Speaking on Security

Phuc Pham | New University

Phuc Pham | New University

UCI alumna Ha N. Nguyen speaks on her personal experiences working in international security.


Closing its quarter-long series of guest speakers, the International Studies Public Forum hosted UC Irvine graduate Ha N. Nguyen on Thursday, March 7, in Social Science Plaza A to discuss her transition “From International Studies to International Security.”

Nguyen graduated from UC Irvine in 2002 with a degree in international studies, attended the Harvard Kennedy School for Public Policy, moved on to work in the Department of Homeland Security, and is currently working in Aviation Security through the Executive Office of the President.

Nguyen requested her lecture be off the record, due to the personal experiences and opinions she expressed about her time in Washington D.C. Her lecture addressed many of the behind-the-scene politics that happen in Washington and her advice with the necessary professional and social skills necessary of students who are interested in pursuing a career in D.C.

She later opened up the floor to questions, and many curious students had questions for Ms. Nguyen relating to D.C. and the graduate school experience.

She fielded questions ranging from her everyday work routine, to her experience in the Department of Homeland Security during the administration shift. Many were interested about the skills it takes to make it in D.C., as well as the different graduate programs available for students who are interested in going down the same path and eventually getting involved in government work.

Many students in attendance were graduating this year and inquired about the process of applying to different graduate programs, and which programs are most beneficial for students intending to get involved in the government.

This lecture was one of many versatile subjects in the forum that allows students to explore different possible career paths and opportunities, as well as simply exposing them to high-ranking professionals in different fields.

“This forum allows you to hear experiences from all different fields and pathways,”  Gaolee Vang, a third-year international studies major, said. “It has really helped give me exposure to real life application of the skills I am learning right now.”

The International Studies Public Forum, also known as International Studies 183A, is a part of the international studies major curriculum which is required twice for international studies majors. The forum is offered every quarter, each quarter hosting a variety of different guest speakers.

Although it is also officially registered as a class, the forum is open to, and encourages, people outside of the International Studies Department. The forum invites speakers from a wide range of disciplines to reach out to the diverse interests of the UCI campus and posts the schedule of speakers for the quarter on the International Studies website.

The purpose of the forum is to engage speakers from diverse disciplines ranging from academic to policy and international organizations to discuss their experience and educate UC Irvine on the variety of international issues faced in modern times.

Students find that the forum goes beyond simply a major requirement and regard it as a way to connect their major to a future career path.

“The International Studies Forum is a way to see different people from different fields and be able to think ‘I can actually do that as a job,’ and it gives more specific ideas of jobs depending on what the field of the speaker is,”  Melissa Garcia, a fourth-year international studies and anthropology double major, said.

During fall quarter, the forum hosted speakers from the Washington Post to Hawaii Pacific University.

Winter quarter featured speakers ranging from Rev. Dr. Bernard Lafayette Jr. from Emory University, to Robert Blancarte from El Colegio de Mexico.

Professor Cecelia Lynch, a political science professor and the Director of International Studies, gave a preview of speakers to come in the future, some of whom include a Cuban official as well as a former UC Irvine student working with the British consulate.