Foothill appoints first CA Vietnamese college president

Andrew Pouliot, Staff Reporter

Foothill College will appoint the first Vietnamese president of a California community college.

Thuy Thi Nguyen, 40, will be the first Vietnamese president of a California community college this summer after a recommendation was posed to the Foothill-De Anza Board of Trustees.

Thuy Thi Nguyen
Thuy Thi Nguyen

In an email to the Foothill-De Anza community, Judy Miner, chancellor of the FHDA Community College District, outlined what she was looking for in a presidential candidate.

“We said we wanted a passionate advocate for student success, someone who is willing to take risks to improve student outcomes,” Miner wrote. “We asked for a president who could articulate a clear vision, build a leadership team and unite the college behind initiatives to close the achievement gap. We wanted someone who would focus on equity, diversity and innovation to increase student access and success.”

Becky Bartindale, coordinator of communications and public affairs of the FHDA Community College District, explained the process of selection in an email.

“A 19-member hiring group made up of faculty, classified staff, students and administrators reviewed submissions from all applicants who met the minimum qualifications and selected which candidates to interview,” she wrote. “Three finalists were selected. The chancellor makes the recommendation to the board and board action is required to make the appointment.”

she wanted to play a part in correcting social injustice having seen the contrast between the “haves” and the “have nots” in society

According to the email, the decision will be finalized through a vote on Monday night. She also noted that there has never been an instance where the board did not accept the chancellor’s recommendation.

Nguyen came to the United States from a refugee camp in Japan after her family fled Vietnam at the end of the Vietnam War. She lived in Wichita, Kansas and New Orleans, Louisiana before settling in Oakland, California at the age of 14.

She attended Castlemont High School and served as a student representative on the Oakland Unified School District Board of Directors, as well as a brigade commander in the school’s Army JROTC program.

Nguyen earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at Yale University and then attended UCLA School of Law. She said she was inspired to go to law school because she wanted to play a part in correcting social injustice, having seen the contrast between the “haves” and “havenots” in society.

While still in law school she was selected to receive a Paul and Daisy Soros for New Americans Fellowship, which provides opportunities for new immigrants to achieve leadership positions in their chosen field and achieve the “American dream.” Nguyen was part of the inaugural class in the law school’s public interest law and policy program and earned a juris doctor degree.

She worked at a small law firm in Emeryville, providing legal counsel to school districts, before joining Peralta C o m m u n i t y College District as interim general counsel, the legal representation to the board and its four colleges. She also served as vice chancellor for human resources and district strategic planning manager.

Nguyen has taught education law at CSU East Bay for several years and has also written a book, “25 VietnameseAmericans in 25 Years,” which showcase prominent Vietnamese immigrants who have served their communities.

She will be replacing interim president Kimberlee Messina as president of Foothill College on July 1, 2016.