Love of country, and knowledge, inspires Trang Nguyen

May 2, 2017

In 2008, Trang Nguyen ’17 learned about the financial crisis impacting millions around the world from inside a high school classroom in Singapore. By this point in her young life, she’d already lived in three countries and soon found her teachers piquing her interest to study global economics in a fourth — the United States.

“My experience living in Russia, Vietnam and Singapore — countries with vastly different economic and political systems — developed my love for economics and desire to understand different policies and governments,” she says. “Clark’s Global Scholars program connected me with talented, driven students from all over the world to help me do that.”

At Clark, Nguyen declared majors in economics and mathematics while taking numerous geography classes with the dual intention of teaching others and making herself a more competitive job candidate. She’s reaping the benefits of her hard work: Nguyen accepted a job offer with the global firm NERA Economic Consulting in its San Francisco office just three weeks after completing a summer internship at the company.

Not one to rest on her accomplishments, Nguyen, earned the David R. Porter ’35 Prize for Excellence in Economics, a Barth Summer Internship Award and an invitation to join Phi Beta Kappa. She’s a research assistant for Professor Laura Phillips Sawyer at Harvard Business School and she earned an Ash Center Summer Fellowship from Harvard Kennedy School that provided her with the opportunity to research public transportation through Fulbright University Vietnam during summer 2015. She’s also completing an honors thesis with professors Wayne Gray and Magda Tsaneva about the disparities between education and available jobs in Vietnam and how the issue impacts wages and job satisfaction.

But if you ask Nguyen what she’s most proud of, she’ll tell you about how she co-founded Love of Knowledge Vietnam, or LOK Vietnam, an online educational platform that uses animated videos to make complex topics in economics, finance, psychology and science easier to understand.

“LOK strives to provide Vietnamese youth with the opportunity to develop creativity and critical thinking,” she says. “I see it as a way to create a free and accessible platform for students to engage in active learning regardless of socioeconomic backgrounds and geographic locations.”

LOK Vietnam posts its lessons to Facebook and YouTube. Since its launch in April 2016, the platform has gained more than 36,000 followers on Facebook and just under 3,000 subscribers on YouTube.

This summer, LOK Vietnam, which was recently awarded a $10,000 grant from Davis Projects for Peace, will host a summer camp in Nguyen’s hometown of Hanoi to “inspire the next generation of educators who want to share their knowledge and the love of knowledge with others,” she says.

It’s familiar ground for Nguyen who has been involved in educational programs around the world.

Since 2015, she’s been a panel co-chair at HVIET Summer Camp, a 10-day overnight liberal arts summer program for Vietnamese high school students. Her role is to organize seminar themes and invite prominent Vietnamese business leaders to speak to camp participants. In August 2015, Nguyen taught a two-week seminar, “Unfolding the 'C' words: Capitalism versus Communism," in Tokyo to high school students in connection with the student-run Harvard College Japan Initiative. The previous summer, she served as a project mentor for a program connecting high school students with children in an orphanage in Kuala Selangor, Malaysia, for SEALNet, an organization founded at Stanford University to promote service and leadership among Southeast Asian communities. While there, she collaborated with mentors from eight countries to plan activities and workshops for participants.

On campus, Nguyen helped organize TEDx@ClarkUniversity and volunteered with students from the Global Scholars program to teach middle and high school students in the African Community Education program, a Worcester nonprofit organization.

Nguyen is quick to point out how support from Clark’s diverse community has inspired her.

“My experience with the Clark community has been nothing short of amazing, but I understand that not everyone can afford the same experience, such as many students in my home country Vietnam,” she says. “I think there is no better way to give back to the Clark community than paying it forward, and fostering the Clark supportive spirit outside of Clark as well.”