My dad and I share a troublemaking spirit. We’re both stubborn. We’re both interested in the “why” of life, as in: “Why are we bound to this creative path?”
So, I was a creative kid. Oddly enough, I also happened to excel most in my math classes. Math helped me in school, but creativity was what fed my soul. It helped me gain a new kind of confidence. The more I indulged in my creative pursuits, the more assured I became as a human being.
My dad was very into the idea of community for my brothers and me. He was a director of a Vietnamese cultural center in our hometown of San Francisco. We were involved in youth groups at a young age. All the other kids in these groups came from immigrant families, so we shared the same pursuit of discovering our culture through language, music, and the arts.
Once I graduated high school, I attended UC Berkeley to continue studying math. In my first two years at Cal, I started to learn the ins and outs of design. It began with designing logos and posters for clubs and friends’ small businesses. In hindsight, these educational detours were a prelude to the true beginning of my creative journey, which began in the hills of Pasadena.
My parents were understandably concerned about me during my first year at ArtCenter. After all, they wanted happiness and stability for their children, which they understood are never guaranteed in any creative profession. Eventually, I found my sense of creativity and community, the kind I was raised to revere, was alive and well at ArtCenter. This gradually steered me toward the position of ArtCenter Student Body President, which I held from 2018 into 2019.
In a way, I found myself Student Body President by accident. It arose from my curiosity about the intricacies of student politics. During my second ArtCenter term, I asked a friend, who I knew to be significantly involved in the happenings of the school’s student body, what drew him to that type of work. He invited me to see for myself. I ended up stopping by a meeting, purely as a visitor. I deeply admired the passion and dedication I was hearing in the voices of my fellow students. It felt like I had no other choice but to get involved.
Student government involves a great deal of personal sacrifice. The people who are deeply involved in it sometimes spend more time with each other than they do with their own families. Nevertheless, it has been one of the undeniable highlights of my ArtCenter experience to date, having introduced me to faculty and students from every discipline. In a way, it’s similar to the clubs I was part of at UC Berkeley, such as the Vietnamese Student Association. Student organizations offer a platform by which we can hope to affect change in our own academic communities, and connect with those who share our priorities.
Spring 2020 will be my final term at ArtCenter. Part of me wishes I had an extra year or two here. There’s still so much more to continue learning. I wasn’t even aware of the true scope of the school’s resources until I became involved in student government. Regardless, I am thrilled and more than a little anxious to see what awaits me in the real world. I trust ArtCenter has prepared me well for whatever lies ahead.
In academic scenarios, the following question is often asked: What can this institute teach me? Rather, I like to ask: What can I learn here? How can I be a valuable student, classmate, and member of this community? How can I inspire? How can I affect change? That mindset is the cornerstone of the ArtCenter ethos, making it one of the essential creative communities in the world.
BFA 20 Graphic Design
ArtCenter Student Body President, 2019