Compassionate MBA Student Means Business in COVID-19 Crisis

Nhan Pham ’19 has his hands full lately as he pursues his MBA in Healthcare Leadership. He is answering the hotline at the COVID-19 Call Center in Marin County while continuing his work as a support service worker and case manager for the county’s Behavioral, Recovery, Integrated and Dedicated to Growth and Excellence (BRIDGE) program.

How does he do it?

“Communication and compassion are skills I learned from Dominican that are helping me navigate through work and school right now,” he says.

Nhan started working full time in Health and Human Services in Marin last December, seven months after he received his undergraduate degree from the Barowsky School of Business. He had interned for Behavioral Health and Recovery Services of Marin in the spring of 2019 as part of his Community Action and Social Change (CASC) minor through the Service-Learning Program and that led to him being recommended for a position with the BRIDGE program because of his involvement with the Vietnamese community and his knowledge of mental health issues.

When the spread of the coronavirus started making in-roads to Marin County last month, Nhan was asked to answer questions, provide resources and listen to concerns from community members on the call line, in addition to performing his normal duties at BRIDGE of checking in with his clients, outreach to new clients, and providing additional support to his clients during the pandemic.

 Meanwhile, Nhan has stayed on track toward completing his MBA this summer.

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“I am able to manage my work with the Call Center and BRIDGE plus school because it is very rewarding,” Nhan says. “Working at the Call Center is rewarding for me because I can be a part of the workforce who is helping the community during this pandemic. Working at BRIDGE is fulfilling because I am a part of the recovery journey of my clients, who are struggling with mental health. Working on finishing my MBA in healthcare policy is enriching because I am able to work toward a goal that I have always wanted to accomplish and use the degree to enrich other people’s lives.”

Transferring to Dominican halfway through his freshman year was a transformative decision that set Nhan Pham on a path toward leadership roles both on and off-campus with internships that nurtured his interest in the world of business, and global learning opportunities that expanded both his personal and professional network.

Nhan, who graduated from Santa Rosa’s Elsie Allen High School, transferred to Dominican after spending his first semester attending a liberal arts college in Pennsylvania.

“I realized that it was important for me to study somewhere that was closer to home and closer to where I want to eventually work and live,” he says about his decision to transfer to Dominican.

Almost immediately after arriving as a freshman, Nhan immersed himself in both the Dominican and Marin County communities. Enrolling in a Service-Learning course his freshman was a game-changer.

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“The Service-Learning program gave me purpose in my college career,” Nhan says. “I learned how to be a leader in our community, I learned how to speak up for people in the community, and most importantly I made connections through the programs of several community partners.”

Nhan's first service-learning opportunity was working with Canal Alliance, a local nonprofit that works on behalf of immigrants challenged by a lack of resources and an unfamiliar environment. He started with Canal Alliance's English as a Second Language (ESL) program, where he had his first exposure to the multicultural immigrant community in San Rafael. After working with the adults, his second semester with Canal Alliance provided him with an understanding of the younger members of the Canal immigrant community through its University Prep (UP!) program.

Besides Canal Alliance, Nhan also worked with Health Hubs, a food distribution and health advocacy program coordinated by Marin Community Clinics. He gained a deeper awareness of the daily challenges of immigrant families in this county — not only cultural and linguistic challenges, but also the gaps toward families having adequate nutritional support and healthcare access.

In his senior year, Nhan did an internship with Marin Asian Advocacy Project, a non-profit that has been providing social services for the local Asian community for the last two decades. Nhan, who immigrated to the United States from Vietnam with his parents, was instrumental in helping organize a weekly social gathering for the Vietnamese elders in San Rafael. The relationships he built with the elders, and the conversations he had with them, changed his perception of his own ethnic community.

“I realized that many of the people in Marin’s Vietnamese community experienced social isolation — even after being here for many years,” Nhan says. “My experiences were different. It is sad to look at your own community and realize isolation is an issue, living in poverty is an issue, and finding support is an issue.”

His experiences in the Service-Learning program led Nhan to the CASC minor.

“I gained so much from these experiences. I learned how to be a compassionate and understanding person.”

Inside the classroom, he has appreciated the mentorship of several faculty in the Barowsky School of Business, particularly Dr. Christopher Leeds.

“Dr. Leeds taught me so much about how to write and communicate in a business setting. He taught me how to give a presentation — about the flow of your message and how to speak in public.”

With a busy schedule, the business major also gained leadership experience through internships and on-campus leadership positions.

A marketing internship with Health Net gave him insight into many facets of marketing, from brand image to effective communication. An internship with Rafael Racquet Club taught him how to be an independent leader in a much smaller organization. Working as an RA and RA liaison to ASDU taught him how to communicate with students, peers, friends, and coworkers with humility and respect.

His junior year Nhan studied business at Nord University in Norway through Dominican’s Global Education Office. This exposure to global business is serving him well as he continues his studies in Dominican’s MBA program.

“Dominican is a dream made possible because of this diverse community,” he says. “I am a first-generation, immigrant student who studied abroad, was an RA, was a part of student government, and has a major and a minor. Without this community, I would not have any of these experiences.”

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