I saw a lack of motivation and interest within the Vietnamese-American community in my hometown. Part of this was that the younger generation does not see eye-to-eye with the older generation which, in turn, causes an unspoken divide between the two groups. My involvement with the Vietnamese Student Association at Louisiana State University (VSA-LSU) and the Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations (UNAVSA) are what ultimately drew me to public service. Taking leadership roles in both organizations made me realize the importance of having a voice for the AANHPI community and wanting to bridge the gap between the younger and older generations.
As our AANHPI community continues to grow, I felt we needed to continue to cultivate future leaders in order to preserve our culture and to let our voices be heard. Luckily enough, I found my answer with CAPAL. The organization’s resources for and understanding of the AANHPI community combined my public relations career with public service. Participating in CAPAL’s internship program introduced me to a group of passionate, brilliant and like-minded individuals.
During my summer as an intern, I was placed with USDA Rural Development in their Tennessee State Office and worked directly with the public affairs specialist. Being placed in a federal agency, especially one that is helping toward the future and development of Rural America, enhanced my professional development and provided me with the necessary leadership skills for the work place. As a public affairs trainee, I wrote press releases and media advisories to news outlets in hopes of obtaining coverage on groundbreaking events. What I liked most about my internship was being able to travel to rural towns and see firsthand the impact USDA Rural Development has on the individuals and families living in the communities it serves.
The biggest result from my summer internship with CAPAL was being able to land a job permanently with USDA Rural Development. I became a Public Affairs Pathways intern and converted to a full-time employee following my college graduation. After working at the Tennessee State Office for six months, I transferred to the National Office where I currently work as a public affairs and web specialist under the Legislative and Public Affairs Office for USDA Rural Development.
It’s safe to say that my career in public service would never have happened if it wasn’t for CAPAL. I hope to see younger AANHPIs seek public service careers to be the catalyst for change. My hope is for us to strengthen and maintain a voice for the AANHPI community by helping others find their inner drive to lead. My dad encouraged me to always give back to the community when I could. I never would have discovered my passion to lead without his encouragement.
Thanh-Thanh “TT” Pham is a Louisiana State University alumna with a bachelor of arts degree in mass communication and concentration in public relations. Born and raised in New Orleans, La., TT currently works in Washington D.C., as a Public Affairs Specialist under the Legislative and Public Affairs Office for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development. This year, she serves as the Executive Director for the Union of North American Vietnamese Student Association’s 14th Annual Leadership Conference in addition to being part of UNAVSA’s Council of Regional Representatives. She is also the External Vice President for the Union of Vietnamese Student Association’s of the Gulf Coast.
In the past, TT has held multiple leadership positions for the Vietnamese Student Association at LSU including senior adviser, president, external vice president and freshman representative. Her involvement with UNAVSA began in 2013 when she was selected as one of the UNAVSA-10 Visionary Scholarship recipients. TT’s passions include singing, arts, leadership development and public service.
Posted by Andrew Lo
A Kansas City native, Andrew received his B.A. in Philosophy and Biology at Saint Louis University. Outside of the classroom he served as president of SLU’s Asian American Association growing AAPI communities and working to to promote social justice for all. He also help to establish Forte, an organization dedicated to providing Saint Louis schools with tutors, instruments, and other resources needed to facilitate an education in music. In 2015, Andrew served as a CAPAL intern first for the USDA Forest Service where he worked to create policies to combat climate change and later as a Programs Assistant for the Foreign Agriculture Service Cochran Program providing growing Eastern European and Eurasian economies with training opportunities within the U.S. Andrew has a passion for food and music so when he is not consuming delicious food he can often be found singing, playing instruments, and generally causing a ruckus.