Mai Nguyen (M.A., Social-Organizational Psychology) | Teachers College Columbia University

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Mai Nguyen (M.A., Social-Organizational Psychology)

Mai Nguyen (M.A., Social-Organizational Psychology)
Life before TC
Mai Nguyen is familiar with uncertainty and change. Born in South Vietnam, she left Saigon with her family on April 30, 1975—the same day U.S. troops left in dramatic helicopter lifts and ended the Vietnam War. After a few months in Guam, the family relocated to Fort Indiantown Gap, a refugee camp in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, before settling in New York.  

With a father who preached that “education was going to be the way ahead,” Nguyen earned her B.A. at Wellesley in Women’s Studies and joined the Wellesley Asian Alliance.

At Goldman Sachs, she worked her way up to a vice-presidency – and then, at age 38, decided to embark on a new career and life.

Why TC
Nguyen managed several diversity initiatives for at Goldman Sachs and became committed to working to foster diversity in the workplace. She discovered TC’s Social-Organizational Psychology program as a way to explore subjects such as group dynamics—what roles individuals tend to play in groups—and learning differences that affect how members of a group work together and individually. She examined these topics in the context of diversity in any group, in or outside the workplace.

TC Takeaway
In Lee Knefelkamp’s course on Intercultural Communications “we studied  not just cultural diversity, but different learning styles and ways of communicating differently,” Nguyen says. And in Data-Based Interventions in Organizations, taught by adjunct assistant professors Renee Vieira and Bruce Echtenkamp, Nguyen and her classmates consulted with a small, public relations agency, gathering data about the organization. They took a “holistic approach” to suggesting ways in which they could use organizational psychology principles to become more effective.

What’s Next
Nguyen is not yet certain what her new career will be, but her master’s in Social-Organizational Psychology gives her lots of options. “I’m not afraid of change,” she says. “What I’ve learned at TC is dealing with ambiguity, remaining flexible while moving throughout situations that are unclear. I can articulate a vision I have of myself, which is focused, but flexible.”

Published Wednesday, Jun. 4, 2014