Dat Nguyen ’11

By STEPHANIE WEISS

Unlocking possibilities and potential

Success in the sciences started for Dat Nguyen when his photographer father lectured him on the solar system. It was 1995 and the two were taking pictures of the total solar eclipse in Vietnam. Nguyen was more interested in how the camera and solar system worked than in the photos.

Nguyen, who is Buddhist, said that his success also can be traced to selling candy at his mother’s store, and performing improvisational theater with American students visiting Vietnam in 2004. It was through these experiences that Nguyen learned to break out of his comfort zone.

“As a Buddhist, we aren’t real loud or active. You have to break out of your shell and contribute,” Nguyen said.

The American students that Nguyen’s family hosted invited him in 2005 to an improvisational theater camp in Colorado.

“I didn’t expect to be invited to America when we hosted the students,” he said. “But I’ve found that if you do something voluntarily, without expectation, something automatically will come back.”

In Nguyen’s case, that “something” turned out to be lifechanging relationships that resulted from his theater performances in Colorado. He met Peter Yarrow—of Peter, Paul and Mary—and later sang backup with Yarrow when the singer was in Vietnam for a fundraiser. He also connected with a group of families who offered to sponsor his education by providing his tuition, health insurance, and a stipend.

In the sciences, Nguyen credits his success to the strong advising, encouragement and opportunities provided by his Augsburg professors, all of whom encouraged him to explore his curiosities and broad-ranging scientific interests.

He will continue to feed his unlimited curiosity this fall as a graduate student at Dartmouth, where he has earned a full scholarship. He said he is looking forward to continuing his studies in a setting similar to Augsburg College—one with a smaller department where he can connect and interact with many people.

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