FSI: Can you tell me more about your background?
AN: My story is rather unusual. I am half-Vietnamese and half-Chinese. My hometown was nicknamed “the foggy sleepy town” as it was high up on a mountain, veiled with a thick layer of fog, and surrounded by forest and waterfalls. Back then, hardly anyone ever left to go overseas. When I was 15 years old, I was awarded the ASEAN scholarship by the Singapore Ministry of Education. My parents were concerned, but I was eager to explore the world beyond my small town and decided to move to Singapore. I completed my high school education and subsequently was awarded the Temasek Education Foundation’s Sunburst Scholarship to complete my bachelor’s degree at the National University of Singapore. I got my first job as a management consultant at Accenture Consulting. I was based in Singapore but had many opportunities to travel and work on projects all around the Asia-Pacific region. I spent eleven years in Singapore, which were my formative years, and thus I consider Singapore as my second home.
Subsequently, I embarked on a journey to explore and learn about other continents — I became a Canadian permanent resident and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia in 2018. I then worked and travelled full-time for about two and a half years, all over Latin America and Europe. During the same period of time, I was planning my next career move: switching from the private sector to the policy world. This was the reason why I applied to the MIP program.
I believe my international exposure contributes significantly to my future career in international policy as these first-hand experiences help me to understand the beautiful diversity of cultures; to develop an appreciation for the nuanced differences between cities, regions, countries and continents; to listen, observe, and empathize with the challenges faced by the people; and to reflect on how effective policy-making can have a positive, sustainable, and scalable impact on their daily lives.
What was your work experience like?
Upon graduation in 2015, I joined Accenture as a management consultant. I helped the company launch the Internet of Things (IoT) Centre of Excellence Innovation Lab in Singapore, the first of its kind in Asia Pacific. My job allowed me to be a generalist, a strategist, and to gain exposure to multidisciplinary fields. I travelled extensively and the learning curve was steep, which was perfect for a fresh graduate to accumulate meaningful working experience rapidly.
After three years, I started strategizing my long-term plan and spent more time reflecting on my passion for education. I have a vision that one day, the international community will have an integrated universal education system that is accessible to every child around the world. I believe that a career in international policy can enable me to make a scalable and sustainable impact, while capitalizing on the power of digital technology, to work towards making my vision a reality. That’s why I decided to apply for a master’s degree in international policy with a focus on digital technology.
Why did you apply to the MIP program, and why did you choose it over other programs?
During my time working as a management consultant, I had the chance to deep dive into the most innovative developments and learn about their potential applications in improving educational opportunities for children around the globe. I realize that digital technology has tremendous potential for transcending education, becoming the driving force behind a future where education is universal and accessible to all children worldwide. However, there is still much more to be done, and we need to take actions at a faster speed on a larger scale, especially with an active involvement of international organizations on the legislative level. Many ongoing efforts did not receive sufficient support, either legally or financially. This is particularly true with the most innovative technologies – where laws, regulations, and public sectors are still lagging behind. Given the immense potential that these technologies have in solving the existing issues, this area must be a top priority on our action list.
In order to turn this ambition into a reality, my first step is to establish my credentials in the policy space. The MIP program not only has strong international policy core courses that equip us with essential skills for policymakers, but also has a great specialization in cyber policy and technology policy. Furthermore, we have the chance to take cross-faculty courses in law, business, and computer science, among others. In addition, I appreciate the fact that Stanford University is situated at the heart of Silicon Valley with a booming technological ecosystem, which works perfectly because I want to keep digital technology close to my heart. Last but not least, I was awarded a full two-year fellowship from Stanford University’s Asia Pacific Scholars Fund, which empowers me to fully focus on my academic pursuit.
If you could describe your experience in the MIP program in one or two words, what words would you use?
It’s been a transformative experience. My knowledge repertoire, my world view, and my perspective are being expanded and transformed every single day in meaningful ways. I had an ambitious vision for a better world, but I did not know exactly how to get there yet. The experience at Stanford has helped me get clearer ideas and shape my strategies to achieve that vision.
The second word I would use is connectivity. The most amazing feature of being at Stanford is the chance to meet, connect, and exchange ideas with outstanding talents. We, MIP students, are so fortunate to be part of the Freeman Spogli Institute. The Institute houses world-class researchers, policymakers, thinkers and doers with impressive portfolio and experience working in international organizations, or for various government administrations, countries and continents. As the class size is relatively small, we have direct access to these professors and their knowledge repertoire. My classmates, from MIP and other faculties, never fail to impress me with their talents, hard work, resilience, and kindness. The diversity of the class is mind-blowing, our cohort has 25 students representing 12 different countries. As an international student myself, I love this diversity because we have many refreshing perspectives in every conversation.
And I’ve had the chance to participate in a long list of exciting activities since arriving on campus: I was the chair of the Cybersecurity Committee during the Stanford Model United Nations Conference last November. I participated in a learning immersion trip to Israel with Stanford Law School last December. I met and conversed with Ambassador Susan Rice and Michèle Flournoy. I took a course taught by Colin Kahl, the former National Security Advisor to former Vice President Joe Biden. I am now in a working group led by Marietje Schaake – former Member of the European Parliament. In the next year, I am looking forward to learning, innovating, connecting, and participating in many other initiatives and creating many more beautiful memories at Stanford.
Our MIP student, Keunwang Nah, chose Stanford “because it is the birthplace of innovations that change the world, but it can also be the birthplace of sound policy that can manage the potentially negative impacts technology can have on society.” Find out more on our FSI blog. #MIPFeatureFriday
Curious as to what our current students have to say about the MIP program? Check out the first #MIPFeatureFriday featuring our graduate student, Isabelle Foster! Stay tuned every Friday for features on our MIP students and alumni. Read more about Isabelle's time with the MIP program.