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Alumna Tells Vietnamese American Story

Reaching, Engaging Her Community Is New Publisher’s Goal

March 4, 2013

When Nhu-Ngoc Thuy Ong was editor of Viễn Đông Daily News, she considered it her textbook, delivering information to her Vietnamese community.
“People ask me, ‘why aren’t you going into teaching?’ ” said the Cal State Fullerton alumna. 
“This,” Ong said recently, holding a copy of the daily community newspaper that she helmed from 2009 until last month when she acquired Việt Tide Magazine, “is a chance to reach out to a larger mass. It’s a Vietnamese-language paper, so it reaches a more disadvantaged population, and we don’t rely on wire services. We have a voice, and it is authentic because we recruit reporters from all different walks of life.”
A former CSUF President’s Scholar, Ong earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology in 1999 and 2001, respectively. She also earned a second master’s degree in social sciences in 2005 and a doctorate in political science in 2009 from UC Irvine.
Ong led an ethnically diverse editorial staff of 30 reporters and writers, many of whom now work for her magazine.
“We try to promote dialogue with our stories,” Ong said, describing her publishing philosophy. “We don’t just do one long story on a certain issue, for example. We present the issue and all its sides in many articles, incorporating questions so that readers also will raise questions and think critically. I think this is really important for a community to grow intellectually and mature politically.”
Ong was born in Saigon in 1977; her mother made certain both she and her brother learned Vietnamese and English. When Ong was 14, she and her family moved to Irvine in 1992, where an aunt lived and served as their American sponsor. Ong graduated with honors from Woodbridge High School.

The high achiever enthusiastically took advantage of undergraduate research opportunities while at CSUF, where she worked in the labs of David Perkins and William R. Smith, emeritus professors of psychology, and the late associate psychology professor Frank M. Bagrash.

“Besides all the benefits of being a President’s Scholar, I chose Cal State Fullerton because I knew it to be a teaching institution, where I would be in small classes taught by professors, not grad assistants,” said Ong, who co-presented research at conferences nationwide and co-authored a number of research articles with her professors. “I’m so grateful for my experience at Fullerton. I was so well-prepared. By the time I got to UCI, I was ready to publish my research.”
Her CSUF professors and mentors recall Ong as a serious student, focused, driven and passionate, and a likely prospect to lead the 24/7 life of the editor of a significant community newspaper.
“Without a true passion for journalism, nobody can endure the hardship to survive with this career in the Vietnamese American community in Orange County,” said Son Kim Vo, retired coordinator of CSUF’s Intercultural Development Center and Ong’s mentor. “Nhu-Ngoc runs articles that satisfy a wide range of readers, and she is not afraid to tackle the difficult, politically oriented issues. She is very brave. With her enthusiasm, her passion and, most importantly, her educational background, Ngoc will survive all barriers and successfully attain her goals.”
Ong, who lives in Anaheim, is branching out with the recent acquisition of Việt Tide, a weekly serving the Vietnamese community.

Her aim is the same as always: turning passive readers into active participants in their communities, she stressed. “That’s why repeated emphasis on big issues is so important. Engaging people in the conversation is the goal.”
Addressing all cultures is one way Ong engages readers. “I think it’s really important to know our neighbors, especially in Latin America, as Hispanics are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States,” she said. “We need to break down prejudgments of others by bringing up these issues. As long as we keep the conversation going and really get people to question things around them, then I think we’re doing our job.”

By: Mimi Ko Cruz, 657-278-7586

Tags:  CommunityTitan Pride