STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: ADAM NGUYEN


Architecture graduate student Adam Nguyen is quickly climbing the stairs to success in his studies and career, earning his degrees on the fast track and becoming a valuable team member for an important cause.

As Nguyen works to complete his master’s degree, he has also signed on with Green UH to promote sustainability on campus. Originally from Vietnam, Nguyen moved to Houston with his family in 1992. He is the youngest of four siblings with three older sisters. Before UH, Nguyen received his bachelor’s degree in urban studies and sociology in only three years from the University of Texas. He then entered graduate school, first at the University of Michigan then transferring to UH. He will earn his degree in December 2012, again graduating early.

Nguyen joined the Green UH student team last fall. The team works to assist Leah Wolfthal, program coordinator for sustainability, in efforts to further the green mission on campus including promoting green practices and events, gathering data for national reporting, and doing research on the UH community’s knowledge and behaviors in regards to sustainability. As part of the student team, Nguyen has provided graphics for promotional items and assisted in creating the monthly newsletters as well as facilitating research for the group last semester.

“We did face-to-face pilot surveys to assess the level of awareness in students at UH in regards to the environment. We wanted to get their thoughts on public transportation and evaluate their awareness of economics and jobs in sustainability. What we found was that students are positive about sustainability but not really knowledgeable as to what’s happening, even locally at the university,” Nguyen said.

He said he and the Green UH team are working to increase awareness on campus and get more people involved in their mission. In architecture, Nguyen said sustainability is something that is always on his mind but being a part of the diverse Green UH team has helped inspire him to do his part.

“What I like about my job is the freedom we are given. Everyone is able to express their thoughts, feelings and opinions openly which allows us to learn and grow from one another. Working for the Green UH team has really made me more aware of the environment,” Nguyen said.

His green values have also carried over into his academic projects for his studio course where he developed a plan for an addition to a cabin in Mt. Rainier to house climbers before they summit to the top of the mountain. Nguyen described a shelter consisting of concrete and recycled glass bottles that formed an insulated, intimate structure for climbers which had a chrysalis appearance on the outside, but dark, modular feel on the inside. He said it looked like a “starry night” to provide an ideal place for rest before the climbers embarked on their journey.

This summer, Nguyen will join 11 other students on their own trip to study abroad in Italy. It will be his first trip to Europe. During their stay, the students will learn the culture and take classes for studio, sketching and history while they reside in a dormitory.

“We’re supposed to have two Italian women cook for us. I’m really excited about that,” he said.

After Nguyen graduates, he said he hopes to get into residential architecture or small commercial projects. He hopes to work his way up and eventually become his own boss.

“When I was younger, I knew for sure I wanted to get licensed and eventually start my own firm,” he said. “Now that I’m older, I’m still toying with that possibility although I’m not sure how the job market will fair in a couple of years. Here’s hoping it gets better.”