Victoria and Christine On the Foster Community and Cultivating an Inclusive Environment
In her short time at the Foster School of Business, MBA class of 2022 graduate Christine Pham has taken the initiative to drive change and create a more inclusive environment for aspiring undergraduate and graduate students. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion have been passions of Christine for much of her undergraduate and graduate career, and she hopes to continue her work in this field to ensure that there is more representation of individuals who look like her working in both technology and business careers.
Hailing from Southern California, Christine had grown up in a predominantly white community for much of her adolescent years, and like many first-generation Americans, she tried to adapt to the “American” lifestyle, instead of embracing her Asian-American heritage. As she grew older, and after graduating high-school she became more comfortable with her cultural identity, which influenced her work now in DEI settings. Christine originally graduated from UC San Diego with a B.S in Computer Science, and when considering her graduate program, an institution that cares about increasing diversity and giving students the platform to create their own initiatives and achieve change was very important to her.
Throughout her time at the University of Washington, Christine did just that- she ensured to build and expand DEI programming at Foster, and form communities for underrepresented students to unite and grow with one another. Because of her work, Christine Pham was selected for the Poets and Quants “100 Best and Brightest MBAs: Class of 2022” list, making her the only student selected from Foster, competing against 232 candidates from 75 programs.
Despite her many accomplishments, Christine remains incredibly humble, and serves as a role model to all individuals hoping to work in a DEI setting. From conversing with Christine, it is clear that she embodies what it means to be a servant leader, and I am glad that there are driven and determined MBA student leaders like Christine here at Foster, who exemplify what it means to utilize your voice to create an impact.
A main takeaway from my conversation with Christine is that with as much as you succeed, it is integral to give back, and I hope that I can one day follow in her footsteps to make an impact that will last beyond my time at Foster.
Victoria: What is a testament you have for BIPOC students like myself, who are trying to cultivate change in their community?
Christine: Something I did not always realize when I was growing up, is to not be afraid to speak up and voice when you are uncomfortable. It does not always have to be in a public setting, but it is always important to say something. I know sometimes it’s hard because you may feel gaslit, and like it is only you who is feeling this way, but you should always share your experiences with others because you don’t know who else could also feel this way, and you can bond over that and build community. As generations progress, we are becoming more confident voicing our opinions and finding that support which is so important, because others will benefit from your voice.
Victoria: What are some of your proudest DEI initiatives?
Christine: I helped start a Students of Color Town Hall to create a safe space for BIPOC students in the full-time MBA program to have a voice. Whether that is expressing microaggressions heard or concerns within the program. This town hall also allowed non-BIPOC allies to see and understand their peers, because there is a difference between experiencing microaggressions and hearing about it. I also am now the outgoing co-president of the Diversity in Business Club which I helped co-found. Through these Foster affinity groups, each ethnic community is able to naturally understand each other without having to do anything, whether that’s grabbing dinner as a group, or celebrating a cultural holiday with one another. I also had the opportunity to work on creating the 2022 Foster Student Climate Survey to give students of both undergraduate and graduate levels a platform to express their concerns with curriculum and staff, and gain insight into the BIPOC experience at Foster.
“Recognize that people are on different parts of their journey, and you cannot expect everyone to be on the same level as you. You must feel comfortable with teaching those who are willing to learn. If you are going to work in the DEI setting, you are going to have to learn to converse with those who have differing opinions and navigate that without shutting them down” –Christine Pham ‘22
Victoria: Who are some of your biggest role models?
Christine: My parents. My parents immigrated from Vietnam and both got their bachelor degrees in America. I credit my mom for a lot. You don’t notice a lot of things while growing up, and seeing a female working and supporting the family is very different. My mother got an engineering degree from UT, and a female in engineering now is one thing, but a female in STEM in the 80s was completely different. I appreciate the privileges that I have, because Vetnam is a patriarchal society, but my mother made it so that my parents didn’t have to fulfill gender roles, and they both pushed for more equality and instilled my work ethic.
Victoria: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Christine: Since undergrad, I have always been asked where I see myself in five years. My answer has always been that I just want to be happy and that depends on future or present Christine. My mindset is to always be flexible and adjust to what I want. People are always good at timelines, but I am not like that, and I want to let myself choose based on what I think is best for myself at that moment. In 5 years I hope to do what is best for me.
Victoria: As a graduating student, what do you wish to see in the future from Foster?
Christine: In the future, I hope that all students, regardless of being underrepresented or not, know that there are pillars of support available to them at Foster, and have a community that they can go to. I also hope that we are able to get more support and resources so that people who are entering are able to have a safe space, instead of being the students that have to create that space.
Christine is planning to move back to California where she will be working remotely for Starbucks as a Technical Manager. She will be working directly with engineers to write user stories on how to translate business needs into an engineering standpoint.
As a student who is a part of Undergraduate Diversity Services [UDS] I have luckily found my safe space, and community of students who are diverse and I can relate to, if not with UDS, I hope that other Foster students are able to find their community through the many MBA and Undergraduate programs foster hails home to.
Resources for students interested in expanding their knowledge:
Victoria Mulugeta is a rising junior at the Michael G. Foster School of Business, majoring in Finance and Marketing with a minor in Informatics. In school, she is very passionate about DE&I efforts and ensuring that all students regardless of their background have a voice and feel represented.
Outside of school, Victoria enjoys spending time with her family and friends as well as increasing her knowledge about different cultures and countries through traveling and first-hand immersion.