Student Spotlight - Ryan Nguyen

Ryan Nguyen

Three years ago, when USF business student Thang "Ryan" Nguyen moved to the United States from Vietnam, he could barely speak English. His uncle advised him that not being able to speak the language fluently would hold him back from achieving his goals.

"I couldn't keep a conversation for two minutes," he said.

So, Nguyen offered to tutor his classmates in math and science -- subjects in which he excelled -- in exchange for English lessons. He did well in high school, and chose USF because of its diversity and the opportunities it offers as a growing university.

He continued that strategy in college as a way to continue to learn English and make new friends. Now, just a few years later, Nguyen is a marketing major at USF, president of a student organization, and is a volunteer member of one of the college's most strenuous courses -- and he continues to pursue all his goals with the initiative that helped him learn a new language.

Although Nguyen started at USF as an information technology major -- a major that on its surface fit with his strengths of math and science -- Nguyen decided to follow his heart and pursue a business degree. He said that one day, standing in the business building, he knew he wanted a career with analysis and more of the human element.

Nguyen's father had hoped his son would become a banker, but Nguyen thought back to his childhood enjoyment of watching commercials on TV. He read some marketing books and connected with an involved USF MBA student and marketing professional, Tyler Freriks Ball, via LinkedIn. Nguyen said after speaking with Ball, he discovered his passion for the field.

"I realized that marketing is not just about advertising," he said. "It's about strategy."

Now, Nguyen is looking to pursue the data analytics side of marketing.

Nguyen has worked hard to learn everything he can about all aspects of marketing. This year, after taking instructor Carol Osborne's basic marketing course, he volunteered to be part of the Zimmerman Advertising Program class team that participates in the National Student Advertising Competition. He shows up for hours every week, without even earning course credit.

"I just want to learn," he said. "I have the chance to meet with marketing and advertising majors, the best in the two departments."

Osborne, who is also the adviser for the student ad competition course, said Nguyen works as hard as the students taking the course for credit.

"When I met him on the first day of basic marketing, he came up to me and said 'Can I be on the team?'" Osborne said. "And I said, 'You're in basic marketing, you're too green.' And he said, 'But how will I learn?' So I gave him the room and the date and I thought, 'This kid will never show up.'"

She underestimated his drive.

"He's never missed a meeting," she said.

In addition to his marketing coursework, Nguyen is also the president of Enactus, a student organization that has created business projects to help the community. Enactus has founded community service programs such as Suit-A-Bull, which offers business suits to USF students going to interviews and career fairs. Members of the organization also compete against other Enactus chapters at regional and national meetings. This year, the USF Enactus team won the regional competition presented USF's service projects and advanced to the finals in Kansas City.

Nguyen joined Enactus as a freshman hoping to make friends, and quickly advanced into leadership positions with the organization.

"I fell in love with the mission of the group," Nguyen said. "This is a unique organization because it allowed me to apply my business knowledge and turn it into action."

Throughout his activities, Nguyen remembers that his parents have sacrificed to help him achieve his dream of achieving an American education. Recently, Nguyen learned from his grandfather that his parents had sold their house in Vietnam and moved in with his grandparents to save money for his college education.

"I was shocked, but I knew that I couldn't do anything about the situation because it is in the past," Nguyen said. "So I'd rather focus my energy on my education and do the best I can to fulfill my parents' dreams."

Nguyen said he would advise other international students to dive into the opportunities USF offers so that they don't risk losing out. At the end of his freshman year, Nguyen joined the USF Counseling Center's "Stronger than I Knew" project, making a video to give inspiration to other students

Nguyen said he would tell other students to not let apparent obstacles stop them from achieving their dreams.

"If there's one thing I would tell them, it's don't be afraid to try new things," he said. "Don't be afraid to explore options, or opportunities. Just go for it."