VCU’s newest graduates reflect on the moments that mattered

Tuyet Duong and Hung Nguyen, and baby Adalyn.
Tuyet Duong and Hung Nguyen, and baby Adalyn. (Photo credit: Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

By VCU University Public Affairs

For nearly 3,000 Virginia Commonwealth University students, the commencement ceremony on Dec. 8 marks both the end of a journey and the start of something new. After years of juggling class schedules, late nights in the library, meetings with advisers and professors, and writing draft after draft of papers, graduation day is nearly here. They will leave VCU with bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees as well as a wealth of experiences and networks gained within and outside the classroom.

Meet some December graduates who are ready to take flight with their well-earned degrees.

Tuyet Duong and Hung Nguyen, College of Engineering

Nguyen became interested in computer science during his undergraduate study in his home country of Vietnam, where he took advanced computer science courses and began conducting research for small projects. Incidentally, that’s also where he met Duong.

“We were in the same class for four years and took most of the courses together,” Nguyen said. “We both got [admitted] to VCU at the same time and got married before coming here.”

The couple feels like they found a family in Richmond and VCU. Nguyen calls the university “diverse but bonded” and said he’s never seen a similar environment elsewhere. Duong recalls a time during their first year when both were sick and missing their family and friends in Hanoi. An American family brought them pho — the traditional Vietnamese noodle soup — making them feel at home.

That warmth extended to the classroom as well. As an international student who did not speak much English, Duong, at first, was shy and afraid to ask questions during lectures.

“I was very excited at the same time,” she said. “Eventually, I was encouraged by the lecturers and other students in the classes. I truly participated [in] the classes and have learned a lot from them.”It didn’t hurt that she shared some of those classes with her husband.

Both fondly recall the experience.

“Taking the same courses with my husband was the best part,” said Duong, who dreamed of being a scientist as a child. “Like you always have someone to talk to and discuss the lectures and topics you learn from the classes. The disadvantage was that we had to argue a lot more at home.”

The couple, who finished their doctoral programs this summer, now live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with their daughter, Adalyn — named after the first female computer scientist, Ada Lovelace. Duong is a research assistant. Nguyen is a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University. He plans to apply for a faculty position at the end of the fellowship. His preferred destination is a university in Virginia.

“We have traveled and stayed in some other states and cities,” Duong said, “but Richmond is still our best choice. Here, people are so kind toward each other, the food is great and all of our best memories are here.”

Read stories about more graduates.