Nina Duong Addresses Fellow Graduates as GSE Convocation 2013 Student Speaker

Student Speaker Nina DuongIn a visit to the Rutgers New Brunswick campus during her senior year, Nina Duong says she “fell in love with the university”.  A standout component of the campus for the prospective student was the Office of Veteran and Military Programs and Services. Between her junior and senior undergraduate years, Duong spent a year and a half in military service: six months for training and preparation, and one year in Iraq. During the visit she also discovered that Dr. Florence Hamrick, coordinator of the College Student Affairs program at the Graduate School of Education (GSE), had research interests in the veteran student population. For Duong, staying in her home state of Texas was an option – one with its own benefits; but she did not wish to forfeit the opportunity to expand.

Duong became interested in student affairs much in the organic way many professionals find their way into the field: being knee-deep in campus engagement. As a commuter student, she recalls sleeping on couches in the commons area of her undergraduate institution during her first semester, where she awaited night meetings of student organizations. At eight in the morning, her classes began. She knew she needed to find a way to stay and keep involved on campus.

“Before that moment, I felt like I wasn’t good at anything — like I didn’t know my place in the world,” remembers Duong. “I went to college because that is what my mom had in store for me. That’s just part of your life plan. Check mark, check mark, check mark. It was all predetermined. At the end of that first year though, I knew I was good at working with incoming students, and I knew I had purpose. I [now] recognize I needed to be on campus. This is where I belong. This is where I thrive.”

As the College Student Affairs Program prepares to usher in its fifth cohort this Fall, Duong gets the honor of being the first student representative of her graduate program to speak at the GSE commencement ceremony, on Sunday, May 19. She has certainly earned her place on the stage. Since enrolling in the program, she has worked towards developing competencies in her practice, as set forth by the organization NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education; contributed to the field of student affairs and veteran student populations through a vignette published in Dr. Hamrick’s newest book, Called to Serve; and has taken on a summer leadership experience project called Camp UKnight, which with the help of the Rutgers orientation team, will prove to be Duong’s largest organized event yet.

Duong was nominated by Dr. Paul Herman, faculty member in the GSE, and then selected by the GSE’s commencement committee to be this year’s student speaker. Duong addressed her fellow graduates at the Convocation for the Graduate School of Education, held at the College Avenue Gym on Sunday, May 19, 2013.  Learn more about the GSE's 2013 convocation and view photos here.

Watch Nina's speech here: