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OHIO education professor David Nguyen named Fall 2021 Commencement speaker

Published: October 22, 2021 Author: Staff reports

Ohio University associate professor David J. Nguyen, Ph.D., will be the Fall 2021 Commencement speaker, the University announced.

Nguyen is an associate professor of higher education and student affairs in the Department of Counseling and Higher Education, interim associate dean for Research and Graduate Studies in the Patton College of Education, and the Provost’s Faculty Fellow for Student Success.

“Student success is our most important priority here at OHIO and David is one of the biggest advocates for creating a culture that advances students,” Ohio University President Hugh Sherman said.  “I have no doubt that with his extensive experience and knowledge, in his address he will offer our students a unique perspective on how to further develop their own talents and achieve success.”

Since joining the faculty at OHIO in August 2016, Nguyen has produced more than 60 publications and presentations focused on how campus ecology contributes to student success, calling attention to how individuals and organizational features hinder or widen equitable opportunities for students holding minoritized identities.

“Being the commencement speaker is a tremendous honor and one that came about from students nominating me with the Outstanding Graduate Faculty Award,” Nguyen said. “I work with some great students, who thought so much of me to nominate me for this award. Subsequently, I appreciate the committee's thought in selecting me for this opportunity.” 

Nguyen examines how individual and organizational factors promote success for underserved and underrepresented students (such as LGBTQ+ or low-income students), as well as analyzes pathways to, through and beyond graduate education. He incorporates opportunities for students to critically examine contemporary issues facing higher education, engage in rigorous debates, translate theory into practice, and inspire their own curiosity. In this role, he learns from and with students as co-constructors of knowledge. His approach to advising is developmental but supplemented with challenges towards academic excellence.

His approaches inside and outside of the classroom have led to students nominating him for and receiving the Patton College of Education’s Distinguished Mentoring and Faculty Research Awards.

In his teachings, Nguyen emphasizes to students how transformative growth can be in a person’s life.

“What people see now as a polished researcher and educator was not something I could have envisioned for myself,” he said.

“As an undergraduate student, I struggled academically to the point that my grades teetered on the brink of academic probation,” Nguyen explained. “I was not a high performing student and I also did not know how to ask for help. Growing up in a working-class family and as the first person in my family to go to college, I was too proud to show that I needed help. It took meeting with a career counselor to really help me identify the skills I possessed, the courses I was interested in, and the kinds of contributions I wanted to make to and within society. Now that's why I try to study help-seeking behaviors as part of my college student success research and why I always want students to feel like they can ask me for help in the classes that I teach.”

Part of Nguyen’s advice for students also includes understanding that it’s all right t to not be completely sure of what you want to do after college, explaining that he’s currently working on his third career post-undergraduate education.

After completing his bachelor’s degree, Nguyen worked as a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers (now PwC), working on different types of tax structuring projects. He originally thought this would be the type of work he would do all his life, until realizing he wanted to find ways to give back and pave the way for other college students like himself. Once he came to this realization, he transitioned his career path to working in Campus Life and Career Services roles at Tufts University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

All of this to say is that there isn't a single path and success means very different things to people,” Nguyen said. “What remains important is how you define it, how are you making progress towards this goal, and if not, why not?”

Nguyen holds a B.S. in Accounting and Marketing Management and an M.S. in Accounting, both from Syracuse University. He also holds an M.S. in College Student Development and Counseling from Northeastern University and a Ph.D. in Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education from Michigan State University.

His work has been published in leading journals, such as Educational Researcher, Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, and Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice and has been externally funded by the National Academic Advising Association and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. During Spring 2022, his co-edited volume A Handbook For Supporting Today’s Graduate Students will be released by Stylus Publishing.

“I wouldn't be able to make contributions to Ohio University if it wasn't for my parents instilling what it means to follow your dreams and always supporting the decisions I made, even if they didn't know what those decisions mean, and my partner Mary and my kids, Ernie and Martha, that have provide unwavering support in making the decision to move to take this job and keep me grounded,” Nguyen said.

2021 Commencement will take place on Saturday, December 11 at 2 p.m. in the Convocation Center on the Athens Campus. More information can be found at www.ohio.edu/commencement.