Thanh-Thanh Pham | An External Vice President’s Retrospection

When initially asked if I would be interested in running for External Vice President for UVSA Gulf Coast, I didn’t think twice. Having just served as Co-CORR alongside my good friend Kent Tong, the decision was a no-brainer. I knew I wanted to be a part of the UVSA GC legacy and help develop an organization that was still in its early life stages. My hope was to give UVSA GC a name for itself and gain exposure to community organizations within the region. At the time, if you asked a general VSA member if he or she heard of “UVSA Gulf Coast,” chances are the student would’ve respond “no.” Knowing that I would be able to help change that perspective as EVP made me more motivated to run for the position. But the biggest conflict hit me when I found out I would be moving out of the region for my first post-undergrad “big girl job.”

My first year on UVSA Gulf Coast Executive Board soon became a wake-up call. I was juggling between EVP and UNAVSA-14 Executive Director on top of moving twice in one year. It’s safe to say, 2016 was a roller coaster, and not the fun kind. Suddenly, the girl who thought she had everything under control was drowning in her own stress and workload. I knew I was underperforming as EVP during my first year. I was unable to fully accomplish my vision and goals as EVP. And at times, I felt frustrated and disappointed at myself for feeling as though I failed my own region.

When UNAVSA-14 finally arrived in New Orleans for the second time in history, my perspective began to shift. As the days went on at conference, I began to witness a group of passionate and motivated leaders emerge from my very own region. They proudly performed the GC chant (which, believe it or not, is a huge accomplishment considering we always manage to mess up years prior), participated in all of conference programming and had discussions centered around strengthening the Gulf Coast region starting with their own VSAs. That was the moment that re-ignited my VSA spark and reminded me why I chose to run for EVP in the first place.

Being able to bring our VSAs together, help foster new leadership, establish more meaningful discussions and showcase our organization to the region was an accomplishment in itself. I realized that not only did UNAVSA-14 help gain UVSA Gulf Coast recognition, but more importantly, the conference enabled our members to learn and experience an event that taught them more than just VSA family games and ice breakers. They were able to see what true leadership potential looked like, understand the value of unity and learn that as millennials, we have the potential to become a driving force for future generations by taking action and making life-changing differences that will ultimately better the Vietnamese community. In short, they learned to “unlock the present.”

 

I cannot end this reflection blog without mentioning my two Co-CORRS who served alongside me during my term. Don and Kris, you two are amazing and inspirational leaders who helped make my job a whole lot easier as EVP. Thank you for taking the initiative to run for Co-CORR and being my partners-in-crime, especially knowing that I was unable to attend in-person VSA events. I wish the best of luck to both of you and hope you will continue to lead and shine in whatever the future has in store for you!

Perhaps one experience I will never forget is being able to work with 22 passionate and exceptional presidents. I enjoyed having our “3-on-2” CORR and President Meetings. You all helped me recognize that my role as EVP isn’t just about guiding your VSAs, but to truly bring leaders together to support one another through the good and difficult times. I feel so honored to witness your VSAs grow in the past two years. I hope that success will follow each of you along the way, and I hope to see you continue to help develop our region. VSA doesn’t just end after college. There are so many leadership opportunities out there, and I hope that you’ll bring your talents to those places!

Last but not least, my team. Kent, Mitchell, Tony and Lina, you all were my backbone through it all. Despite the times I felt overwhelmed and stressed, you all reassured me that we were in this together. Thank you for believing in me and supporting me throughout this journey. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of individuals to work with. Four amazing, talented and different people who each brought something unique to the UVSA GC table. My biggest moment during my terms is realizing that I had a real UVSA family who I could depend on. I am sad to see our terms ending, but excited to know that there will soon be five individuals who will have some big shoes to fill (hehe, just kidding).

And to VSA, thanks for giving me some of the best, most memorable, and sometimes tearful six years of my life! <3

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