A Story of Perseverance
Wide-eyed and eager, I listened intently to the words of Ms. Mona Pasquil, a communication consultant and political strategist. “Brothers and sisters, everyone has a story. I encourage you to know yours,” she said. She spoke strongly yet eloquently; her message, powerful. Everyone has a story of what they have experienced; how they have perceived certain aspects of their lives, and how it has brought them to where they are in life. This story, if told genuinely and without reserve, taps into the series of events that has molded a person and reflects one’s true character, which compels me to tell mine.
I came from a very traditional Vietnamese background. My parents were Vietnamese refugees who fled from Vietnam on a rickety boat to the United States in hopes of achieving a better life for themselves and their children. Being part of the first generation to be born in the United States, I have questioned my identity and my placement in such a different society from my past ancestors. With these questions in mind, I hungered to learn more about my culture and heritage and as I did, I was able to blend and balance both my American and Vietnamese cultural background. I realized that having a strong connection between two different countries empowers me to serve as a bridge between the many countries of this world. I believe that my multicultural background serves as the catalyst to promote discussion to help people understand each other. Due to that strong hunger to understand and analyze the issues that Asian Americans face in society my research interests at UC Davis was on Asian American societal and cultural issues. My minor in sociology also has allowed me to explore the many different aspects of society, analyze it as a whole, and look at the influences of society on an individual.
Although I am fortunate for graduating sooner than most students, it was honestly a constant challenge for me to work towards my undergraduate degree. I’d like to quickly address my GPA performance during my college career. Due to my family’s financial hardships, I did not want to make my parents feel that they were obligated to pay for my education at University of California, Davis (UC Davis). We owned a small business for thirteen years and I’ve helped out with the family business growing up. We ended up selling our business in March 2005 – my second year at UC Davis – because we were not able to profit and sustain it any longer. Since we did not have a major source of income, it was a struggle for me to focus on my studies as I was faced with the dilemma of my family’s financial instability. On top of managing a full course load at UC Davis, internships ranging from politics to art, and being involved in various community projects, I was also working one to two part-time jobs at a time. In these times of struggle, I feel that I have really persevered to keep afloat. It also motivated me to work even harder so that I can reach one of my life’s goals – providing for my parents and siblings. Having the mentality that money is sure to be short and growing up with a family business, I developed a business-like mindset. With that in mind, it explains why I am an opportunist and constantly seeking new ways to add more income. This mentality also pushes me to claim my education.
Throughout my college years at the UC Davis, I constantly explored extracurricular activities beyond academia shifting to community activism and involvement. One of my greatest accomplishments was a museum exhibit called, “Ao Dai: A Modern Design Coming of Age.” The exhibit revealed the beauty of the ao dai, the Vietnamese national dress, and was the first exhibition of its kind in the United States. As a current student of Professor Caroline Valverde, she asked me if I would be interested in being her intern and research assistant because she had a project in mind for me. The project was to assist her with the museum exhibition and my role ranged from researching to organizing fundraisers for the exhibit. One of my duties was to become an expert in WorldCat, a global network of library content, and search for historical texts and documents, rare images, and sound clips relevant to our research. Since this was a major and long term project, Professor Valverde encouraged me to become well-versed in EndNote, a bibliography software that categorizes research articles and documents. This software helped me analyze all of the research content that I had found using WorldCat and allowed me to separate and organize the data.
One of the most influential leadership-building programs in my life started when I applied to the statewide Asian Pacific Leadership Conference at UC Santa Barbara and was selected as one of the fifty participants. The rigorous four day conference gave me the opportunity to learn the importance of activism and human impact in the community from activists and state leaders including Assembly Member Warren Furutani to State Controller, John Chiang. Here was where I gravitated to the wisdom of those that created a pathway before me. Here was where the words of Ms. Mona Pasquil inspired me to thrive in my journey so that one day I can share my own insights and life experiences.
In fall of 2007, I walked across the commencement stage at UC Davis with a Bachelors of Arts in Asian American Studies with an emphasis in Social Science and a minor in Sociology. At this time, I was a few months into my internship at Governmental Solutions Group, LLC (GSG) where my interests in utilizing technology to share data and information grew stronger. After I graduated from UC Davis, I was offered a permanent position as a legislative aide and administrative assistant at GSG. My first assignment was to establish the firm’s legislative bill tracking process through CapitolTrack, an online program that organize legislative bills & our client’s policy issues, track the status of legislative bills as it moves through the house, and create status reports. Working at GSG, a few legislative bills caught my interests as they were being introduced by the State Senate and Assembly. These bills outlined the importance of information technology and the need to provide more skill and vocational training in computers and information technology to California’s workforce. Another bill, that required more funding from the state, allowed school districts and state institutions to assign student and teacher identification numbers to track the achievement rate – whether it was student graduation rate or teaching success rate. I came to realize how crucial information data was to our society; however, if all of the information correlated and was working together it would be even more valuable. The data would give researchers accurate statistics thus creating a full circle; by influencing policy makers to create policy that are relevant to Californians based on those statistics. Finally information data and technology, if utilized would help close the disparities between state institutions.
Initially I started off with the same daily roles as most interns, such as prepared documents for clients, organized the office and filing, answered a heavy load of phone calls, managed the president’s schedule, and represented my company at political events and conferences. In addition to my initial duties as an intern, I was an integral part of developing our company’s online publication called, EdBrief (www.educationmediagroup.com). EdBrief is an online publication that keeps educators and the public up-to-date on education news and provides resources they can use to inform their academic, business management and research efforts. At first EdBrief was a bi-weekly newsletter that incorporated three staff writers including myself, but now it is an online publication with weekly updates sent to over six thousand educators, school administrators, and subscribers. On top of contributing to EdBrief’s articles and content, I was responsible for creating and designing the newsletter through Microsoft Publisher and finding innovative ways of distributing EdBrief. I am constantly finding new ways to efficiently distribute the newsletter and I know it takes took a few hit or miss attempts. I have experience using iContact, an online e-mail template builder and marketing program to extensive data gathering and managing. Currently, I have a system that works for me, but I hope to find an application that would simplify it.
Managing the firm’s many databases, I am relentlessly thinking of ways and methods that would save me time and increase efficiency. A lot of the projects that I have worked on require me to manage information, to quickly learn and adapt to new technological software and programs, and to make conclusions about the data that is on hand. In September 2007, GSG launched a marketing campaign where I was in charge of the planning and brainstorming process. I manage the databases of potential clients & business sponsorship, help design the company’s brochure, and assist in developing the mailing campaign process. I also review the analytics report from our various websites and interpret what that data means to my firm and what we can do to increase the number of visitors and length of visits. The idea of using technology in any of my projects has caught my interest and I enjoy the challenge of figuring out the best way to approach certain aspects by using applications and software as a tool for efficiency.
The process of attaining my college education was a lesson learned. When I started as an intern, one particular advice that struck to me as valuable was from Vernon Billy, GSG’s president. He noticed how I was involved in so many different activities and how it made it hard for me to focus on what really mattered to me. I was so busy trying to be a well-rounded person that it took away from my focus. I had to admit that I was spreading myself thin. Through our many sit-down conversations, Vernon really became my mentor. We weaved through my activities list and prioritized the importance of each item to my career and future. I learned to be selective, created my focus and used my time wisely to harness my goals.
After earning my bachelor’s degree, I was still hungry to learn and hone in on my skills. I was determined to move forward and pursue a master’s degree. Confiding this desire with my mentor and current employer, he believed in me and agreed to sponsor my development and training courses. He provided me with resources and allowed me to attain more technical skills through formal coursework. I wanted to take courses that would refine my writing skills and develop more knowledge in website building and design. While being a student, I juggled my course attendance and assignments with working a full-time schedule. Just this past fall semester at American River College I received one of the highest scores in my on-line web creation course. This course trained me on Microsoft Expressions and allowed me to gain knowledge in website creation and design. Concurrent with my on-line course, I was also enrolled in an intensive eight-week writing course at Sacrament City College that strengthened and improved my ability to put my critical analysis and concepts onto paper. I was able to apply my mentor’s advice and focus on what was important to me – concentrate on developing my computer technology skills and interests towards a master’s degree as well as presenting my capabilities with the quality of my work.
As a student in these courses while managing a demanding job, I was able to fully envision myself as a working student again. Being a student this time around, I was more confident in my time management abilities and felt that my working experience had provided me with perspectives different from my fellow peers. I was so grateful to be given the opportunity to go back to college after attaining my bachelors to strengthen my writing skills and fulfill my fascination for technology and software. So I took the first step and started looking into graduate programs that would entice my interests as well as expand my knowledge in information, technology, and innovative management. After researching all of my options, I finally came across the University of San Francisco (USF) where the graduate program in Information Systems (MSIS) with a concentration in Information Security was offered – not only was this a prestigious college, but USF had a program specifically for professional adults in Sacramento and for the first time, was offering a concentration in Information Security. I knew that I had found my calling.
After attending the information meeting and quizzing anyone that made themselves readily available to me, from former graduate students to the Chair of the MSIS department, I made my decision to invest in my future at USF. I excelled in small discussion classes at UC Davis because the informal environment made it easy for me to contribute in class with my opinions and thoughts. I was excited to learn that USF adopted the cohort model of education for the reason that it cultivates the values of teamwork by allowing students to learn and work together. From the MSIS program I hope to walk away with the knowledge of information technology (IT) management, strategy, and project planning as well as being able to apply this knowledge to the real working world. My goal is to use this education to allow for career mobility and growth. I hope to also be visible in the business arena and “techy” world alike. I say that because I am a minority woman and that in itself is rare in this field. I have had this unceasing desire to feed my mind and learn just about anything that is in the realm of innovation, efficiency, and resourcefulness. With the growing use of the internet and technology, it has indulged my interests because of its versatile dynamics. The ever changing and evolving technology world is enough to attract my interests, but now with the growing use of information sharing and complexity of protecting information through security would provide a fulfilling career. I would strive to be a part of that IT world where technology has a role in the advancement our society.
I see that there is a need for people who have the skills to read the information and analyze what it means. There are high demands from corporations and government alike for a skilled workforce in the areas of information technology management, strategic security, and complex project management and that competitive environment motivates me. I strongly believe that my acceptance into USF’s MSIS program will cultivate my ideas so that upon my completion will open doors for me in a gratifying technology career.
Coming full circle to my story, as a first-generation Vietnamese American, I came from a family where my parents never saw a class beyond high school in the poverty-stricken regions of South Vietnam and have since worked labor-intensive jobs to survive. To me, claiming my education is an accomplishment in itself. Pursuing my master’s degree is a chance to set the tone and example for my family’s generation to come. Not only is my story a journey of my personal calling, but a pathway for others to follow. My ambition has led me to many possibilities in life. I am able to learn from mistakes and overcome a lot of obstacles that was before me. My determination has pushed me beyond realms that I did not know even existed, and it has brought me this far. Knowledge and experience in life have molded me into a self-motivated person who is hungry to learn and has the desire to taste success. I believe interest guides us to our true desires, but determination takes us there. From what I know, and from my efforts and what I learned thus far, can determine my ability to succeed.