Ivana Giang is the University of Southern California’s 2019 valedictorian

( Washington Post): “I’ve seen great progress at USC since my freshman year, and now it’s certainly groundbreaking that, for the first time in the 139 years since its founding, women are leading the university,” Ivana Giang said to the more than 19,000 graduates and an estimated 60,000 others at the May 10 ceremony. “But breaking ground isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to find new people to cycle through the same old system. We have to reimagine a fundamental, cultural shift of these systems. Here at USC, we have been told to fight on all these years, but I have to ask USC: What are we fighting for?”

Giang also mentioned in her speech her appreciation for her family history, as the daughter of Vietnamese refugees who settled in Ohio. Some of that discovery was fueled by Nguyen’s course, the American War in Vietnam, which she took during her senior year. The class helped open up conversations with her family members about their past, which they avoided discussing as they forged a life in Ohio, including her grandfather’s service as a colonel in the South Vietnamese army and 10 years as a prisoner of war.

Ivana Giang, who is 22 with bachelor’s degrees in public policy and global studies, will leave for Vietnam in September to teach as part of the Princeton in Asia program. It will be her first time in the country that her father fled by boat at 15, she said.

She hopes to also earn a master’s degree in public policy and return to academia in a teaching role.

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