Conference directors are some of the busiest people before, during and after UNAVSA-14. From executing the website to gala to workshops (and beyond!), these dedicated staff members spearhead the campaigns that give the conference life. This year’s directors are:

Vanessa Nguyen, Associate Director
Lynn Khuat, Associate Director

Anh Nguyen, Entertainment
Chris Hew, Logistics
Chris Pham, Family Programming
Cynthia Nguyen, Registration
Daniel Luu, IT
Jimmy Mai, Programming
Olyvia Chac, Marketing
Ryan Valdez, Media
Tyler Tran, Hospitality

For this week’s blog post, we asked each of the directors about their experience with both UNAVSA as an organization and a conference.


An incomplete group photo of Registration Committee with Kabrina Do, Jordan Dang, Cynthia Nguyen (Director), and Mina Tran

From left to right, members of the Registration Committee: Kabrina Do, Jordan Dang, Cynthia Nguyen (Director), Mina Tran

What were your first impressions of UNAVSA?

“I didn’t know a whole lot about UNAVSA until UNAVSA-12 was hosted in Seattle and some friends from school told me about it. I attended the conference without really knowing what to expect and left with a new found love. Essentially, I found another sense of “home” and I found a place that allows me to be inspired and strive to make a true difference in the community as a young Vietnamese-American. Attending that conference for the first time, I was eager to learn more about the organization and get more involved. I truly believe that an organization is as great as the people in it and it was really through the people I got to meet through my first conference that got me so ‘hooked’ on UNAVSA.”

—Cynthia Nguyen

“I was a little nervous before attending UNAVSA-10 but at the same time was open minded. I knew UNAVSA was a continental organization in support of the Vietnamese communities in America and Canada, but I did not know how much UNAVSA reached as an organization – it was pleasant surprise.”

—Lynn Khuat


An incomplete photo of the Marketing Committee at staff retreat with Eric Yao, Olyvia Chac (Director), and Kat Phan

From left to right, members of the Marketing Committee: Eric Yao, Olyvia Chac (Director), Kat Phan

What were some of your favorite memories from your first conference?

“My most memorable part was meeting people who were changing the community around them. There were VSA officers, just like me, who were organizing rallies, actively participating in politics, fighting for social justice, etc. I felt inspired to do and be more.”

—Chris Pham

“I can’t remember which UNAVSA specifically, either 10 or 12, but it was during closing ceremony and we played the “cinnamon roll” game. At the end of the cinnamon roll, everyone squeezes together and hugs each other. I felt random strangers around me hug and show me as much love as if we were siblings or best friends. The atmosphere was filled with pure love and genuine care for one another.”

—Olyvia Chac

Associate Co-Director Lynn Khuat and Ha Trinh from Southeast at UNAVSA-13 Gala receiving their "Best VSA Member of the Year" awards

From left to right: Ha Trinh (from the Southeast region), Lynn Khuat (Associate Co-Director)

What convinced you to return as a staff member, and then as a director?

“I took a break year from staff during UNAVSA-13 as an attendee, but I found that it’s true that once you are staff, it’s difficult to go back to being an attendee. The reason being that when you know the ins and outs of conference, you are more likely to want to help out, but as an attendee you can’t. I owe the UNAVSA organization for continually allowing me the opportunities to grow and become the person I am today.”

—Lynn Khuat

“I just graduated from college and one of the biggest questions I had in mind was ‘Where does my time with VSA go from here?’ I wasn’t ready to let it go yet and I had the urge to continue being involved. I decided to apply to be a director because I felt like I could really used my experience from last year to enhance the conference experience, but furthermore, I wanted to be able to empower a team. I wanted to step up as a leader and used my role as a director to inspire others and help them feel the same love and passion I have for the organization and for the people in it.”

—Cynthia Nguyen

What does UNAVSA mean to you?

Kevin Le (Logistics), Vicky Mai (Hospitality), Tyler Tran (Hospitality Director), Vivien Nguyen (Family), and Ryan Valdez (Media Director) group photo at staff retreat

From left to right: Kevin Le (Logistics), Vicky Mai (Hospitality), Tyler Tran (Hospitality Director), Vivien Nguyen (Family Programming), Ryan Valdez (Media Director)

“The conference has really allowed me to get more in tune with my Vietnamese heritage and has given me the propensity to do more for my community. I was able to meet amazing people and be inspired by their passion for the organization. It’s like a huge family as well. No matter where you go, physically or metaphorically, you’ll always have someone there to embrace you.”

—Jimmy Mai

“I would not be the person I am today without UNAVSA. I’ve grown as a person, learned many skills, as well as made many life long friendships and connections that I am beyond grateful for. I’ve been involved for the past four years, going on five, and I plan to be involved in some shape or form for as long as I can.”

—Tyler Tran

Cee Nguyen (Information Technology) and Michelle Nguyen (Entertainment) ready to eat beignets at Cafe du Monde

From left to right: Cee Nguyen (Information Technology), Michelle Nguyen (Entertainment)

What is the most exciting thing about UNAVSA-14?

“One of the most interesting things to observe is the rich and diverse culture in NOLA. Just by sitting in Jackson square you can see street performance from all specialties like jazz players, tarot palm readers, magicians artists and other assorted acts.”

—Chris Hew

“The most exciting thing about UNAVSA-14 will DEFINITELY be the Culture Show and Gala! Entertainment Committee has a lot of amazing things in store, and we can’t wait for all our hard work to come to fruition!”

—Anh Nguyen

“In previous years, UNAVSA’s conference theme typically considers how our past has shaped us, and how our future motivates us. The theme ‘Unlock the Present’ asks the question ‘What can we do right here, right now, in the present?’ For both enthusiastic individuals and aspiring leaders, the time to take action is not ‘some day one day.’ Instead, the time to do so is now.”

—Ryan Valdez

A group photo of conference directors at staff retreat

Our conference directors from top to bottom, left to right: Jimmy Mai (Programming), Chris Hew (Logistics), Ryan Valdez (Media), Vanessa Nguyen (Associate Co-Director), Thanh-Thanh Pham (Executive Director), Anh Nguyen (Entertainment), Olyvia Chac (Marketing), Lynn Khuat (Associate Co-Director), Chris Pham (Family Programming), Cynthia Nguyen (Registration), Daniel Luu (Information Technology), Tyler Tran (Hospitality)

What do you hope attendees will learn at UNAVSA-14?

“I hope as conference staff we’re able to showcase and share the Vietnamese-American and Vietnamese-Canadian cultures with our attendees and I hope that attendees leave feeling encouraged and empowered to share their own stories and create their own positive impact.”

—Vanessa Nguyen

“I hope attendees will learn to embrace our culture and be proud of it. I also hope that attendees will learn to be involved with their respective communities in order to make an impact on something much bigger.”

—Tyler Tran

Last words to first-time attendees…

“Staff might be busy, but we’re all approachable and super friendly. Don’t be afraid to say hello!”

—Ryan Valdez

“It can be intimidating and tiresome at times, but if you come with an open-mind and a lot of energy, you will have a great time.”

—Jimmy Mai

“Life will always give you what you give it, and conference is no different. Don’t regret that you came halfheartedly. Come with an open heart and you’ll have an experience of a lifetime.”

—Chris Pham

“You’re already a part of the family and we cannot wait to meet you!”

—Vanessa Nguyen

Keep an eye out for these busy staff members in New Orleans, and definitely give them a shout out if you see them!