#PROFspective: Vietnamese Student Association President Brianna Nghiem

Brianna Nghiem and members of the Vietnamese Student Association hang out on Rowan Boulevard

Today, we speak with Brianna Nghiem, a junior Biological Sciences major from Cherry Hill, NJ (Camden County) who lives on-campus. Brianna will share her #PROFspective with us on what it’s like to be a Rowan University student and how she’s getting the most out of her college experience as a Rowan Prof.

Name: Brianna Nghiem
Major: Biological Sciences (3+4 BS/DO Program)
Minors and concentrations: Bantivoglio Honors Concentration in the Honors College
Year: Junior
Hometown and County: Cherry Hill, NJ (Camden County)
Resident: Yes, I live in 220 Rowan Boulevard
Academic clubs: Bantivoglio Leadership and Service Training Program (Mentor)
Social clubs you are a part of: Vietnamese Student Association (President)

Biological Sciences major Brianna Nghiem sits on a bench outside of Barnes & Noble

Share an “aha!” moment you’ve had within your major that made you feel passionate about your intended field. One moment in my major that made me feel passionate about my intended field was in my Intro to Cellular Biology class with Dr. [Gregory] Eaton. Learning about the different cellular processes in life and its complexity was an extraordinary experience. Although I have always known that I wanted to go to medical school, this class truly furthered my love for medicine.

Describe an experience you’ve shared with a professor in which you felt like you were working with a visionary in your field. When I was a freshman, I had a biology professor who I was very intimidated by on the first day of college. However, upon getting to know him during class and visits to office hours, it was apparent that he truly cared for his students and genuinely wanted us to all succeed academically and personally. Over the semester, he helped me develop proper study habits, manage my stress and ease my transition to college. He really helped to shape me into the student I am today. I have nothing but appreciation to have had him as a professor.

Biological Sciences major Brianna Nghiem sits with members of the VSA at Kung Fu Tea on Rowan Boulevard
“I try to encourage friendships by having our meetings in fun spots,” Brianna (second from right) says.

Describe an on-campus experience (academic or non-academic) in which you felt that your future goals are supported.  When I was in high school, I was the President of my school’s Vietnamese Culture Club, where I developed passions for my culture as a Vietnamese American. During Summer 2017, as I was about to enter college, I always aspired to start a Vietnamese organization at Rowan with similar values to my high school club. The mission was to have an organization where interested students can unite and appreciate the beauty of the Vietnamese culture and traditions.

By fall 2018, three other students (Catherine Nguyen, Jessica Do, Jessica Liu) and I worked together to form the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA). Dr. Thanh Nguyen, our advisor, has been incredibly supportive with this journey and with all of VSA’s goals. I am so blessed to have met such amazing individuals who are my biggest supporters and who constantly push me to become a better person of myself. As a result, VSA has made me realize my true potential and capabilities as a leader, as well as becoming my platform to connect with and provide support to others. 

Could you share a moment you’ve experienced in which you have felt that Rowan is a welcoming environment for you? Through the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA), I was able to meet a family of unique yet compatible individuals, each of whom I am so grateful for. VSA embodies empowerment, inclusivity and cultural advocacy. Over this past year, VSA has become an outlet and safe space for not only my creativity, but also for my growth as an individual. The people I have met through VSA have helped mold me into the person I am today. I’m so privileged and honored to go through this journey in celebrating such a beautiful culture with them. Everyone in VSA has made me feel at home at Rowan.

Why did you choose Rowan? While I was applying to colleges, I had a close friend who was completing his education at Rowan. He shared with me his experiences and all of the wonderful opportunities he received through Rowan. As I researched more, I found that Rowan would provide me the best college experience in preparing me for medical school. The 3+4 BS/DO Program with Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine allows me to receive my bachelor’s degree and medical degree in seven years. Being here, I have met a community who is incredibly supportive of my dream and passion in becoming a physician. Deciding to come to Rowan was one of the best decisions I could have ever made.

Biological Sciences major Brianna Nghiem holds up a T-shirt with the Vietnamese Student Association logo on it.What’s your favorite thing about your typical Monday at Rowan? My favorite thing about a typical Monday at Rowan are the Executive Board meetings for the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA). Normally, our E-board meets on Monday mornings and everyone brings their favorite breakfast foods. At the meeting, we eat together, plan for upcoming events and bond with each other. My goals during these E-board meetings are not just to plan for events, but also to have time to connect and support each other on a personal level. VSA is more than a just club, it is family!

On your busiest day, what academic, non-academic and social responsibilities are you juggling? Along with a full course load, I am currently studying for the MCAT, which I plan on taking in January. On a typical day, after doing MCAT practice, I usually take time in preparing for Vietnamese Student Association events, where each task varies depending on the upcoming meeting. In addition, I am a mentor for the Bantivoglio Leadership and Service Training (BLAST) Program, where I have the privilege of mentoring first-year students in the Honors College. My hope is not only guide them, but also to encourage and support them in the best way I can. Lastly, as a Music Director of the South Jersey Vietnamese Alliance Church, I spend a portion of my day coordinating plans in preparation for the next weeks.

Interested in joining the Vietnamese Student Association? Follow them on Instagram to get connected!

Seven friends and members of the VSA eboard stand together at Kung Fu Tea on Rowan Boulevard

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Story and photography by:
Nicole Cier, senior writing arts major