UMKC junior Tim Nguyen is the former president of the UMKC Pre-Dental Society, a supplemental instruction (SI) leader, a discussion group leader for the Honors College and a teaching assistant for two chemistry classes.
Now, Nguyen is running for SGA president to continue impacting the lives of students at UMKC.
“I want UMKC students to feel a sense of belonging, foster that sense of community and show that each person that attends UMKC can be a person for their community, not just in their community,” Nguyen said.
The biology-pre-dentistry major grew up in Cedar Rapids, IA, but moved to Lee’s Summit the summer before his freshman year of high school. Most of his family, immigrants from Vietnam, live in Texas and Florida.
Nguyen expressed fond memories of living with his grandparents when he was younger, learning to speak Vietnamese to communicate with them (which he still speaks fluently) along with English and Spanish.
Growing up, Nguyen loved going to the dentist, which he admits is unusual. Nguyen said his mom’s work as a dental hygienist originally attracted him to the profession, where he saw the relationships and community his mom was able to build with her patients.
“I want to instil confidence in the younger generation and people of any age,” Nguyen said, “from the moment you put on their braces you are directly helping make a difference in every single person’s life, which is important to me.”
Nguyen had the opportunity to indirectly work with the SGA through his position as the treasurer of the Pre-Dental Society during his first year at UMKC. Now entering his senior year, he says wants to give back by improving the college experience for current and incoming students.
His key areas of focus include student involvement, professional development and community service.
According to Nguyen, the biggest issue facing UMKC is student involvement. Nguyen said he’s dedicated to improving student engagement on campus by eliminating barriers that might deter students from getting involved.
Overall, Nguyen said UMKC handled the COVID-19 pandemic well, but could have more consistency across campus when it comes to regulations.
“Why is it that people live in the same dorm or go to the [cafeteria] and sit at the same table, but can’t go to the library and study at the same table?” Nguyen said.
Another barrier to student engagement, according to Nguyen, is online burnout. He said that UMKC does well when it comes to mental health but the university should bring more awareness toward the accessibility, availability and affordability of the resources and students have.
“Our student body comes from many different walks of life, so many are open to listen, talk and discuss mental health,” Nguyen said. “We can always work towards making more strides of progress and improvement in this area, especially with COVID-19 and post COVID-19, to ensure nobody feels left behind or unheard.”
Many students over the past year have expressed their disappointment over the last year with UMKC’s on-campus living arrangements, especially with recent flooding in Johnson Hall.
Nguyen said student housing is an area that needs to be worked on and improved, and said he is willing to communicate with residential life coordinators, students and faculty to explore options for improvement.
“I want students to know that I want to listen first before I act,” said Nguyen. “I believe in the diversity of thought and the importance of different committees bringing student’s ideas to the table and then working to implement those changes together.”
Another key area of focus for Nguyen is professional development.
Nguyen said he has high hopes for the UMKC Forward plan that was announced by Chancellor Agrawal last week, specifically about the “professional mobility escalators” that will put an emphasis on mentorship and preparation for professional programs.
“The mentors that I’ve connected with play an invaluable role in my experience at UMKC, something that money cannot buy,” said Nguyen.
When Nguyen first arrived at UMKC as a Trustee Scholarship recipient, he wasn’t assigned a mentor like other students in the program. However, seeking his own mentor allowed him to connect with former UMKC School of Dentistry dean Marsha Pyle. The pair met frequently throughout his freshman and sophomore year.
Another one of his mentors, Suzanne Shank, a retired healthcare professional and lawyer, has been particularly beneficial to Nguyen by connecting him to dentists in the Kansas City area.
“My husband and I have been so delighted working with Tim,” said Shank. “He is brilliant yet so unassuming, charming yet serious, particularly when it comes to education and helping others.”
Nguyen said he is able to give back to students by supporting them through his roles as a supplemental instructor and discussion group leader for Biology 108 and as a teaching assistant for chemistry courses.
“His success in these endeavors is rooted in his ability to communicate effectively and to relate and empathize in a very real way with the students he mentors,” said Dr. James Benevides, Nguyen’s biology advisor. “Whether it relates to course work or being away from home for the first time, Tim can assuage those feelings of trepidation that many students experience. The leadership qualities he embodies are rare in someone his age.”
By revamping the First Semester Experience (FSE) course, or providing a community service alternative, Nguyen says students could get more out of their UMKC experience while impacting the greater Kansas City community.
One of his visions is to invite student organizations, pre-professional programs and community service organizations to speak to classes to help students get connected.
If a community service alternative was provided to the FSE, Nguyen said it should be something scalable that can benefit transfer students as well. For example, if the requirement was 10 hours of service per student, and someone came into UMKC with 3 years of previous college, then they would only have to complete 2.5 hours.
“If we had every student complete 2.5 hours of service in the fall of 2020, we would have over 73,000 hours of community service as a whole,” Nguyen said
Nguyen reiterated that student feedback is essential and he plans to seek out student’s voices regarding FSE implementation.
Voting for this year’s election will take place March 23-26 on RooGroups.