never know where you will end up if you take that leap of faith, as I surely did not think I would be leading the Eastern Canada region, along with Michelle during my Co-Presidency term on UVSA Ontario.