Nhu-Phuong Duong ’19

Major(s) at Marymount:

Class of 2016: Double major in Philosophy & English, minor in Performance and Media Studies

Class of 2019: Master’s in English & the Humanities

I graduated as an undergraduate from Marymount in 2016. In Summer of 2017, I started a Pathways Internship at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Not long after I started the internship, I enrolled in the Master’s program at Marymount University. In August 2017, I was working in three roles: as a graduate student, a full-time program analyst, and a writing consultant/teaching assistant. Upon graduation in 2019, I was converted into a permanent position within Veterinary Services at the USDA. Since then, I maintain oversight over an organization with 1700 employees while providing analytical and regulatory support to the U.S. Chief Veterinary Officer as his deputy chief of staff.

 What challenges or obstacles did you face in your academic career? And how were you able to overcome them?

One of the main obstacles/challenges I remember was teaching business writing to the graduate health care management students. The first few weeks of lecturing, I knew immediately it wasn’t going to be an easy position to be in. Although I was confident in my ability to provide guidance to my graduate peers, I also recognized that many of the students saw my background as not one that could be “technical” or helpful. It didn’t help either that I was a younger person from a foreign background coming in to teach writing. Despite that, I spent several nights preparing lectures and exercises for the students, as well as setting up one-on-one office hours for those that cared or were interested. The students were hesitant to attend the office hours, afraid that their peers would judge them for needing help with “writing”.

The first two students I saw regularly once a week started to see a change in their grades, quickly jumping from C’s to A’s. Once other students saw that I wasn’t inexperienced and had previously supported other students in the healthcare and nursing fields, the number of appointments drastically increased, with my schedule filling up even on weekends.

The hard part about studying English Literature or any liberal arts major for that matter is reframing already existing perceptions of yourself. My go-to approach is to show the student that I’m learning from them just as much as they’re learning from me, and in that way, they can learn to trust my process.

How did your experiences at Marymount impact your life?

Marymount was certainly eye-opening. My first few years at Marymount, I quickly learned that leadership was shared and in abundance. The opportunities to be a leader was endless and there were different ways to be a leader. My biggest flaw may be that I tend to stretch myself thin (and many of my past professors will agree).

What are your future career, service, or other goals?

My goal is to create some good in existing dysfunctional structures—to debunk the stereotypes that do exist in my day-to-day work life.

 What advice would you give to prospective students in your field?

My advice is that it doesn’t matter where you go to study literature or the arts. As long as you have the drive and the resources, you’ll figure out how to find your place in the real world. Be your most authentic self and approach each situation with mindfulness of the world around you.


Profile interview conducted by Michael Weeks