From Santa Rosa Junior College to an Ivy League
Y Pham, born in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, followed her brother Duc Pham’s example and enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) as an international student. For two years at SRJC, Y Pham juggled several part-time jobs and internships on campus, as well as full-time classes. She received excellent recommendation letters from her teachers and applied to transfer to several Ivy League colleges.
Talent + discipline = success
“My SRJC instructors gave me really good advice. They looked through my essays. My art teacher, Donna Larsen, told me, ‘Talent is a cheap commodity; everyone has it, but not discipline. Discipline is how you will succeed.’” recalled Y. That summer she received the exciting news that she was accepted at Cornell University to study design and environmental analysis with a concentration in well-being design. Sadly, her world was shattered when she realized that her application for financial aid was rejected and the tuition was beyond her ability to earn or borrow.
A roadblock, not the end of the road
Faced with the hard decision to accept defeat or see it as a challenge, Y decided she wouldn’t give up. She continued studying at SRJC, changed her major to biology and took more difficult science classes. She felt that, as a designer interested in health environments, she had to prove that she could make pragmatic and functional designs applied to healthcare systems. She reapplied to Cornell and was accepted, this time with a full scholarship and the support she needed.
The path to her future
After an internship in the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, supported by a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, Y started her studies at Cornell University. There, she was reunited with her brother Duc who was studying for his Ph.D.
Today Y is a healthcare designer at SmithGroup architecture firm in San Francisco, California. As it happens, her firm is working on the new STEM building at SRJC, so Y has come full circle!
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