As a young girl, Esther Nguyen would watch with admiration as her aunt, a pharmacist in Southern California, shared her knowledge, compassion, and advice with her customers.
“I saw how warm and caring my aunt was with the community and especially advocating for the Vietnamese-American population that she served,” Nguyen recalled. “I always looked up to her for that. I wanted to become someone you could turn to when you needed support in improving your health.”
Nguyen, a healthcare management major, will be the School of Business’ undergraduate Commencement speaker on May 6. She has accepted a job in supply-chain project management at Yale New Haven Health, where she has interned for the last year.
During that time, she has learned about the complexity of procuring medical supplies for a large hospital system.
“One of the things I think is most appealing about this role is having something new to do every day,” Nguyen said. “I’ve been fortunate to work with the leadership at Yale and I’ve met incredible people who’ve made a tremendous mark on the healthcare system.”
That’s something she also aspires to do.
Healthcare economics professor Resul Cesur describes Nguyen as a natural leader.
“She is sharp, motivated, confident, and effective in communication. However, what makes Esther stand out is how much she cares for others, as shown by the extent of her maturity, respect, conscientiousness, and empathy toward her peers,” he said. “Esther will excel in healthcare by finding effective solutions to complex problems as a brilliant leader, without forgetting the essential healthcare leadership quality: feeling the pain of others.”
Resilience Hallmark of the Class of 2023
Nguyen said she became interested in serving as class speaker as a way of giving back to her classmates, many of whom she admires.
“Over the years, I’ve come to realize and appreciate the excellence at the School of Business. People are exceling at internships, they are starting companies, pursuing postgraduate education, and so much more. There is so much to celebrate here,” Nguyen said. “I wanted to express my gratitude to all the people who’ve been on this journey with me.”
Her speech will focus on resilience, something that she believes is a hallmark of the Class of 2023.
“While it did not define our college experience, the pandemic was such a significant moment for us, as it began in our freshman year. We needed resilience to cope with such an unprecedented event, while at the same time coming of age and figuring out who we wanted to be,” she said. “I wanted to shed a light on resilience, and the importance of finding small victories, even if it is success on an exam or keeping up with your fitness goals.”
Friendships Supported Her Drive
Nguyen came to UConn as a pre-pharmacy student, planning to follow in her aunt’s footsteps. But by the end of her first semester, she realized the major wasn’t quite the right fit.
At an activities fair, she met a great group of students from the Healthcare Management Society and discussed her interest in switching to an administrative role. Their support was life-changing.
“The rapport and solidarity I found in those relationships gave me the push to go after what I wanted,” she said.
In addition to participating in the Healthcare Management Society, Nguyen was a member of the Vietnamese Student Association, and a speaker at UConn Open House.
She and her team took second place in the UConn Global Health Hackathon in 2020, which centered around vaccine distribution. Nguyen and her teammates addressed the challenge from a sustainability perspective, proposing bio-degradable packaging, more efficient refrigeration, and more.
“We were a team with diverse educational backgrounds and that fueled our creativity, knowledge, and approach to the project,” she said. With a 24-hour deadline, the team stayed up all night and Nguyen had to delay her birthday celebration, but it was all worth it, she said.
Picnics at Horsebarn Hill a Favorite Memory
Born in Pennsylvania, Nguyen moved to Windsor Locks, Conn. as a young teen. Her high school had only about 400 students, in total, and that is an experience that she now relishes.
“Growing up in a small school district, you can focus on you and all that you can achieve. You could play varsity soccer, participate on the math team, and be part of the school musical, all at the same time. It allowed you to see your potential in many areas,” she said. “I think we all took the spotlight and ran with it.”
UConn’s Storrs campus is one of the many things she will miss after graduation.
“I love how one-with-nature the campus is,” she said. “I will miss so much here, from the Moss Sanctuary to picnics with my friends on Horsebarn Hill.”
And while Nguyen will have to say goodbye soon, she said she wishes the best to the incoming class, including her younger sister, who is just starting her own journey as a UConn freshman in the fall.