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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Student Recognized for Academic Excellence

Phong Truong is a nineteen-year-old junior from Vietnam who is double-majoring in math and computer science. He has achieved a 4.0 GPA, a task which he describes as “kind of difficult.”



At the University Convocation on Sept. 13, Chancellor Motley recognized Phong Truong for receiving the John W. Ryan Award this year. It is given annually to the student with the highest grades at UMass Boston. Truong is a nineteen-year-old junior from Vietnam double-majoring in math and computer science. He has achieved a 4.0 GPA, a task which he describes as “kind of difficult.”

Truong has lots of pointers for math and science students who want to work on their grades. He says the key to success is to “pay attention in class, read the book, and do all the examples in the book.” His attitude probably helps, too. He knows he’s good at math and science, but he doesn’t let his pride get in the way of asking for help. Truong doesn’t hesitate to talk to a TA or a professor when he’s confused, and he recommends that other students do so as well. He doesn’t worry himself by considering where he stands in comparison to his classmates. Until he got an email telling him that he had been given the award, he says, “I never thought about that…I just try to do my best.”

Truong has excelled despite obstacles which many UMass students have never had to face. He arrived in Boston two years ago thinking he spoke fluent English, only to discover that he didn’t understand the Massachusetts accent. He says that at first he took in about 70 percent of what his teachers told him. Somehow he managed to get stellar grades in all his classes, including those in English, while he was learning to talk like a local.

Despite spending much of his first semester feeling uncomfortable and shy—“Everything was kind of strange,” he recalls—Truong is certainly no longer shy. In fact, he has already received scholarships for his involvement in campus life. When he isn’t in class, he works at UMass Boston as a facilitator for computer science and math study groups. Truong also volunteers as a Dean’s Ambassador for the College of Science and Mathematics.

Truong has been taking five classes per semester, with a minimum of two math and two computer science classes each. This semester he went up to six. He spends his weeknights doing homework, often until about midnight. That may sound grueling, but it doesn’t mean that he never enjoys himself. He saves going out with friends for weekends, and he has a great roommate: his sister, a Ph.D. student at BU who studies mathematical finance. He likes to listen to music and watch TV, and he Skypes with his parents in Vietnam about twice a week. He even uses his free time, when he has any, to practice piano, an instrument he has been playing for several years now.

Truong is emphatic when he talks about how much he likes Boston. He thinks it’s a “great city for international students.” He’s thrilled that the public transportation means he doesn’t need a car, he’s happy to live near the ocean, and he’s very interested in the local museums and libraries. His favorites are the Museum of Fine Arts, especially the Contemporary Art Wing, and the Museum of Science.

Truong’s plans for the future are still up in the air. He’d take a job, but he’s also thinking about graduate school. He says he may keep living in Boston, go back to Vietnam, or even explore a new country like the UK. For someone as accomplished as he is, there are a lot of options.