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February 29, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

Asian American student finds place on campus

Throughout most of his life, sophomore Chris Nguyen never thought of himself as an Asian-American. Even though both of his parents were refugees from the Vietnam War, his Asian heritage was never at the forefront in his mind.

High school was rough for him, being called derogatory names and degraded because he was Asian. Attending either predominantly white or black schools it was easy to be excluded, he said.

“Whenever someone said something to me, my initial reaction was ‘What?'” said Nguyen. “In my mind I was not Asian. Not to say that I think I’m white, it’s just that I’m American. I have the American perspective.”

It was not uncommon said Nguyen, for him to react in a counterproductive way to the racist comments and stereotypes that were thrown at him.

“I used to get into fights a lot. Some one would say something to me and then I would fight them,” he said. “In high school, I felt so outcasted and degraded. I’m no different than anyone else. I don’t have an accent, I speak English and I played sports.”

When he came to BGSU he decided to use his passion and frustration in a positive way. Nguyen admits when he first came to the University he came with the intent of partying, but after his first party he decided he didn’t like it. Instead he found his passion with Asian Communities United.

At first he hated ACU meetings. They were boring and unproductive and meetings would have about four to eight members he said. When he went to the election meeting last year with his girlfriend and a floormate from his dorm they were the only three to show up to the meeting and they ended up being the president, treasurer and secretary.

“When I learned I had a chance to change the ACU I stepped up to the plate,” Nguyen said.

The ACU was never very active with other organizations, something that changed when Nguyen took over. When Nguyen came to speak at a Latino Student Union meeting on behalf of the ACU, Jordan Portillo and Nguyen met each other.

“He was very outgoing, passionate and genuine about what he was doing,” Portillo said.

And it’s that passion that makes Nguyen a great ACU president.

“I was reading this book a week ago called ‘East Main Street.’ I was reading this section about Asian-American food and its impact on America, and [Nguyen’s] immediate reaction was ‘Can I read that book and use it to make PowerPoints for the next [ACU] meeting?'” Portillo said. “His yearning for knowledge really sticks out.”

Nguyen has worked hard to build up the ACU in the eyes of the community. With meetings increasing in size to about 40 people, and making it one of the most diverse groups behind LSU, Nguyen said he came into the job asking what he could do for the organization instead of what the organization could do for him.

“He really leads by example,” said Gary Washington, who met Nguyen through their fraternity. “He wouldn’t ask his cabinet to do something that he wouldn’t do himself. And with many different people in the organization he works hard to get them to think and to come together as one.”

Nguyen attributes part of his leadership ability, organizational skills and passion to the sports he played in high school.

“When things don’t go as planned you have to be able to change the plays like if you were playing sports. Sports have given me the drive to do things and get them done on my own,” said Nguyen.

Citing track as one of his biggest influences he said, “When a project is almost done, and people are tired of working and no one steps up, that’s like the last lap of a race. The last lap is always the hardest lap.”

And even when things do not go his way he does not give up. Even though the ACU lost University funding because of a mistake that he made on an appeals form to get more money, he still hopes the ACU will be able to continue with their events for next semester.

Nguyen hopes they can get enough money through co-funding and co-sponsorships that they will be able to invite comedian Eliot Chang and have a ping pong tournament.

Even without funding, ACU meetings, which take place at 8 p.m. every Tuesday in the Business Administration building room 1003, will continue to be an educational experience for all involved. With presentations about different countries, cultures, martial arts, comedy acts and Asian snacks, Nguyen said meetings are fun and engaging, a big change from last year’s meetings, he said.

With the growth of meeting attendance, and ACU activity with other organizations like LSU, Nguyen said he hopes he was more of an asset to the ACU instead of them being an asset to him.

But his peers said he did a great job for the ACU.

“He has a very, very bright future,” Washington said. “He is one of the most genuine, outstanding and honest men on campus.”

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