Thach-Giao Truong, a senior majoring in anthropology and biology, used her Provost's Undergraduate Research Award to travel last summer to Vietnam and conduct an anthropological study of the national dish, a type of beef noodle soup. While there, Truong, a second-generation Vietnamese, also interned at a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City and said she was able to spend a considerable amount of time immersing herself in the culture.
"I really became interested in the history of Vietnam and the way people remembered it," Truong said. "From that point on, I decided I wanted to explore the subject further and one day soon return to Vietnam."
As winner of the inaugural Walsh Second Decade Society Leadership Award, Truong has chosen to use her $20,000 stipend to spend one full year in Vietnam studying the impact of the nation's shift from communism to a type of market socialism--specifically, how it has affected the country's vulnerable child population.
Truong will teach at an elementary school outside of Saigon in order to conduct her anthropological fieldwork. "I'm going to look at the way people are taught history through the school system," Truong said. "I will be examining the school's curriculum and interviewing parents and students to see how this history is being created."
She said she wants to correlate how the current regime's switch in ideology has shown up in schools, and how people process that change in their daily lives.
Truong said winning this award is a tremendous opportunity, and she cannot wait to reconnect with her Vietnamese heritage.
"I am incredibly overwhelmed," said Truong, who will enter medical school upon her return to the U.S.