Tiffany Thuy Kim Nguyen

Hometown: Overland Park, Kansas

Major: BS in Public and Nonprofit Management
Expected Graduation Date: May 2018

Why did you decide on a degree in Public Affairs?

When I was a freshman, I was in limbo. Originally a Biochemistry major, pre-med, I decided I didn't want to become a doctor and switched to undeclared after 3 weeks of college. After 2 semesters of having no set major and taking classes in computer science, ATEC, arts and humanities, I visited a career consultant at the UTD Career Center. What really helped me find my path was when she patiently and kindly walked with me through all the degrees offered and read the course descriptions of classes for degrees I said I might like.

I knew I liked people, I liked thinking about how people relate to one another, and I wanted to serve others in whatever I did. When she mentioned Public Affairs, I immediately felt curious. And when we read the descriptions for Organizational Theory and Behavior and Nonprofit Management, it felt like everything clicked, like this was the degree for me. I enjoyed volunteering and thinking about how organizations come together and function. It was amazing to see something directly catered to those interests. The degree has the human, other-oriented component that I want from my studies, and it takes a wide, organizational overview. Since I first went through all those course descriptions, I've felt like Public and Nonprofit Management fits me the best.

What do you like about your Program at UT Dallas?

One part of the program that means a lot to me is that all of my professors have been endlessly kind and compassionate. I have the chance to know many of my professors personally, during conversations outside of class, and they each make me feel like I am a valuable person on campus. They've striven to give me additional resources that would be helpful, like letting me know about scholarships, or programs I can apply for, or loaning me a book (or several) that might help me grow as a person. For my interest in research, this program is great because with one of my professors, Dr. Sabharwal, I've been able to work on a paper and present it at a professional conference. That was really made possible because this program's professors are often willing to let undergraduates join them in their scholarly work. Both the content of the degree itself and the people who help transmit that knowledge make this program wonderful.

Plans for the Future

I am currently debating my next steps, so there is a lot of uncertainty. I've been encouraged to consider public service, but I have reflected on if I want to preface that work experience with a master's degree or if I want to get my PhD. Because I enjoy volunteering and nonprofit work, nonprofit consulting is a field I have thought about entering should I obtain a degree higher than my undergraduate. I realized I am more research-minded than I thought when I began college, so I may choose academia after finishing more courses in the master's in public administration through the Fast Track program. Some days, however, I plan to work at a nonprofit after I graduate

So I have several alternatives I could take. I am now in the stages of gathering information on all the paths I've wondered about pursuing: through lining up future extracurricular experiences and consulting my professors and simply going out and doing things in all those different directions so I can make well-informed decisions in the coming year.

Advice to Prospective EPPS Students

There are several classes in EPPS, and in the Public and Nonprofit Management degree specifically that don't have prerequisites. They are great opportunities to test the waters and see if this program fits you. Stay after class to talk to your professors - about the course material but also to seek their counsel if you're unsure on the direction you might want to go.

If you are taking a class in EPPS, let yourself speak up in class and contribute to the dialogue if there's an opportunity to do so. Even as students, and perhaps especially so, you can add value to your own education and that of others by offering to the discussion your understanding, your analysis of a topic being taught. I know I've deeply appreciated hearing others' thoughts on Public Management, for example, because my classmates' work experiences differ from my own.

What's been helpful for me in honing my understanding of a concept is trying to make connections between my different classes during discussions. Through doing this, I've been able to add to the dynamic of my classes, build relationships with my classmates and professors, and get more out of what is available to me at UTD.

Interests

I enjoy listening to music, laughing, writing in my journal, and spending time with my friends. Sometimes when I'm feeling inspired, I'll sing an Amy Winehouse song or two and dance a little dance.