Apex-3 Workshops

Alumni Engagement


  1. Jenn Nhan

    Medical Doctorate Candidate, Former U of U VASA President

    Jenn Nhan received a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Utah and a Masters of Science in Pharmacology from Georgetown University. She will be graduating this year with a Medical Doctorate Degree from her undergraduate alma mater and will start her pediatric residency this summer! Her primary goal is to provide medical care for the underserved population, in particular the refugee and immigrant population. She was the University of Utah Vietnamese American Student Association President from 2011 to 2013 and identifies as Vietnamese American, pronouns she/her/hers.

    Jenn loves the great outdoors, from hiking to camping and visiting all the national parks in Utah. She is also an avid Utah Jazz fan through and through (her life would be complete with John Stockton/Karl Malone’s autograph). In her spare time, she enjoys recreating her mom’s Vietnamese dishes and baking cakes for all occasions. On a lazy Sunday, you can find her close to a book and a warm cup of tea.

    Jenn’s favorite quote is “Believe you can and you’re halfway there” — Theodore Roosevelt, and her favorite books are East of Eden, The Jungle, and A Little Life.

  2. Jessica Truong

    Professional Research Assistant at Denver Health

    Jessica Truong graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with a Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Physiology. Throughout her VSA career, she was a family leader for CU Boulder’s VSA and was a Council of Regional Representative for SWUVSA from 2015-2016. Jessica aspires to become a Clinical Research Coordinator/Moderator in pediatric oncology, initially gaining interest in this field by interning at a private research clinic, later working in wet lab and is currently doing opioid clinical research. She was also a phlebotomist, which has helped her immensely in the clinical trials world. In her spare time, when she’s not trying to help solve the opioid epidemic, she enjoys traveling (7 countries and counting), being with her friends and family, eating, and watching The Bachelor. The most meaningful piece of advice that she has received is, “Just do it. The worst that can happen is nothing.”

  3. John Tran

    SWUVSA External Vice President

    Graduated from University of Colorado Boulder with a Bachelor of Arts in Ethnic Studies, John Tran has been a very active member in his school’s VSA chapter, SWUVSA and UNAVSA. He is the current SWUVSA External Vice President, UNAVSA-15 Programming Director and a member on the UNAVSA Council of Regional Representatives. He was the SWUVSA CPP Chair in 2015. He was also a team member for UNAVSA’s CPP Campaign and Public Relations. Furthermore, he served as committee member for UNAVSA-14’s Programming Committee and UNAVSA-13 Entertainment Committee. With an interest in student affairs and higher education, focusing on academic advising, admissions, and policies affecting first generation students, John will be pursuing a Master’s degree in Higher Education this upcoming Fall. He is currently working for CU Dermatology Clinic as a Front Desk Coordinator. John has worked as a pharmacy technician and a medical scribe in the past. One of John’s favorite books is “The Namesake”.

  4. Thuy Trang

    Dental Assistant of Gartland Family Dentistry and Former President of VSA Boulder

    Thuy Trang is a recent graduate from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a bachelors in Integrative Physiology. In 2013, she was crowned Miss Asian American Colorado which was where she began her work within the Asian community. She began her career in VSA as a freshman on the 2013 CPP Campaign team. The following years, she fell into a deep VSA hole where she got involved any chance she could get from VSA Boulder President in 2015-2016 to UNAVSA’s Civic Engagement Committee in 2017. Although VSA has been a big part of her life, a bigger part of her life is pursuing a future in dentistry. She works full time as a dental assistant while preparing to apply for dental school this upcoming cycle. She hopes to be able to be a public health dentist who caters to marginalized communities. Once established as a dentist, she hopes that she can contribute her time and resources into the Denver public education system as well as provide scholarships for students to pursue STEM fields. For hobbies, Thuy really enjoys the company of her friends, eating with her friends, karaoking with her friends and getting attention from her friends.

    Her favorite quote is, “Set your life on fire and seek those who fan your flames.” — Will Smith, because she believes that her growth is not possible without surrounding herself with supportive loved ones.

  5. Tina Li

    Marketing Coordinator at Wardenburg Health Services, Former President at SWUVSA

    Tina Li graduated from The University of Colorado Boulder with a Bachelor of Arts in Physiology and Psychology in 2014. She has worked as Program Coordinator for UC Boulder’s Community Health, SLS Professional and is currently a Marketing Coordinator at UC Boulder’s Wardenburg Health Services. Her areas of expertise is health communication and health equity. Tina’s involvement with VSA started at her university’s chapter. Tina was UC Boulder VSA’s Vice President in 2011 and was the Secretary the following year. She held many other leadership positions with SWUVSA and UNAVSA such as SWUVSA’s External Vice President (2013-2014), President (2014-2015) UNAVSA’s Leadership Development Committee (2013-2014), CORR (2013-2014), UNAVSA-11 Entertainment Committee, and Seminar Committee (2017-present). In her spare time, Tina likes to travel, try new food, read, and draw. Her favorite quote is, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” — Maya Angelou.


This workshop is the perfect opportunity for you to get up close and personal with some of Southwest’s incredible alumni! In this creatively-formatted workshop, we encourage engagement and invite you to network with distinguished scholars and professionals who genuinely care about you and your experience. This is your time to ask these visionary leaders any questions you may have about VSA involvement, personal development, professional development and more, while connecting through your shared stories and experiences!

  1. Jenn Nhan: Medical Doctorate Candidate, Former U of U VASA President
  2. Jessica Truong: Professional Research Assistant at Denver Health
  3. John Tran: SWUVSA External Vice President
  4. Thuy Trang: Dental Assistant of Gartland Family Dentistry, Former President of VSA CU Boulder
  5. Tina Li: Marketing Coordinator at Wardenburg Health Services, Former President of SWUVSA

Asian American Representation in Media: Implications for Critical Leadership


  1. Paul Fisk

    Transfer Program Coordinator, over Asian American Programs for the University of Utah Center for Ethnic Student Affairs (CESA)

    Paul Fisk obtained his Bachelors in Liberal Studies from the University of Central Florida, Masters of Education in Education Culture and Society (ECS) from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing his PhD in ECS at the same university. He held several positions in the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL): President in 2013, Co-president in 2009, Vice President in 2007, board member from 2006 to 2013, and was on National JACL freshman scholarship committee chair from 2011 to 2013. His other involvements included but not limited to being a co-advisor for U of U VASA, officer of U of U Asian American Student Association (AASA) in 2016 and was the first AASA social justice chair/director that same year. He had taught Ethnic Studies and related courses at the U of U but as of right now he is working as a Transfer Program Coordinator for U of U Center for Ethnic Student Affairs (CESA) and as an advisor for AASA and VASA. One interesting fact about Paul is that he is a big comic book fan, with social justice theme in particular.

  2. Tricia Sugiyama

    Senior Director, Equity and Diversity, University of Utah

    Tricia Sugiyama earned her Bachelor in Family and Consumer Studies at the University of Utah. She is currently a Senior Director for Equity and Diversity at the University of Utah and is a Director of Center for Ethnic Student Affairs. She formerly worked as a Student Involvement Director for Student Equity and Diversity (University of Utah), First-Year Experience and Asian American Program Coordinator (University of Utah), AASA Advisor, VASA Advisor, and Interim Director of the State Office of Asian Affairs (State of Utah). Her credibility is also established from her past experience working as State of Utah Asian American Advisory Council support staff and as a Board member for the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL). She enjoys most things from the geek culture. She has two fur babies and is a HUGE helicopter parent when it comes to them. She loves and wants all dogs to be hers. She enjoys reading, traveling and brunching. Tricia also likes gaming when she has the time and fishing games are her favorite.


This workshop will provide a basic understanding of how Asian Americans continue to be missing or misrepresented within the media and its impact upon communities and how we can advocate for change. Through critical analysis of different modes of media (print, comic books, ads, movies, online presence and more), we will examine the stereotypes that have existed and continue to persist. We will further determine how these topics of conversation influence how we interact with our peers and the organizations we are involved in every day.

One of the major takeaways will assess how we use our voices for change, looking at how we can truly organize as a community to push for change and move forward. Taking into consideration how each attendee will be starting off at different places in their levels of social activism and knowledge, we will slowly and surely gain insight into the bigger picture together.

Exploring our Privilege and Oppression


  1. Irene Ota

    Diversity Coordinator at the University of Utah College of Social Work

    Irene Maya Ota is an Academic Program Manager, Diversity Coordinator, and Associate Instructor at the University of Utah College of Social Work. She has a BA in Cultural Anthropology, a Master in Public Administration, and is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Education, Culture, and Society. Her research interests focus on critical space theory, identity formation, and social justice advocacy and action. She has taught diversity/social justice courses for over 18 years.
    Her life experiences and education have spurred her interest and passion in social justice education, issues, and advocacy.

    She presents workshops and presentations because that it how she feels she can push for social justice, equality and equity. She would like to teach for as long as she can and will continue to host workshops surrounding social justice issues. Because of her life experiences as a Japanese American with immigrant parents and being in an interracial marriage to an African American and having biracial daughters, this work is incredibly personal to her. Her education has taught her that it is systemic and that it is wrong – she believes that we need to work together to take down the structures of privileges and oppression. And the first way to do that is to be aware of it and validate that it exists.

    This quote keeps her going: “Remember, we don’t fail when we disagree. We fail when we go quiet and walk away. Stick around. Be honest. Don’t be scared. Or be scared, but don’t be quiet.”

    Irene enjoys reading for pleasure and likes books that speak to family relationships with diverse identities. She also love humor. Her most recent read is “The Girl in the Spider’s Web.” She also reads a lot of non-fiction books relevant to social justice, the most recent of which is “Democracy Unchained,” a book she describes as informative and alarming, as it looks at how our democracy is being manipulated into something it shouldn’t be.


This dialogue and activity-based workshop aims to bring awareness and consciousness to how privilege and oppression are structured in our society. The conversation will heavily delve beyond surface-level discussion and really explore how privilege and oppression can be complicated by situations and circumstances.

s is a highly interactive workshop that uses an unconventional approach to educate on a subject in an engaging manner that can truly create a lasting positive impact on the way that we respectively view our intersecting identities. We will ponder our history and current situations and circumstances to then ponder what our future might look like – in order to shape the future that we want to see.

Hey YOU! Stop Daydreaming: 4 Tips on Rekindling Your Creative Juices and to Start Pursuing Your Desired Passion


  1. Olyvia Chac Nguyen

    Patient Access Specialist

    Olyvia Chac Nguyen graduated from Oregon State University in 2015 with a Bachelors of Science in Health Behavior and Health Promotion. She wants to work for an advertising agency in the near future but for right now, she is working as a Patient Access and Pharmacy Technician on the weekdays and is a barista on the weekends. Her VSA involvements range from being historian, public relations, and junior advisor for her own university’s VSA chapter to being summit staff, CoRR, and camp family leader for NWVSA. Furthermore, Olyvia also took her VSA commitment to a greater scale by working with UNAVSA Marketing and Public Relations, UNAVSA-14 Marketing Director and as UNAVSA Blog Editor-in-Chief. One interesting fact about Olivia is that she is left-handed but she can use both hands. She likes coffee, blogging, takes pictures of food for Instagram, and traveling. One of the most meaningful pieces of advice she has ever received is, “You are the only one standing in the way of your dreams.


Whatever your desired passions may be, there are some tips to incorporating it to become apart of your daily life. This workshop is to get you thinking about how to develop your side passions and unlock your creativity. Attendees will participate in brief mini-discussions and combine their thoughts to reach the end of the workshop and create their own physical takeaways as a reminder to follow up on their passion plans or goals.

If you hope to gain insight on various thought processes and receive tips on how to re-introduce your love for your passions, then this is the workshop for you!

I am a Dream Director


  1. Dat Nguyen

    Leadership Life Coach

    Dat Nguyen is an experienced leadership trainer, adventurer, life coach, and specializes in bringing out the best in others. For the past decade, he is known for his high energy seminars that instill in his audience a drive to step beyond their limitations and motivate change within themselves. Furthermore, Dat facilitates discussions and activities to improve soft skills for professionals who want to communicate and interact better with others. In addition, he enhances leadership qualities by implementing an everyday “win condition”. Dat’s goal as a trainer and leader is to be able to network and create positive mindsets for those who are ready to gain confidence and become great leaders within their careers and communities. Ultimately, Dat teaches others to be the guiding light and spreads the positivity with the lessons and stories he shares: “Spread the Light and Be the Light.”


Think of the best movie you have ever seen. Now, think about how many events, edits, and ideas the director had to make to create an entertaining and successful movie. Overall, movies require patience and skills, and with the right amount of creativeness, the director can create one of the best movies for the big screen.

The way that we direct our lives play the exact same way. Our career and personal goals require a lot of effort and should be carefully thought out. Accomplishing these personal and professional achievements is similar to filming a movie yourself. Everyday we are experiencing scenes with many characters, conflicts, and scripts. In this workshop, we will break down the elements of living your life and direct them towards your dream goals. Are you treating your aspirations with the same mindset of directing them?

Lights, smile, & action! We will learn together to direct our everyday scenes and goals. You will become the Dream Director. The objective is to break the confidence barrier and become more aware of your potential by editing and creating your own scenes. Recruit your cast and play along as we have fun producing this movie, your movie.

Problem Solving & Critical Thinking:
One of the Most Underutilized and Absolutely Necessary Skills to Overcome Stagnation


  1. Nick Tang

    Administrative Coordinator, Board of Directors, UVSA SoCal

    Growing up in predominantly Caucasian communities and having no prior community involvement, the culture shock of joining VSA in college helped Nick discover his cultural identity and propelled him to grow as a servant leader. He has been active with UVSA SoCal, UNAVSA, and supports other regional UVSAs in their growth and development. Nick is an avid graphics designers and in his spare time enjoys focusing his energy on developing non-profit volunteer organizations.


In this session, we will examine critical thinking and problem solving as a means to overcome organizational stagnation using case studies from VSA and similar organizations. From project management to membership retention, we’ll start the difficult and exciting process to address VSA’s most common problems.

This is the perfect workshop for attendees who would like to progress further in their organizational involvement and understanding, regardless of their starting point!

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: A Conversation about the Past, Present and Future of Vietnamese Culture


  1. DC Nguyen

    Designer, GBD Architects Inc


    D.C. Nguyen was born and raised in San Diego, California. He largely credits his involvement with the VSA at University of Oregon in shaping his cultural identity as a Vietnamese American. D.C. claims being involved in VSA has enabled him to grow as an individual, friend and leader. It’s also helped connect him more to his mother, who is so glad to have been introduced to the VSA family. Since graduating, D.C. has continued to serve VSA in a number of capacities as a Northwest VSA Regional Representative, Summit Co-Executive Director, UNAVSA-11 and 12 committee member and most recently the former President of Northwest VSA. He currently works as a Designer for GBD Architects Inc. in Portland, Oregon. In his free time, D.C. enjoys fishing, cooking, playing tennis and annoying his cat, Finn.

  2. Tonga Nguyen

    Cô Nga Nguyen, Social Work Counselor, DDS

    Tonga is a Vietnam War refugee from Saigon, Vietnam. Her family fled Saigon in April 1975 and arrived in the U.S. shortly after. She received her BA in English Literature from San Diego State University. In her professional life, Cô Tonga was a San Diego Unified School District Counselor and a certified court interpreter, translator and transcriber for California Federal and District Court. She currently works as a Social Work Counselor for the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) and also participates in training medical and nursing students from UCSD and USD on cultural awareness and proper personal interaction between healthcare providers/medical professionals and patients of Asian/Vietnamese descent. However, the best and most rewarding job she has had so far is being a mom to two exceptional kids. In her free time, Cô Tonga enjoys traveling, listening to NPR, playing crossword puzzles and watching movies.


How many of us have wondered about how our parents left Vietnam? There are so many questions as to how, when and under what circumstances our families left everything they knew to start a new life in a new country. We, as children of refugees and immigrants, grew up straddling two different cultures and two different cultural identities.

The amalgamation of these conflicting and overlapping facets of who we are, the struggles of acculturation, the generational gaps that become increasingly apparent as time progresses – This workshop provides a unique yet relatable perspective as mother and son take you through their stories and encourage you to immerse yourself in thought about your upbringing and community. This discussion seeks to shed light on who we are, where we came from, and hopefully, where we will go together.