Hoa Nguyen earned her doctorate in human development from Virginia Tech in May 2017 through the Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) Program, where her advisors were Erika Grafsky and Fred Piercy. Nguyen is now an assistant professor in the MFT Program at Valdosta State University. Her research interests are in the intersection of cultural and sexual identity, stories of home and diaspora in immigrant families, and critically conscious dialogues across differences.

How did you arrive at your current position? Did you always have a goal of working in academia?
My passion has always been in teaching and supervising MFT students, which led me to pursue a doctorate. During my education at Virginia Tech, I fell in love with qualitative research and began to understand how research can be used to honor the lived experiences of marginalized and underrepresented communities. This solidified my goal to work in academia as a pathway to advance social justice work in the field of family therapy.

What classes do you teach in your current position?
Currently, I teach master’s level courses in couples and sex therapy, clinical practicum, postmodernism, legal issues, queering family therapy practices, as well as diversity, inclusion, and social justice. I also participate in faculty-student research teams that provide hands-on research training to MFT students.

What is the best part about your job?
I am surrounded by brilliant, systemic thinkers in the MFT faculty at Valdosta State University. Each day, my colleagues generously support my teaching and research in the area of queer theory and social justice. In addition, I am grateful for the students and their willingness to stretch and learn on the edge of discomfort.

How did Virginia Tech prepare you for your career?
Professionally, Virginia Tech provided countless intellectually stimulating experiences that were invaluable. My graduate assistantship as an editorial assistant under Fred Piercy prepared me for the world of publication and taught me the importance of kindness and steady work. Erika Grafsky’s Sexual Minority Youth Lived Experiences (SMYLE) research team was the basis for my arsenal of research knowledge and skills. Katherine Allen’s teaching seminar helped me craft my identity as an educator, and Megan Dolbin-MacNab’s wise supervision guided me through several difficult clinical cases. Virginia Tech pushed and challenged me. The human development and family science faculty helped me grow into who I am as a researcher, educator, and therapist.

What advice do you have for current graduate students in Virginia Tech’s Department of Human Development and Family Science?
Do your research and work, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. The faculty are there to assist you in your professional development. Also, plan ahead and prepare for unpredictable changes that will require your flexibility and capacity to improvise. Tell your family and friends that you love them, but graduate school will drastically change your time, schedule, energy, and level of interaction with them. Suggest they refrain from questions like, “How is your thesis or dissertation going?” or “When will you graduate?” unless you introduce the topic first. Finally, a great deal of humor and humility was necessary and made my graduate experience both memorable and enjoyable.

What advice do you have for Virginia Tech undergraduates?
Find and maintain good relationships with multiple mentors. You’ll need them more than Spring Break, holidays, and free refreshments at Virginia Tech events.

Interview by Casey McGregor