TU faculty, staff support helps achieve a family dream

By Kyle Hobstetter on May 8, 2023

P.D. Nguyen the first in her family to graduate from a four-year college

Spring graduate Phuong Dinh Nguyen '23
Phuong Dinh Nguyen will graduate this spring with a bachelor's degree in computer science. She will also be the first in her family to graduate from a traditional four-year college. (Alex Wright / Towson University) 

When Phuong Dinh Nguyen’s parents immigrated from Vietnam, they had a dream—that she and her brother would have a chance at a better life and a better education.

This spring, that dream comes true when Nguyen graduates with a bachelor’s degree in computer science with a track in software engineering.

“I was able to achieve so much with all the support and encouragement that Towson University gave me,” Nguyen says. “My parents will be able to see that as I walk across the stage during Commencement.”

Nguyen, who goes by P.D. on campus, was attracted to TU because of the Fisher College of Science & Mathematics (FCSM) Scholarship.

This donor-funded, endowed scholarship is awarded to incoming freshmen who are committed to a major housed in the FCSM and is renewable for three years if the student remains in the college.

Nguyen found out she received the scholarship after a phone call from former FCSM Dean Dave Vanko. She took the call right after waking up from a nap. For a few minutes she thought she was dreaming.

“I was so bamboozled when I fully woke up,” Nguyen laughs. “I was really excited when I got the Fisher Scholarship, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted from college. I’m the first in my family to go to a traditional, four-year college, so there was no one I could ask.”

When she visited TU, she was escorted around campus by Vanko, who introduced Nguyen to faculty and showed her what life as a Tiger would be like.

After her visit, Nguyen liked to compare picking a college to the fairy tale “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” Some schools felt too big, some felt too small but TU seemed just right.

And that has stayed true in her four years on campus.

“Every semester I got to experience something new,” Nguyen says. “I always think about how at other universities I wouldn’t have been granted the same opportunities I received here. And that makes me grateful for all the support I’ve received from my mentors and peers.”

Many of her key experiences came as a member of the Honors College. Just this past February, Nguyen helped plan and host the Maryland Collegiate Honors Council’s annual conference.

She was also TU’s nominee for the 2023 John & Edythe Portz Award Maryland Honors College Student of the Year.

Nguyen co-authored a paper accepted to the 2023 COMPSAC Conference at the University of Turin in Italy. COMPSAC is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society’s signature conference on computers, software and applications.

The paper is about tracing user activity with timestamps on mobile devices, specifically Androids. The goal of the research is to help with digital forensics in solving criminal cases.

The opportunity came because she was looking for an experiential learning opportunity, which is a requirement of the Honors College.

“I love participating in class and developing a relationship with my professor,” Nguyen says. “Dr. Lin Deng, who taught my software engineering class, invited me into this research group where I was able to develop my paper as part of his digital forensics research team.

“My research could help victims reach their closure. That motive drives me, along with the fact our research group is really fun.”

With graduation right around the corner, Nguyen already has a job lined up as a software engineer for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Through her time at Towson University, she believes she is ready to handle whatever comes her way. She cites the technical skills she learned through the computer science program as well as the interpersonal skills she developed on campus.

Nguyen credits faculty and staff like Honors College rector Terry Cooney and director Alison McCartney and FCSM faculty like Vanko, Deng and Josh Dehlinger. They are the mentors who encouraged her to achieve the dream Nguyen’s parents had for her.

“I don't think I would have been able to complete my computer science degree to the level of achievement that I did without their encouragement and help,” Nguyen says. “My parents left their comfortable lifestyles so I can get a better life. For me to achieve one of their dreams is very meaningful.”