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  • 00:00


  • 00:09

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN: My name is Thai-Huy Nguyen.[Thai Huy Nguyen, Assistant Professor of Education]I'm assistant professor of educationat Seattle University.And my area of expertise is in higher education,specifically the achievement of minority students.The purpose of this study really emerged outof a larger issue related to understandingthe experiences of racial minorities

  • 00:30

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: and ethnic minorities in higher education.[Background Purpose of the Study]So if we think very broadly about what we know,Asian-Americans tend to be grouped together.And a lot of this is driven by the model minority myth, whichis this misconception that all Asians,

  • 00:51

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: regardless of your ethnic identity, Vietnamese, Chinese,Korean as examples are universally successful.Being that I am Vietnamese, I knew that that wasn't the case.So what I wanted to know was, well,how can we build this research on the experiences

  • 01:12

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: of Vietnamese students in higher education.And one way to first begin that researchis really understanding their history in the United States.And so this particular study looksat the experiences of Vietnamese studentsafter the Vietnam War, which was probablythe most significant event as it relatesto Vietnamese American citizens today.

  • 01:32

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: The overall purpose of this articlewas to push against this broader dominant narrative suggestingthat all Asians are the same, and to showhow this distinct history has influenceon how we understand inequality for Asian-American students.[Archival Research]

  • 01:53

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: My primary method was archival research,so it's a historical paper, and it takes place between,the narrative takes place between 1980 to 1990.I conducted archival research whereI visited the University of California Irvine,and they hold the only special collectionsarchive in the United States on Southeast Asians.

  • 02:16

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: And so I worked with the archivistto understand the materials that were available to me.And these items included student newsletters,student newspapers, student driven magazines,their personal accounts about beingrefugees escaping from Vietnam.I also was able to pull local and regional newspapers

  • 02:41

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: to sort of corroborate a lot of the stories that were sharedfrom the student perspective.[Data Collection Process]Collecting the data was interesting for me in the sensethat I worked very closely with the archivistto really understand what was available.

  • 03:03

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: And the problem with that is that it's not a perfect processbecause institutions essentially havemore materials than they can actually preserve or makesense of.So no matter how well they do a great job of organizing,there are always things that they may not be aware of.So in order to make sure that my visit to the archive

  • 03:23

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: was as efficient as possible, because I had limited funds,I couldn't spend weeks there, I had to really make surethat I knew what was there so that I canrequest exactly what I wanted.And so when I got there, my firstvisit it was about four to five days.Each day was about six to eight hours.

  • 03:44

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: And when I arrived each day they hadboxes of different materials that I requested.And so my initial goal was first to understandwhat was available, what sort of confirmed whatI knew was already available, and thenwhat were the gray areas.Meaning they were items that were in these boxes

  • 04:05

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: that I requested that I actually didn't realize that were there.So things like personal memoirs were categorizedunder student newsletters.And so by finding those things that I weren't expecting,I was able to ask additional questions.And the interesting thing about this processis that when I started this project, I came in with, well,

  • 04:26

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: I want to learn about the experiencesof Vietnamese students at UC Irvine.But by finding those new items that I wasn't expectingI was able to ask questions about their activityoff campus.And so that so for me I began to question what it reallymeant to be a college student and how it wasn't necessarilybounded by a college campus.

  • 04:49

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: And then so from there I took all those materialsand they were very helpful.They make copies of all the thingsthat I wanted to look at.And I took a few months to sit with the material,to understand those gray areas I didn't really understand,and then in preparation for my second and last visitI was able to really ask a little bitmore specific questions about those areas that then

  • 05:11

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: encouraged me to request more material in the archivesto make sure that I was capturinga comprehensive narrative of these students.And so that led me to not only request more materialabout their experiences on the campus,but also about what was going on in that area around UC Irvine.So for instance, requesting materials

  • 05:33

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: from or about Orange County.The Orange County Register, which was the local newspaper,and sort of making sure that the events that were happeningon campus were being validated or corroborated by whatwas being talked about in the region.And so that helped sort of fill in the gapsand create the overall picture.

  • 05:54

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: So the process was both as prepared as possible,but I had to be really flexible to make surethat I was accounting for new materialsthat I didn't know existed.[Challenges]The biggest challenge for me was reallymaking sense of the different primary sources.There was poetry, student memoirs, letters,

  • 06:20

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: reports that they created and it was reallyabout how did they all fit together?And what made it really difficult wasthat a lot of these students when they came from Vietnamand when they resettled, they didn't really know any English.So a lot of their accounts, their poetry

  • 06:40

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: was all in Vietnamese.And I know Vietnamese, I am Vietnamese, and I know it,but I don't know it very well.So I had to make sure that what they were saying,my translation maintained fidelityto the cultural contacts of the Vietnamese culture,because certain words and phrases didn't translate

  • 07:01

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: appropriately.And so I had to take a lot of timeto make sure that I was being really comprehensive.And that actually required me to bring in relatives and friendswho were more fluent in the Vietnamese cultureand can make sure to sort of keep me accountable to makesure that my interpretation was appropriate so

  • 07:22

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: that I was actually portraying the most accurate narrativeabout the students as possible.And so that was really difficult because it just feltlike a lot of back and forth.[Tips]What I would recommend to future researchers whoare interested in a similar projectis to really spend time getting to know

  • 07:44

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: the archivist or the individual who managesthe special collections.They're going to be very knowledgeable about what'sgoing to be available, what's going to be accessible to you,the time line for securing those materials, what services areavailable to you.So for instance, at UC Irvine theywere very helpful about providing a student assistant

  • 08:06

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: that made copies for me, that was before the era of iPhoneswhere you could take photos of all the materials.There was a small fee to that, but itwasn't very burdensome at all, and itwas just it was really helpful.I'm really understanding everything that's availableso that when you arrive you can use your time efficiently

  • 08:28

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: and not feel like you're in a sea of materialsand you're wasting time trying to figure out what's what.And you can really dedicate that timeto really reviewing those materials.I felt like I did that, but I knewthat I could have made more appointments with the archivistover the phone.She was more than willing to meet with me over the phone.

  • 08:49

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: But I have to admit I sort of rushedthrough that process a little bit,thinking that, well, you know they listed everythingon the web site, it should be comprehensive.But I realize that there are thingswhere that weren't listed.And so spending time with her and othersrelated to the archives that manageother aspects of the library would have been more helpful.

  • 09:10

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: [Conclusion]I started with the premise or the questionor the line of inquiry where I wantedto understand just the experiences of students,because I knew that former studieson Vietnamese communities after they resettled, once they

  • 09:30

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: resettled from Vietnam were narratives of victimhood,they lacked agency, meaning they came to America,they were sponsored by American families,and they sort of assimilated.And just knowing about the histories of my own familyI knew that just wasn't true.

  • 09:50

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: And so what was interesting pullingfrom these memoirs, these newsletters,students' personal accounts at UC Irvine,I realized that there was a narrative of action, of agency,where one, because of the struggles being a refugee,they actually came together.They found solidarity with each other.

  • 10:13

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: But two, they also wanted to educate their peersat the UC Irvine campus.And so they invited non Vietnamese studentsto learn about what it means to bea refugee, the significance of the Vietnam Warduring that time.And then, too, they were really activewith their local communities.

  • 10:33

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: So I found tons of evidence wherethey worked with Vietnamese enclaves in Orange County,in the Greater Los Angeles area, making surethat they could help provide services for newly settledhelping them understand that the social welfare

  • 10:54

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: system, the educational system.And then thirdly, it was an opportunity for themto be proud of who they were and where they came from,despite the fact that for them their country was essentiallyno more.And so the overall history that Iprovide in this particular paper was

  • 11:16

    THAI-HUY NGUYEN [continued]: one of social and political action,as opposed to other histories that show themas more silent, a little bit more subservient, and not asactive.[MUSIC PLAYING]nbsp;


Thai-Huy Nguyen examines both the process and challenges associated with archival research. Nguyen also explores the importance of conducting historical research.

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Archival Research: A Case Study

Thai-Huy Nguyen examines both the process and challenges associated with archival research. Nguyen also explores the importance of conducting historical research.

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