MS in Commerce Blog

Student Profile: Tien “Lucy” Nguyen

We caught up with M.S. in Commerce student, Tien "Lucy" Nguyen about her background and her experience as a UVA student.

A yong girl looking a the camera

Lucy, age five, at her Vietnamese elementary school entrance ceremony

Concentration: Business Analytics

Undergraduate Institution: University of Virginia

Undergrad Major: Economics & East Asian Studies

Hometown: Hanoi, Vietnam

Fun Fact: I do a pretty good Pikachu (Pokémon) impression

Why did you pursue the M.S. in Commerce Program?

Policies have the potential to change millions of lives at once. Because of my childhood experiences, I wanted to help reduce poverty through economics policies. However, I became less idealistic as I continued with my studies. I realized that there are many barriers to policy implementation. For that reason, I decided to pursue the M.S. in Commerce Program instead of accepting my offer to the Economics PhD Program at American University.

Business is not all about profit. Business is about creating value. More specifically, business can alleviate poverty by creating jobs, providing goods and services at affordable prices, and stimulating the local economy. Rather than taking a bottom down approach, I hope to transform the world through business, one company at a time. I believe that the M.S. Commerce Program would provide me a chance to achieve this goal.

How did you decide on “Lucy” as your American name?

In my freshman year of high school, my mother’s work moved us from Vietnam to Columbia, Missouri. (My mom is a Fulbright Scholar who researches agricultural genetics, focusing on rice and soybean growth!) My limited knowledge of English at the time made me nervous, so I decided to enroll in a French class. I figured that our teacher’s lessons on French grammar would simultaneously teach me English grammar! Anyway, when the teacher asked us all to pick out French names to use during class, I decided on Lucy—it’s simple and beautiful.

What undergraduate institution did you attend, and what did you study?

I attended the University of Virginia as an undergrad—Wahoowa! Actually, one of the main reasons I chose UVA was that all three of my stepsisters graduated from the University. We’re very close, so I knew that they loved UVA. Its reputation for academics was appealing as well! I decided to double major in economics (with a concentration in international economics) and East Asian studies and minor in foreign affairs. I chose this unique combination of studies because my dream is to work to reduce poverty, especially that which I encountered during my time in East Asia.

What made you want to continue your education after completing your undergraduate degree?

My mother’s commitment to academia has inspired me my whole life. As one of nine children in recently post-war Vietnam, she grew up in a very poor household and—as is common there—she dedicated herself to her studies as her way “out.” Consequently, she wanted me to benefit from education as much as she did. She always provided me with tutors and sent me to good schools. I am definitely my mother’s daughter; she instilled her inextinguishable devotion to academics in me. I absolutely love to learn because it keeps my mind active. All of us in the M.S. in Commerce Program—we’re still young. I think it’s best to learn as much as we possibly can.

You touched on your goal to work hard to reduce poverty. Could you expand on what you imagine for your career path? Did you ever consider another way to reach your professional goals, other than the M.S. in Commerce Program?

Sure! Originally, I thought that studying economics would help me accomplish my goal of widespread reduction in international poverty. I dreamed of working somewhere like The World Bank or the IMF. In fact, American University accepted me to its Ph.D. in economics program. I almost went there, too, but I realized something while considering this option. It’s easy to say, “I want to reduce poverty!” But how do we get there? What’s the most efficient and effective path to actual results? Economic theory definitely plays a significant role, but there are more barriers to enacting legislation than you could imagine—interest groups, lobbyists, politicians—the list goes on.

I believe that it will be through business that I will enact the most positive change. When more businesses make better decisions—often as a result of expert consulting advice—the spillover effect has massive beneficial potential. That’s why I chose the Business Analytics Track in the M.S. in Commerce Program: I want to catalyze tangible change for the citizens of the world who struggle financially, and the best way for me to do that is to study business analytics, not economic theory. I would love to join an economic consulting firm and work on high-impact projects involving contracts with government agencies around the world.

What are you loving most about the program so far, and the Business Analytics Track in particular?

I love that every day presents a new challenge. As I mentioned before, there’s nothing I love more than learning, learning, learning. I made a point of taking at least five challenging courses every semester during undergrad, so I thought that I had mastered time management. But the intense MSC curriculum keeps me on my toes—in a good way! I can rest assured that the corporate world will not be a huge adjustment once I get out there.

I also love the small class sizes. I’m getting to know all my wonderful classmates much better than I knew the people in my classes during undergrad. That’s another reason I chose this program over the Ph.D. program at American: I love the human interaction in business, which you don’t get as much of in the world of economic academia. This curriculum gives me the chance to hone my collaboration and communication skills more than I ever have. One of my favorite classes has been Professor Brendan Boler’s consulting class; all of his job search advice is spot on. And I’m loving Professor Chris Yung’s finance class—it’s moving very fast, but I’m learning a lot, just like I love. It’s keeping my brain awake!

Regarding the Business Analytics Track, it’s starting off wonderfully. As soon as I learned about it, I knew business analytics would perfectly suit me. I still remember fiddling around with a dial-up internet connection to create my own online forum in middle school. I had no idea what I was doing, but I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I still do; I took an awesome computer programing class during my last semester of undergrad! In the program, we’re starting to delve into about statistical software like SQL, Excel, and Tableau. I can’t wait to learn more!

It’s your fifth year living in Charlottesville. What is it about this magical place that won’t let you leave quite yet?

Where do I begin? There are just so many things to love about Charlottesville. There is always some new activity to explore. I love that it’s a small city—not super busy but still thriving. You see people wherever you go, not just cars zooming this way and that. People are everywhere: walking downtown, listening to live music, eating great food, and discovering the unique architecture. Charlottesville has definitely become another home, which means a lot to me. I have family all over: My dad and much of my extended family live in Vietnam, my mom and my stepdad live in Nigeria, my stepsisters live in Vienna, and here I am in Charlottesville. Skype helps a lot, but my international lifestyle has taught me that “home” is wherever I’m with people whom I love and care about. And I have absolutely found that in Charlottesville.

For any readers who may be considering applying here from far away, I would advise you to not be afraid to try new things. If you really want to broaden your horizons, you need to experience something you’ve never done before. I’m kind of a veteran of the whole “international student” experience, and I can tell you that the risk is always worth taking, no matter how daunting it may seem. You’re young—you there is so much you can learn by putting yourself out there. And people are always willing to help you out—at least, that’s what I’ve experienced at UVA.

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