Back when Quỳnh-Hương Nguyễn was an undergraduate at Dominican University, she discovered a new academic interest in women and gender studies, but she wasn’t quite sure where it would lead.
“I took a women and gender studies class and became very interested in identity development, social issues and how to be involved with my community,” said Nguyễn, who earned her bachelor of arts degree in psychology. “After talking to my mentors, I decided to look into degree programs in higher education.”
After studying abroad in London, she moved from Chicago to San Marcos to pursue a master’s degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education at Texas State University. While working as a graduate assistant for the LGBTQIA Diversity and Retention Program, her career path in higher education became all too clear.
“While working with students, I learned a lot about the multiple intersections of identities and how that relates to their experience,” Nguyễn says. “It allowed me to see the work we’re doing is so important.”
In May, 2018 Nguyễn embarked on an exciting new career as the assistant director for UT Austin’s Gender and Sexuality Center. With the spring semester in full spring, she hit the ground running, taking the lead on a number of programs and activities. Among her many duties, she facilitates several campus education programs including Allies in Action and Peers for Pride.
One of the most gratifying aspects of her work, she says, is going across campus and helping all members of the Longhorn community make their spaces more inclusive and welcoming.
“I train people about queer and feminist identities and Allyship,” Nguyễn says. “I hope to teach them about what those identities mean in their spaces and how they can create an inclusive strategy to support students, faculty, staff and all of the people who come into their lives.”
The best part of the job, she notes, is working alongside students and colleagues, who continue to teach her that there is still much to learn and many ways to support the LGBTQA+ community on campus and in the community.
“I have met so many students with so many strengths and expertise in various fields of study,” Nguyễn adds. “They have challenged me to grow and expand our programs and resources because there is no singular Longhorn experience. I want to make sure they are equipped with the skills they need to continue to learn and be the leaders they want to be. They are remarkable and have so much passion.”
In return, Nguyễn hopes to teach her students how to hold compassion for themselves and to practice self-care during stressful times.
“Self-care is very important for me, and I’ve learned that I can forget about taking care of myself because I have many responsibilities,” Nguyễn adds. “I try make time for journaling and crafting. I do my best to check in with my mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.”
She often visits with her students to discuss all of the responsibilities they’ve taken on in school and in their personal lives. Oftentimes she reminds them to practice self-care–even when they think they’re too busy to slow down for a breather.
“They are working, going to school, socializing with friends, networking and being leaders in their community,” Nguyễn says. “They want to take on so much but it can weigh on their wellbeing. I try to remind them that it is all right to take some time for themselves and be compassionate for themselves. We are only humans who need time to recuperate. I try to model my own self-care with my students. “