Jennifer Nguyen ’22 calls herself a “history fanatic.”
She’s an online undergraduate student studying Secondary Education at Chaminade and hopes to one day teach history. So when her English professor, Dr. Brooke Carlson, assigned her class an argumentative essay designed to be something of a self-exploration she knew instantly what she would write about.
She took on nothing less than the Vietnam War, a topic that has haunted her since childhood.
“I find many reasons to be proud of my American heritage,” Nguyen said, in a recent interview. “On the other side, I find myself drawn to the stories, the struggle, and the memory of a war that has affected not only my family but all those who were lost, displaced, resettled, disturbed.”
Her essay explores the problematic way in which Americans collectively remember the war, offering a powerful alternative for recalling a bloody and protracted conflict that Nguyen said is meant to reflect her “love for the American value of expression and a love for cultural identity.”
Her powerful perspective didn’t just impress her professor.
It also garnered a national award: Out of hundreds of submissions from around the country, “The Vietnam War, the American War: Literature, Film, and Popular Memory” was selected as a winner in the MLA (Modern Language Association) Student Paper Contest. A committee of judges said Nguyen’s essay not only had a clear thesis and excellent sources, but the topic and her argument were “compelling.”
In winning the award, Nguyen’s essay will also be published on the MLA Style Center, a hub geared toward students from high school to graduate school that’s meant to demonstrate how to correctly use MLA style – and, of course, write a good essay.
Nguyen said the essay was a “passion project” that was made possible thanks to her partnership with Carlson. Nguyen said her professor suggested she submit the essay to the MLA and then helped her cut the word count and offered other suggestions for tweaks.
“Without him, I would not have even known or considered submitting my work to the MLA contest,” Nguyen said, adding that “This essay really was a joy to research and write. I hope to continue on this path and produce more work that sheds light on important issues.”