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Cal State Fullerton Hosts Little Saigon Community Engagement Day

Vietnamese Students Represent the University’s Largest Asian Demographic
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Cal State Fullerton hosted a community forum in January to better understand how the university can contribute to the aspirations and meet the needs of Orange County’s Vietnamese American community, which is the largest Vietnamese population outside of the country of Vietnam.

Higher education, business, community and government leaders — many of whom are Titan alumni or parents of CSUF students — gathered for a discussion at Coastline Community College’s Garden Grove campus before participating in a daylong learning tour at DeMille Elementary School, the Vietnamese War Memorial, the Asian Garden Mall and Advance Beauty College.

“Cal State Fullerton has always been deeply committed to engagement, inclusivity and building bridges with our diverse communities,” said CSUF President Sylvia Alva. “The Vietnamese American community is an integral part of Orange County and a source of inspiration.”

The University’s Largest Asian Demographic

Cal State Fullerton serves more than 3,100 Vietnamese students, the largest Asian demographic on campus. 

“Our Vietnamese students are a significant contributor to who we serve,” said Alva. “Understanding the unique challenges and needs of this group is something that will serve all of us well.”

Scores of Vietnamese alumni have graduated, joined Orange County’s workforce and continue to be supported by the university through such programs as the Center for Family Business in the College of Business and Economics. 

One of these alumni is Tâm Nguyễn ’05 (MBA), chairman of Advance Beauty College, who now serves as chair of the Cal State Fullerton Philanthropic Foundation Board of Governors and helped host the community engagement day.

Lisa Kim, Garden Grove city manager, participated in the forum and shared that her daughter is a senior at Cal State Fullerton and will graduate this year.

“I’m a proud Titan mom. Through CSUF, my daughter is coming out with a full-time job. Your internships, collaborations and alumni resources have been tapped into,” said Kim. “Certainly, she is the individual she is today because of Cal State Fullerton.”

Challenges for the Vietnamese American Community

Mary Anne Foo, executive director of the Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance, emphasized the need for bilingual and bicultural clinicians who can work with diverse communities and the need for affordable housing — especially following the COVID-19 pandemic, which shuttered many Vietnamese-owned businesses and contributed to high rates of depression.

Christine Cordon, Westminster city manager, discussed the Vietnamese community’s aging population and the desire to help the next generation carry on their family’s businesses and preserve their culture and history.

Notably, CSUF Professor of Secondary Education Natalie Tran is at the forefront of developing Vietnamese dual-language immersion programs in Orange County and the state. As director of the National Resource Center for Asian Languages and director of the California State University Asian Language Bilingual Teacher Education Program Consortium, she has helped secure millions of dollars in grant funding for such programs. Most recently, the consortium secured a $5 million grant to address the statewide shortage of K-12 educators to teach in Asian languages.

Westminster School District Board of Trustees President Frances Nguyễn and Superintendent Gunn Marie Hansen spoke highly of the dual-language immersion programs in their district.

“Not only will students in this program have an advantage in business someday, they will have a deeper appreciation of their culture and heritage,” Alva said. “I grew up in a bilingual household, and I consider it one of my superpowers.”

Lynn Juliano