Professor Ly Nguyen Connects the Personal and Political

Heldon Centellas, contributor

Ly Nguyen is a new professor at Augsburg University currently working in the newly formed Critical Race and Ethnic Studies (CRES) department, working as an Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies. She teaches the “Topics: Introduction to Critical Race and Ethnic Studies” course.

“At its core, Critical Race & Ethnic Studies draw connections between personal experiences and the larger history; regular people who may not be powerful, but become powerful in the process of seeking justice, and righting the wrongs caused by dominating institutions. All of these contribute to how I approach teaching and learning,” she said of her teaching philosophy.

Ly Nguyen is a valuable addition to the faculty at Augsburg as she brings in a wealth of knowledge and experience surrounding the histories of oppression and resistance around the world. Born and raised in Hà Nội, Vietnam, she got her Master’s degree in Sociology at San Diego University and a PhD in Ethnic Studies at the University of California San Diego. Her research interests range from the transnational histories of race and empire, political activism, social movements, as well as queerness and refugee epistemology. 

After the murder of George Floyd in May of 2020, Nguyen actively worked to address anti-Blackness within the Asian-American community. Her work with Vietnamese-language materials and organizations lead her to work with the South East Asian Diaspora Project in Minneapolis. Due to her ties within the city, Nguyen found herself eager to take on a role at Augsburg. 

“I like that some folks at Augsburg, both faculties and students, were really pushing for the establishment of CRES,” she said. “It is a unique opportunity for me as well, as a recent Ph.D. graduate, to not only work in a department of my field, but also help envision and build it.”

Classes in the CRES department help to analyze the world around us and see how our everyday experiences are gendered, racialized, and class-oriented. These classes could lead to a career in social justice, law, nonprofit work, art, film, and many more applicable fields. 

Nguyen believes in the importance of this department because it mirrors our increasingly self-reflective society. “In simple words, CRES serves students who want to critically understand their relationship with the world and with history,” she said. “This field affords you a critical lens to develop your imagination to alternative futures than the one you are handed.” 

“This field affords you a critical lens to develop your imagination to alternative futures than the one you are handed.”

Ly Nguyen, critical race and ethnicity studies professor

Exploring the causes and long-lasting effects of colonialism is critical for students to learn if they want to understand the world in a new point of view, something that Nguyen’s course touches on. With plans to offer more CRES department courses in the Spring semester of 2022, the future of this department is promising.

Students who are interested in learning more about the CRES department can contact Professor Ly Nguyen (nguyenl2@augsburg.edu) and fellow CRES Professor Monica Lugo-Velez (lugovele@augsburg.edu) who offers the course “Topics in Latine/x Studies.” They would be more than happy to answer any questions you have about their courses and the department.