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Meet Thanh Nguyen

The intersectional trailblazer and new assistant dean and CMEI director continues campus equity efforts.

By Josie Lavender

September 22, 2021

Thanh NguyenAfter leading the Center for Multicultural Engagement and Inclusion in an interim capacity for almost a year, Thanh Nguyen, Ed.D., has been named the permanent assistant dean and director. Nguyen has long promoted equitable student engagement, especially as the Roadrunner community pivoted operations in response to Covid-19, and she looks forward to continuing to serve the culturally rich community.

Nguyen spoke with the Early Bird about her passion for student advocacy and plans for the CMEI:

What initially brought you to Metropolitan State University of Denver and to the CMEI?

Nguyen: The diverse faculty, staff and students brought me to MSU Denver because for once I am working with, alongside and for a community of people who look like me and have similar experiences and narratives that I can empathize with.

I also wanted to come to MSU Denver because of the University’s bold initiatives and efforts to promote race-conscious development for the entire campus community and advocate, support and elevate the voices of our marginalized identity groups. The work the University is doing, especially with the CMEI, is no doubt innovative and radical. But of course, with innovation and being radical come the unknown and resistance, which is scary and challenging all at the same time. I love that the University and CMEI are willing to capture innovative ideas through strategic planning, process and protocol to enhance our students’ overall academic journey and experience at MSU Denver.

The CMEI serves as the catalyst for positive change and is an inclusive environment for students of all identity groups. I am in awe of the outstanding work that the staff and students contribute and cultivate to provide a physical space for building community, partnerships, programming and transfer of knowledge, which further deepened my interest in the CMEI. Within the CMEI, staff and students are hard at work encouraging students to challenge misconceptions, privilege, stereotypes and preconceived notions. The CMEI supports students to explore social-justice issues in and outside of their own identity groups and to work toward activism and advocacy. The program is the epitome of a culturally inclusive community that I want to be a part of to enhance student leadership and engagement and advocate for the concerns and well-being of our students.

How does the CMEI benefit Roadrunners’ academic journeys?

Nguyen: The CMEI is informed by a set of core values that represent what it can and will be: Community, Justice, Equity, Engagement, Student Development and Experiential Learning. The purpose of the CMEI is to apply strategies supported in scholarly research to support the success of MSU Denver’s diverse student body. The CMEI creates a safe, validating gathering space for students; builds community among students, faculty and staff; and delivers programs and services designed to increase student engagement and support academic achievement. Through a strong focus on fostering diversity and inclusive excellence, the CMEI provides educational opportunities, forums, training and development, advocacy and supportive services for the MSU Denver community.

What are your hopes for the CMEI in the upcoming year?

Nguyen: My hope is for the CMEI to come together and build a culture that dismantles racism and sets new standards and norms against a white-supremacist culture so that we can reenvision and build a CMEI organizational culture that is reflective of our values and work of student engagement, success, advocacy and overall well-being.

Under MSU Denver’s goals of diversity, equity and inclusion, my plans are for the center to cultivate and sustain a culture of inclusive and intersectional learning and practice by creating and putting into action our department’s anti-racist action plan, assessment cycle and brand-marketing strategy. (Those elements are) part of a strategic plan that will be created this year as the CMEI fully comes together after a year of back-to-back challenges and transitions.

Furthermore, my hope is that the CMEI will be an agent of healing by helping to bring together various intersectional groups, partners and organizations and to hold space for the collaborative work of advancing diversity, equity and inclusion to better enhance the intersecting experiences and identities of our students.

Topics: Center for Multicultural Excellence and Inclusion

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