Nancy Ngan Trinh (MEd '13) understands firsthand how common it is for students to face personal and academic hurdles while in school.
In 2012, in the midst of her graduate studies at the University of Washington College of Education, Trinh’s father was diagnosed with cancer. On weekends, she flew home to Los Angeles to be with her father and family. Her schoolwork was put on hold for several months, and after her father passed away, Trinh took a leave of absence from her master's program in higher education to care for her mother.
Like Trinh, there are many students who face personal emergencies during their time in school, and often times these students aren't able to find support and resources to overcome their obstacles.
“But I did manage to complete my program, and I owe a lot of this accomplishment to my family, my fiancé (whom I met in Seattle), and of course, my College of Ed support system, mainly the close friends and faculty at the College who gave me so much love and encouragement during that difficult time,” Trinh said.
Trinh’s experience and support from the College of Education community has motivated her to help and support college students in her career as an academic advisor.
“My time at College of Education was not very long (only 1 1/2 years), but I learned a lot about my capabilities, mentally and physically,” Trinh said. “I learned that when faced with the most difficult kind of adversity, giving up was not an option for me. I had to hustle and find ways to meet my program requirements while trying to fight my dad's illness back home.”
It was hard for Trinh to juggle two very different priorities, between her family and her academics.
“I had to ask a lot of staff and different offices for help, but I was sure that there was always a solution for me no matter what the challenge was," she said. "I try to incorporate this mindset in my current job as much as possible. I help students to be as resourceful as possible when they are faced with a problem. I remind students that they are not alone in any situation, and that they should seek out help from me or other resources. At the end of the day, a student’s academics are not as important as their mental and emotional health."
Trinh currently works as an academic advisor at the University of Southern California, helping undergraduate and graduate students make progress towards their degrees by providing support with course registration, sharing fieldwork and internship opportunities, and connecting students with co-curricular programs like studying abroad or adding a minor. Before working at USC, she worked as an academic advisor at University of California, Los Angeles.
“I want to make sure the students get the most out of their college experience,” she said. “It's been really rewarding to build a personal rapport with my students. What I love most about my job is being able to see my students graduate and celebrate their accomplishments with their families.”
For Trinh, the most important thing to remember in higher education is compassion. Trinh’s father, who was a high school physics teacher for many years, taught her how to use compassion in interactions with students and motivated her to pursue a career in education.
Trinh is excited to follow in her father’s footsteps and inspire future generations of students. She’s particularly interested in helping expand students’ access to college and enhancing students’ college experience by creating more career development tools.
“I have a lot of years ahead of me in terms of growing my career so it's hard to say how big or what kind of impact I would like to make,” Trinh said. “Honestly, at the end of my career, I want to look back and cherish all the relationships I made with my students and colleagues. I want to teach and inspire students with compassion, just like my dad taught me."
Dustin Wunderlich, Director for Marketing and Communications