A child of immigrants, Jennifer Phan navigated the world as a Vietnamese American and overcame barriers of learning English as a second language. Driven by her self-determination to pursue a higher education, she earned a scholarship from the Smittcamp Family Honors College to attend Fresno State.
“All of Jennifer’s academic successes are amplified in light of the fact that she grew up in an immigrant family in which English was a second language, financial hardships were abundant and higher education was not encouraged and/or supported,” said Dr. Saeed Attar, director of the Smittcamp Family Honors College. “She has exhibited exceptional promise to become a dedicated professional who will serve her future community well, wherever that may be.”
Phan, a Fresno State senior biochemistry major and mathematics minor, is one of 23 students chosen by the California State University (one from each campus) to receive the 2019 CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement, the CSU system’s highest recognition of student achievement. Phan is the Trustee Emeritus Peter Mehas Scholar.
The trustees’ awards provide donor-funded scholarships to students who demonstrate superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service and financial need. Students receiving the awards have all demonstrated inspirational resolve along the path to college success and many are the first in their families to attend college.
“These 23 student scholars wonderfully embody the ideals and values of the California State University,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White. “They have demonstrated brilliance, tenacity and extraordinary resolve in overcoming many obstacles in the pursuit of their academic goals. It is inspiring to consider the collective future impact they will have on their families, communities and the state of California.”
Phan maintains a 4.0 GPA while working toward her bachelor’s degree. She received funding to conduct research at Fresno State on natural medicinal projects to fight cancer and has received numerous awards and scholarships for her studies. Her career goal is to become a pediatric oncologist.
“I love being around kids,” Phan said, “and I feel like there are a lack of pediatricians here in California.”
Phan is a scholar in service through the Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning and an academic research associate for UCSF Fresno Medical Center. She volunteers with the Community Revitalization Program, at a medical outreach program and a mobile health clinic serving underprivileged Central Valley residents.
“Jennifer has taken a leading role in many opportunities to serve the Fresno State campus as well as the greater Fresno area community by volunteering her time at organizations such as Tzu Chi Medical Clinic, Community Revitalization Program, American Red Cross and Poverello House,” Attar said.
Phan said the work she has done with the Tzu Chi clinic, a free clinic that offers services in the Valley, ever since her freshman year at Fresno State is especially meaningful, helping people without easy access to medical care to get treatment.
After graduation, before continuing on with her studies, Phan plans to dedicate a year to community service, perhaps with AmeriCorp’s Vista program, which sends members to impoverished communities to help improve situations there.
“I wouldn’t be here today without these types of experiences,” Phan said. “I know a lot of people just go to school, go to class and then they go to work and then home. But I feel like it’s important to reach out and do community service because you get to really know the people around you and how important it is and their needs. And maybe you’ll learn something about yourself, too, along the way.”
Phan and the other recipients will be publicly recognized during the CSU Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach on Sept. 24.