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James Madison University is a special place that often fosters a sense of pride and passion that cannot be matched but in a few places. This creates a sense of community that is valuable to the ideals that generate the All Together One spirit we are here to celebrate. People come here for school and fall in love with it, sometimes staying or finding their way back not long after graduation. They could come from within the Commonwealth of Virginia, or from anywhere around the globe. After being born in Vietnam and growing up in New York, Duc Tam Nguyen found his way to JMU as a part of the class of 2016, and then found his way back to both continue his education and improve the experiences of students like he once was.

As a Graduate Assistant in the Center for Global Engagement, he has made a large impact on many individuals, specifically the international students that have come to JMU. Going to a different country for college can be a disorienting, frightening, and exciting experience. Tam’s service as a Leader for International Network and Knowledge, or a LINKer, while an undergraduate meant that he was one of the first faces an international student might encounter on campus and the positive impression he left on those newly minted Dukes was important as they made the transition to life on campus. 

Now, as the Program Assistant for International Student & Scholar Services within the Center for Global Engagement, Tam mentors the LINK group of which he was once a part. Recruiting, welcoming, and connecting international students with the JMU community is what being a LINKer is all about, and he brings his experiences as an international student and a former LINKer himself to help build our JMU community. As one nominator put it: “He had a

completely different way of approaching our team. “He is not like other bosses, but more like a role model of what we can be…. He makes sure [his team also has the tools and abilities] to do so themselves. Tam is definitely one of a kind and a perfect candidate for the All Together One  Award.”

Not only does Tam work with the LINKers, but his enthusiasm for the community and his caring for others is also on display through the Conversation Partner Program that he helps to lead. Tam connects international and domestic students with each other based on common interests, and hosts a weekly lunch to check in on them and see how things are going. Promoting this connection builds the All Together One attitude that this award is all about.

This attitude is a large part of who Tam is. One nominator makes mention of a nameplate that is found on his desk in the office. It reads, “Inspire,” and it is something that Tam tries to live every day. As someone whose role can be boiled down to coaching and empowering students, he strives to set an example for all who he interacts with. Helping them with not just their academic struggles but also the struggles of life as an international student. He isn’t just an example for students, though.

A recurring theme among the nominating letters for Tam was his innovations that have helped the program grow. Several staff members spoke highly of Tam’s collaborative efforts within their department that have led to improvements during his time here. As a Graduate Assistant he has done design work to create new marketing materials, he has helped develop more “unique and inclusive programming,” and there were several mentions of the International Duke Dog social media presence. His creativity has strengthened the department and made him a valuable part of the team, beyond what is typically expected of a Graduate Assistant. His continuing of his education through the iMBA program seems like the perfect fit for someone that has provided so many innovative ideas through his work.

It is clear from reading all of the letters sent in to nominate Tam that he is the embodiment of the All Together One spirit that this award recognizes in our community. He is certainly a unique individual and his contributions to the JMU community will be long lasting. He is being the change we want to see in the world by empowering students to do the same. To quote another of his nominators: “[Tam] is the very definition of the award because he really does bring all of us together as one.”

I am honored, therefore, to present a 2019 All Together One Award to Duc Tam Nguyen. For all the work he has done, and all the work he will surely do, to strengthen the JMU community.

Tam, please come forward to receive your award.

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