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Anna Xuan Nguyen ’18 charted new territory when she donned a cap and gown last spring.

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First-generation grad overcomes obstacles with hard work, lands job

Pacific’s CIP program helped alumna to make dreams possible
Feb 5, 2019

Anna Xuan Nguyen '18 charted new territory when she donned a cap and gown last spring.

"I'm an only child and the oldest grandchild, so I had a lot of pressure to succeed," said the Pacific alumna, who was not only the first in her family to receive a college degree but maintained a grade point average that earned her the distinction of graduating cum laude.

With dreams of one day running her own business, the 23-year-old Stockton native majored in business administration with an emphasis on marketing and entrepreneurship in the Eberhardt School of Business.

Although she had been accepted to other universities, Pacific's proximity to her family and its small classes factored heavily in her decision to come here.  But collecting her diploma was no cakewalk; Nguyen accomplished it despite financial, academic and emotional hardships.

"Pacific was really challenging," said the transfer student from San Joaquin Delta College, recalling the monthly tests she had in every business class along with at least one group presentation each semester.

No fan of math, Nguyen struggled with the calculations required in finance courses, including applying algebraic equations.

However, she found the support she needed in Pacific's Community Involvement Program (CIP), which provides financial aid and other services for local low-income, first-generation college students who have demonstrated leadership potential.

CIP awarded Nguyen the largest of her three scholarships and offered a spacious lounge where she could be found nearly every day forging the friendships that became her support network.

"It was great to have a 'safe place' to be myself," she said.

She studied, ate, socialized and volunteered in the community with CIP's other students, who rallied around Nguyen when her father died in 2017, followed by her grandfather shortly before she graduated.

"It was a really hard time for me, but I had the emotional support of my entire family from CIP that helped me make it through those hard times," Nguyen said.

Students enrolled in CIP must take at least 16 units each semester, maintain a minimum 2.0 grade-point average and attend biweekly meetings where they plan community volunteer projects.

But the challenge didn't faze Nguyen, whose mother had encouraged her to get a job in high school so she'd be better prepared to juggle the commitments competing for her time in college.

And she was.

During Nguyen's two years at Pacific, she was elected vice president of the national honor society Phi Kappa Phi's chapter on campus, worked the front desk of the library, and completed a stint at the Career Resource Center.

She also took advantage of the center's services, participating in mock interviews, networking with recruiters at campus career fairs, and attending a multicourse meal, where she learned the etiquette she'd need if she had a business meeting over dinner.

In addition to a paycheck from those jobs, Nguyen picked up customer service and social media skills, including editing promotional videos for YouTube and learning what kind of content to share for maximum reach.

After graduating, she leveraged that knowledge to land a full-time job on campus as a marketing coordinator for University of the Pacific International, a program that works with international students preparing to study at Pacific. Nguyen's duties include managing the website, hosting college recruiters and giving campus tours for prospective international students.

Understanding the value of education, she's considering graduate school in the next few years either to pursue a master's in business or study graphic design.

Nguyen has no doubts that her hard work paid off.

"I took a little bit longer (to graduate) than I wanted to but ... just the fact that I've gone to a prestigious university will allow me more opportunities," she said.

Her advice to other students is to persevere.

"Go for it," she said, adding that they shouldn't let the cost of an education come between them and their dreams. "If you come to Pacific, you're going to get a good job that's going to allow you to pay off those loans."

Other Pacific alumni are enjoying success similar to Nguyen's: six months after graduation, just over 90 percent of the students in her Pacific graduating class reported that they either were working, had been accepted to graduate school, were completing an internship or volunteering for a nonprofit.    

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