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Studying with a Community Focus

Bryan Nguyen

2011 BA in International Affairs

Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona

Bryan Nguyen wants to see the world, but more importantly, he wants to discover more about it. A junior majoring in International Affairs, Bryan has an insatiable need to know more—about everything—so he's taking the opportunity to absorb his undergraduate experience while he lends a helping hand on campus and throughout Flagstaff.

Bryan's never-ending fact-finding mission is, of course, often academic, but between classes like the History of Mexico and Middle Eastern Politics, he is also devoting his time to community service. When he discovered that the campus chapter of Circle K, a national collegiate service organization sponsored by local Kiwanis clubs, was inactive, he and a friend took the initiative to revive it.

"We were two freshmen, doing all the paperwork, finding an adviser, and getting it started," he says.

Since then, the club has flourished and serves the Flagstaff community well. Members have contributed to the Adopt-a-Highway project, watching over South O'Leary Street, at the heart of Flagstaff's plagued Southside neighborhood. It is an area that has become a community focus for revitalization efforts. Bryan and other volunteers have directed their efforts to improving the safety and aesthetics of the area by serving as volunteer stewards. They engage in clean-up and planting projects on sections of the road.

In addition, Bryan and members of the revitalized Circle K organization worked at Hodgepodge Thrift Store, which benefits Northland Hospice, a local charity which provides palliative care to the terminally ill and their families. Circle K also helped a local family in need during the holidays, raising money that allowed them to give the family food, clothes, and toys.

As an intern with the Arizona Students' Association, Bryan also gains professional experience while advocating for student issues like accessibility to college, affordability of textbooks, and even lobbying the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Student Aid Fiscal Responsibility Act.

Not bad for a kid who decided he wanted to attend Northern Arizona University based on what he saw out of a school bus window. One glance at the pine trees dotting the landscape and Bryan, born and raised in Phoenix, was hooked.

"We were passing through Flagstaff on the way to New Mexico for a high school field trip," he says. "A teacher said, 'That's NAU,' and I said, 'Oh, I'm going there.'"

When he arrived on campus he thought he would be a secondary education major, but he decided he needed to be "more aware," so he investigated political science. Motivated to achieve an even broader perspective, he finally landed in the international affairs major. Bryan, who is already proficient in Vietnamese and Spanish, thought the major's in-depth language requirement would push him to be fluent.

"I have this urge to understand to the point where my curiosity gets the best of me sometimes," he says. "I still feel that I'm a novice and even though I may know more than the average person, still it's not enough."

Bryan has not been disappointed with that snap decision he made on the school bus a few years ago, raving about the connections he has been able to make not only with his professors, but with the Flagstaff community as well.

Bryan's academic program helps to shape his philosophies and critical thinking skills, while his passion to help others shapes his service efforts. As an undergraduate, his multi-faceted education is complemented by serving as a volunteer on behalf of Flagstaff's community. He looks forward to the near-future when his work and interests will expand to an international focus.