Recent RMIT Vietnam Bachelor of Business (Business Information Systems) graduate Nguyen Tuan Tu refuses to let life’s challenges stop him from becoming a lifelong learner and entering the workforce work-ready.
A lover of challenges
When he was younger, Tu’s future career options were limited. This was not uncommon for young people with disabilities, however.
With less than 20% of his vision, Tu was accepted to two local universities offering the “expected” programs for visually impaired students.
Choosing to follow his interests in science, Tu broke from the status quo and applied to other universities with programs that he wanted – despite knowing the challenges and risks involved.
Tu joined RMIT Vietnam in 2011 in part because of the support the University offers students with learning differences.
He enrolled in a 20-week English program – which he passed with flying colours – and was subsequently offered a full academic scholarship.
He then made another “risky” move: starting the Bachelor of Business (Business Information Systems) program, a multidisciplinary degree that combines IT skills with business acumen.
“People told me it was a bad idea,” Tu recalled.
“Working with charts and big data, analysing and building sophisticated business information systems – those things already sound scary to a student without disabilities. It was definitely not a safe choice for me. But I never liked safe choices from the start.”
Tu summed up his decision with his life motto: “Always embrace challenges as they bring out the potential you didn’t even know you had inside.”
A hardworking learner
Behind Tu’s daring personality are an unwavering desire to learn and a canny ability to adapt.
“The first weeks were rough for me,” he said of his initial entry into university.
“I could not take notes on the computer and engage in class activities at the same time. After a few weeks, I tried not using computers in class and focused on listening to the teacher and interacting with my classmates instead.
“After each class, I listened to the recording again and did all the note taking. It required more work of course, but it worked well for me.
“Staff barely knew how to support me at first but they were very willing to try out different methods. It took a while before I could form learning strategies that worked best for me. Now I keep adjusting them for new environments.”
Sienney Liu, a School of Business & Management lecturer, got to know Tu in a Business Statistics class.
“Because of his visual impairment, Tu was not able to use the formula sheets which we provide to students for the midterms and the final exam,” she shared.
“Therefore Tu had to really understand and remember the formulas, and know how to apply them too. His determination has inspired us all. He is a role model, not only for students, but also for lecturers.”
A committed contributor
Tu is very active in extracurricular activities, once again breaking society’s stereotypes of him. He has exceptional leadership skills and is recognised for his service to RMIT Vietnam and the greater community.
“He has contributed greatly to improving the educational experience for all students,” said Carol Witney, Manager of the Equitable Learning Services (ELS), the university department that supports students with learning differences.
Indeed, Tu has been involved in various events and projects with the ELS both on and off campus.
Tu has designed and delivered inclusive teaching and learning workshops to different student-facing departments at the University. Tu is also a regular ambassador of ELS campaigns to raise awareness of disabilities.
Tu is also a mentor and a buddy for ELS students, supporting them on university transition, individual Access Plans, systems and software, as well as providing advice on academic issues.
In addition to the work that he has done with the ELS, Tu is now providing advice and support to the University of Pedagogy on how to set up and run a Disability Resource Centre or ELS.
Highly appreciated by academic and professional staff, Tu considers the work he has done part of his journey at RMIT Vietnam.
“I was the first student to experience ELS at RMIT Vietnam and have been part of the team since its launch. I feel like I am the right person to do all these things, and honestly I had a lot of fun doing them,” Tu said.
“The biggest reward for me is knowing that I am helping to create more chances for students like me to have equal access to the education they want.”
Tu graduated with Distinction this year and is currently a consultant on disability issues for RMIT Vietnam. He is also applying for other companies and aims to raise awareness about equitable employment practices. He continues to inspire others with his story.
Story: Thanh Phuong