Kennedy Nguyen arrived at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln apprehensive about the next steps ahead in his journey.
After interning in We Are Nebraska and sharing his experience as a transgendered male, the senior marketing major from Saigon, Vietnam, is graduating with confidence in his future and strong support from the community he helped start at the College of Business.
“When I was a freshman, I was so nervous. I had no idea what was going on, where to go or who to hang out with,” Nguyen said. “After being a part of We Are Nebraska, I feel like I’m more visible within the College of Business.”
His internship brought students from all backgrounds together to perform their personal stories in a theatrical manner to inspire and educate the local Nebraska community. One of those performances took stage at Nguyen’s own college, a moment he cited as a confidence booster.
“After the show at the college, I was able to be more vocal on the topics of diversity and inclusion,” Nguyen said.
Continuing his advocacy for change in the transgender community, Nguyen also helped start the new College of Business student organization, Pride in Business. He sees the organization as a place to find a supportive community, which he recognizes as important due to his own personal experience.
“I really wanted an organization like this back when I was a freshman, and it was tough for me because I didn’t see people who shared the same identity with me in the College of Business. When Jasie Beam (Clifton Builders program coordinator) and Kim Smith (associate director of communications, marketing and external relations) reached out asking for my help with the organization, I was hyped,” he said.
As the organization’s founding advisers, Beam and Smith knew about the strength of Nguyen’s leadership qualities within the Nebraska LGBTQIA+ community. They looked to Nguyen and other students for key insight when forming the bylaws, constitution and purpose of the organization.
“Kennedy wanted to make sure that supporting all students was the first priority,” Beam said. “He wanted to ensure we were thinking of all types of diversity and intersectionality so Pride in Business could be clear that we actively support and advocate for all identities a person brings into the organization. He really helped push each piece of the constitution to the next level.”
Beam views the organization as a direct measure to help support those in the LGBTQIA+ community, who often face unique challenges.
“Students go through a lot more than just sitting in the classroom, doing homework, and working on projects — that is no secret — so support for students shouldn’t just stop there either. Pride in Business helps us intentionally support out and allied students who are interested in business to continue that mission of supporting what makes us all unique beyond the classroom,” she said.
From her experience working with Nguyen, Beam recognizes him as a devoted leader on campus, earning the title due to his involvement within several communities at Nebraska. She praised his commitment to support those around him.
“Kennedy’s advocacy is truly inspiring,” Beam said. “He is always the first to jump in and support others, share his story and challenge us to do more. His leadership is evident in every situation I’ve seen him in and he is going to continue improving every organization or group he is a part of in the future.”
Now as Nguyen graduates, he advises students to stick to one of the College of Business guiding principles that helped him during his time at Nebraska.
“After more than three years of experience here at the College of Business, I feel like I’ve grown a lot. From my leadership to my academic knowledge of marketing, I’ve been proactive enough to differentiate myself. Just challenge yourself — be humble, but hungry,” Nguyen said.
Learn more about Pride in Business here.