Vietnamese grad student finds UWM challenging, rewarding

Linh Pham, a PhD candidate in economics, says being away from her home in Vietnam has made her a stronger woman – and a better cook.

After graduation, second-year economics doctoral student Linh Pham hopes to continue many of the same things she’s doing now: researching, teaching, and volunteering.

In addition to her studies, she has been a successful teacher: She has tutored students at UWM—and UW-La Crosse as an undergraduate—and she is a well-regarded TA who is teaching her first class on her own this semester.

Linh’s volunteer activities include researcher, grant writer, and advisory board member for Brooklyn Bridge To Cambodia, a non-profit group working to improve living standards of rural Cambodian citizens, especially women and children. The international student from Vietnam has also been a translator for Professional Educational Organization International and Youth Leader, an organization promoting social change. She is also a member of the Vietnamese Student Association.

Linh has also exceled academically. UWM Economics graduate studies director Scott Adams notes her High Pass on both the microeconomics and macroeconomics qualifying exams—the first time he’s seen that at UWM—and her 4.0 first-year GPA.

Her academic honors include membership in Golden Key International Honor Society, Beta Gamma Sigma, and Omicron Delta Epsilon Honor Society for Economics. UWM awards include the J. Walter Elliott Memorial Award in Macroeconomics and Chancellor’s Graduate Student Awards for 2012-‘13 and 2013-’14.

1) How would you describe your field of study/research to a friend who is not in your graduate program?
I am studying toward my PhD degree in economics at UWM. Economics is an interdisciplinary field of study and not merely the subject for policymakers or math lovers. In fact, economics is involved in almost every decision of our life from what to have for dinner to which profession we pursue, where we live, whom we marry, and so on. Economics empowers us with a tool to be more effective decision makers. At the same time, through offering us the insight into important issues such as inequality, global poverty, and economic development, economics helps us to become more aware and better citizens of the world.
2) What brought you to UWM for your graduate studies?
During my undergraduate years at UW-La Crosse, I had the opportunity to work with great professors who really inspired me and sparked my interest in economics. Soon I realized that economics was my passion and I wanted to go to graduate school to deepen my understanding of the subject. I was attracted to UWM because of the small class size and because the fields offered in the Economics Department match my research interest. Moreover, having heard a lot of positive comments about Milwaukee and the university, I was very excited to join the graduate program at UWM and so far I have never regretted my choice.
3) What’s been your best experience so far?
The whole graduate program has been an amazing experience. I have had the opportunity to learn from excellent teachers and mentors, who inspire me to further pursue my passion. I am also fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful classmates and colleagues who are bright, smart and fun. I am thankful that fate has brought me here and my life has only been getting better and better every day.
4) If you were able to merge another discipline with yours, what would that be and why?
Economics is an interdisciplinary field of study and is related to many other fields like business, psychology, sociology and biology, just to name a few. So there is not much I would like to merge with my field.
5) What is your favorite stress-reduction activity?
My favorite stress-reduction activities include hanging out with my friends, practicing yoga, cooking, reading, and—particularly—taking photos. Don’t be surprised if you see me around with a camera.
6) What do you most enjoy about Milwaukee?
Milwaukee is a nice city, where you can always find an activity that best fits your mood. For me, the museums, cafés, and Lake Michigan are the places I enjoy the most in Milwaukee.
7) Is there anything that you’ve had to “give up” as a graduate student?
Trade-offs do exist, and that applies to almost everything, including being a graduate student. As an international student, I have to sacrifice the time I could have spent with my family and friends back home and all the delicious food cooked by my mother. But at the same time, I have grown up to become a stronger woman and, of course, a better cook.
8) What are your plans for after graduate school?
After completing my degree at UWM, I wish to find a position at an academic or research institution. I envision my career to be full of researching, teaching, and volunteering, where I will be able to share my passion with other innovative minds, empower people to realize and follow their dreams, and hopefully make positive changes to as many lives as possible.
9) What trait do you find most necessary to succeed in graduate school?
Graduate school is a meaningful experience that you will treasure for the rest of your life. So enjoy every moment of it, be passionate, and be fearless to explore new things. Keep in mind that “ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things if only they have passion and a dream, and are willing to work hard to make their dream come true.”
10) Do you have any advice that you would give to a new graduate student in your program?
Graduate school is a meaningful experience that you will treasure for the rest of your life. So enjoy every moment of it, be passionate, and be fearless to explore new things. As distinguished UW-La Crosse alumna Darryle Clott said, “Ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things if only they have passion and a dream, and are willing to work hard to make their dream come true.”