Student Q&A: My Tam Nguyen (MUP ’15)

Hometown: Seattle, WA

Undergraduate school/major University of Washington, Journalism Major and International Studies Minor

What was your work experience/background before coming to the GSD?

I worked in public engagement at the City of Seattle Planning and Development department, as social media manager for Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State, and as a community volunteer with multiple non-profits and local arts, youth, and social entrepreneurship organizations.

Why did you decide to pursue planning as a career?

To expand my service and impact beyond the local municipal and state scale to the national and global human family.

What made you decide to come to the GSD?

I walked into the Queer & Dogs drag queen dance-off with my luggage straight from the airport, and knew this was the place for me. The welcoming and inclusive nature of OneHarvard, the university’s programming for incoming students of color, was also very instrumental to connecting me to students across the campus who came from similar backgrounds and made me feel more at home.

The opportunities to be challenged creatively, intellectually, and constantly stimulated by new ideas and pushed to think of practical solutions in meaningful ways is embedded in the trays and in my interactions with the student body, staff and faculty that led me here. The resources at the GSD, from human capital to academic assets, have an international reach and capacity that was also very attractive to me coming from local government.

What are your main interests in planning and concentration area?

My main interests are economic development, upward mobility, immigrant integration and entrepreneurship.  This led me to concentrate in both international planning and housing.

Are you involved in any student groups? What have you gained from the experience?

I’m actively involved with Women in Design, African American Student Union, and the Harvard Student Gender Equity Leadership Initiative (HSGELI).  There is a community for all my passions and interests here, if there is anything lacking, there is a willing and passionate student body across the campus and professors who are open and support new ideas, initiatives, and connect resources to support these efforts.

What has been the most surprising aspect of the GSD?

The healthy balance of intellectual rigor and high quality connection and fun of a creative student life and community.

What has been your favorite class or project? Why?

My favorite project within the planning studio program is the work with the Chelsea, MA community. It was a real life intervention, interaction, and provision of a meaningful service in a community that has advantages of a diverse economic immigrant base, and potential for growth, investment, and development.

What did you do over the summer? How did that add to your education and goals?

Over the summer, I presented a final proposal in Bergamo, Italy working with an immigrant commercial corridor and its stakeholders. I also did a few community service projects in Paris, France including work with the Chinese-French community, and Le Défenseur des Droits (The Defender of Rights), a hybrid human rights commission and public defender public organization.

The work I did during the summer complemented the education and experience we did as a cohort in the planning program and our experience in Chelsea. It achieved the international scope and impact with the community I wanted to serve the most (immigrants and refugees in Europe).

What are your career ambitions?

My career ambitions are to continue to scale up my impact, and serve communities who are the most marginalized. The southern United States, populations of migration, and communities who are working to leverage the strengths of diverse individuals as an asset and tool for economic development are demographics and spaces where I would love to serve and make an impact.