A shared passion connects two student leaders

A shared passion connects two student leaders

Becoming a leader is about pursuing the greater good while realising one’s full potential, said two former RMIT Vietnam Student Council Presidents who have both graduated in 2022.

For Bachelor of Communication (Professional Communication) graduate Vo Doan Thao Nguyen and Bachelor of Business (Logistics and Supply Chain Management) graduate Nguyen Thi Tra My, joining the RMIT Vietnam Student Council was a turning point in their journeys of self-discovery.

Stepping out of their comfort zone

As a democratically elected group representing the whole student body, the Student Council is known for its advocacy to improve the academic experience, personal welfare, social life and cultural awareness of RMIT students.

Joining the largest student organisation at RMIT had never been on Nguyen Thi Tra My’s agenda when she entered university.

Nguyen Thi Tra My (pictured far left) and her Student Council teammates during the Retro Club Day in 2020. Nguyen Thi Tra My (pictured far left) and her Student Council teammates during the Retro Club Day in 2020.

“My goal as a first-year student was to solely focus on academic performance. But the more I got exposed to university life, the more I felt the urge to contribute. I decided to step out of my safety bubble to try something big, which had never been on my university to-do list,” My said.

She won a seat in the Student Council first as part of the Clubs and Societies Subcommittee and later campaigned for President and won.

During her one-year term as President in 2020-2021, My and her team hosted the biggest Club Day (a showcase of RMIT’s diverse student club community) with more than 2,500 participants while ensuring COVID-19 safety, and she managed the funding of VND150 million from the Student Council budget for over 20 club events.

Not only driving change inside RMIT, My also mentored the founding members of the Fulbright University Vietnam Student Council and shared her experience of running a successful student organisation with counterparts from the British University Vietnam.

She accomplished all that while maintaining top academic performance, graduating with a GPA of 3.5/4.0.

“You will never know what your limits really are unless you step out of your comfort zone,” My said.

“I’d love to see more young people strive to become a better version of themselves and become people who are capable of influencing and initiating change in the community.” 

Becoming a true people leader

For Vo Doan Thao Nguyen, her one-year term as Student Council President in 2019-2020 marked a significant milestone in her growth as an advocate for sustainability, diversity and inclusion.

Among her achievements, Nguyen held the first Club Day ever to promote a sustainable cause – fighting plastic pollution. She conducted the first plastic-free meal event at RMIT where 300 bagasse meal boxes were delivered to students during deadline weeks.

She also set up a successful Wellbeing Fair with over 600 participants and a Wellbeing Discovery campaign where she joined other students in a video series, sharing past insecurities to encourage peers to open up and seek mental health support when needed.

In total, Nguyen organised nearly 20 campaigns and events for fellow students in both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi during her term.

Former President of the RMIT Vietnam Student Council Vo Doan Thao Nguyen (pictured far right) at the RMIT Wellbeing Fair in 2019 which drew over 600 participants. Former President of the RMIT Vietnam Student Council Vo Doan Thao Nguyen (pictured far right) at the RMIT Wellbeing Fair in 2019 which drew over 600 participants.

However, Nguyen’s road to leadership was not always smooth sailing.

“Prior to my presidential term, I worked as the Media Officer of the Student Council and I was quite a domineering leader. I was so hard-headed about getting things done my way that a team member once left the room during a meeting because they could not stand me,” Nguyen said.

“That was one of the hard lessons that I carried with me when I became President. I learned to engage my team in decision making, actively listen, and respect their opinions. By the end of my term, I had heard many members describing me as a good listener. Those moments made me think: ‘Wow, I have really grown!’”

Nguyen revealed one of her favourite sayings is “leadership is like love”.

“Just like how love is not about giving fancy presents, leadership is more than delivering speeches. When you love, you must show your love in everything you do, every single day. When you lead, from the smallest of things to the biggest of things, you must show you care,” she said.

“Stay true to your values every time and you will gain the trust and respect of others.”

Pursuing new endeavours

Nguyen is working on a research project she first started in university about the perceptions of masculinity among young Vietnamese men in Ho Chi Minh City, which aims to provide insights into how gender equality can be improved in the country.

She is looking forward to developing her expertise in the field of corporate shared value, working on how companies can be more diverse, inclusive and sustainable.

To achieve that goal, Nguyen is aiming for a scholarship from the Korean government next year to study for a Master of Social Welfare degree.

As for My, she has earned a scholarship from an Australian university to complete a postgraduate degree in finance in Melbourne.

While waiting for the upcoming August intake, she is supporting her family business with the knowledge and skills gained while majoring in Logistics and Supply Chain Management and minoring in Entrepreneurship at RMIT.

“I’d love to continue working for the good of larger communities and pursue my bigger goal of becoming a global thought leader who delivers transformational values to organisations and individuals,” My said.

Treasuring lasting connections

When asked if they had any stories of each other during the overlapping time they were both on the Student Council, Nguyen and My recalled an incident where the latter suffered from serious stomach pain after having worked from dusk till dawn preparing for Club Day.

Nguyen decided to take My to the hospital instead of joining the team’s after-party, which My still looks back on with gratitude until this day.

Nguyen recalled: “My was a very dedicated person, so she ran around the Sports Hall all afternoon to take care of the event despite her aching stomach. When Club Day was over, I found her writhing in the Student Council office and I told her I would go to the hospital with her.

“To me, it was something I obviously should have done, so I was surprised when My brought up this story with tears in her eyes during an end-of-term party. I had always thought of My as a tough person [laughs], so it was a reminder for me of the power of kindness to touch people’s hearts.”

Story: Ngoc Hoang

  • Graduation

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