Nguyên (right) pictured with Harvard Law classmate Kristen Bokhan at the 2017 Williams Institute LGBTQ Appellate Moot Court Competition
at the UCLA School of Law.

Young Alumni Spotlight on Mario Nguyên (’12)
By Cory Dodds (’13)

On his first day at Harvard Law School, Mario Nguyên (’12) of Dallas, Texas, found himself sitting next to students whose families had attended Harvard for generations and were related to prominent politicos. This experience was overwhelming for the son of an undocumented Mexican immigrant and a Vietnamese refugee.

Nguyên graduated from WKU with a degree in Public Relations in 2012, and he recently received his law degree from Harvard.

“Neither of my parents finished high school,” Nguyên said. “WKU recognized that I came from a different background, from poverty. WKU saw someone with big dreams and invested in them.”

While at WKU, Nguyên was a member of the nationally-recognized forensics team. Mario earned recognition as the Best Informative Speaker in the United States at the American Forensics Association national tournament in 2012.

WKU had a support network in place that helped him succeed academically and professionally.

After graduating from WKU, Nguyên spent time abroad through the Fulbright Binational Internship to Mexico. He served as the Venture and Fellowship Coordinator for Ashoka Mexico and Central America, and he studied business administration at the Tecnológico Autónomo de México in Mexico City.

“The Fulbright Program allowed me to grow and develop. It was critical to preparing me for my future at Harvard.”

Nguyên used the unique experiences he had at WKU to improve the experience of first-generation students at Harvard Law School. He worked to ensure they had a support network and created a fund to support them in applying for judicial clerkships.

“I brought a very different perspective to Harvard Law School than most students because of WKU,” Nguyên said. “Few of my peers attended public universities.”

After receiving his law degree in May, Nguyên returned to Dallas to work at a law firm on white-collar crime and government investigations.

“It is shocking to have gone from food stamps to Harvard Law. The support at WKU has made it possible.”    

Note: Nguyen will return to campus on April 25 to give a talk on the origins, evolution and current state of U.S. immigration law as part of the 11th annual Tracing the Unexplored Series.

Nguyen’s talk, Tracing the Unexplored: A Journey Through the Immigration System, will be held from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Mass Media Technology Hall Auditorium. Admission is free and open to the public. The event is co-sponsored by the WKU Department of Modern Languages, WKU Libraries, WKU Department of Geography & Geology, WKU Department of History, Kentucky Institute of International Studies (KIIS), WKU Glasgow Campus, WKU IT Division and Hilltoppers Organization of Latin American Students (HOLAS).