Yale News: Andrew Nguyen wasn’t a typical first-year Yale College student when he arrived on campus in 2018. While most of his classmates were fresh from their high school graduations, Nguyen had recently completed more than four years of service in the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, including two tours in Afghanistan.
Nguyen, a member of the university’s Eli Whitney Students Program for non-traditional students, initially struggled to adjust — transitioning from an elite light-infantry unit to a college classroom was challenging — but he eventually found his footing, embraced the campus community, and flourished.
“I came to accept that I’m an older student and military veteran — it’s part of my identity — and that everyone at Yale has their own unique experiences,” he said. “We’re all at the same place now, and we can all learn from each other.”
While pursuing a major in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology, Nguyen, a member of Berkeley College, maintained strong connections to the veterans’ community. He served as alumni ambassador for the Warrior Scholar Project, which supports the transition from the military to student life, and as an undergraduate ambassador for Service to School, a nonprofit organization that helps prepare transitioning military veterans to gain admission to the colleges or graduate schools that best suit them, among other veterans-oriented service work.
His also volunteered in the local community, including working as a pediatric emergency room volunteer at Yale New Haven Hospital, a tutor for the New Haven Reads program, and a volunteer at Gather New Haven, an organization that seeks to connect people to each other and their shared natural resources. He was also a tutor with Paper Airplanes, an international nonprofit that provides educational courses for young people who survived conflict.
“Tutoring and being a mentor is extremely valuable to me,” he said. “For example, I’ve been impressed by the young people I’ve tutored through Paper Airplanes who have experienced bombings and extreme hardship in Syria and other countries, and yet have the courage and strength to learn English and pursue their dreams.”
Nguyen recently received the David Everett Chantler Award, which is presented annually to the member of the senior class who has best exemplified qualities of courage, strength of character, and high moral purpose. He faces another intense transition in the fall when he starts at Harvard Medical School. He plans to specialize in orthopedic surgery.
“I look forward to helping my patients improve their quality of life,” he said. “I’m particularly excited to help elderly and combat-injured veterans,” he said. “That patient population is especially close to my heart.”