The University’s Office of First Generation and Peer Mentoring held the second session of its new monthly series of the semester, Our Stories, featuring Ngoc Bui, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of psychology, and Zion Grant-Freeman, senior psychology major, on Tuesday.
The series highlights impactful voices across campus.
Around 15 students and faculty members attended the event, which included lunch, and began with an activity to reflect on cultural identities.
A plastic stand was placed at each table that displayed some questions including “What identities are you most connected to?” and “What identities have the greatest effect on how others perceive you?”
Then Bui shared her story of how her parents immigrated from Vietnam to a refugee camp in the Philippines when she was 2. The camp provided them the opportunity to move to California through a church sponsorship, which began her American education journey.
As a first-generation college student, Bui reflected on how making friends was an important part of her finding opportunities.
“My attitude then was to meet as many people as I could and say yes to as many opportunities as I could to start building those connections,” said Bui.
Grant-Freeman moderated the conversation to touch on topics around being a first-generation student, labels, and leadership.
Bui said that first generation students shouldn’t be held back by the first generation label.
“I want students to see themselves as leaders, contributors, and engaged in the things (they) do – not having that be (their) label or identity.”
Spotlighting an accomplished faculty member was impactful for the student audience as they learned more about how similar their stories can be to their own.
“Having a faculty member speak was cool because you see (them) and you don’t really think that they went through the same experiences or they have the same background as you,” said sophomore business major Jesse McEntire.
“You need to put yourself out there to gain more experience in order to be the person you want to be,” said junior business major Brenna Jaime.
Students also reflected on how they can apply Bui’s advice to their educational journey.
“She explained her experience of making many friends, saying yes to everything and (gaining) new opportunities, which is what I am thinking of doing,” said freshman ELS student Mibuki Uno.
Yulissa Chavez can be reached at email@example.com.