Class of 2001: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, B.A. in Psychology
Interviewer: Kimberly Thai
Class of 2014: Nursing Major
I had the pleasure of talking and laughing with 2001 alum Xuan Chau over delicious Thai food. We shared similar college experiences and bonded over the fact that we shared mutual friends. Although Xuan graduated over 10 years ago, you may have noticed his face at AsACC. It may take some searching but you can spot a college-aged Xuan on the AsACC timeline in a photo with other students all donning black “Got Rice?” t-shirts. During one of our many discussions about seemingly random things, he explained that he created the t-shirts with fellow 2001 alum Thao Nguyen and introduced it during Asian Nite. Xuan and Thao created the shirts with the purpose of spreading AsACC’s message and mission statement. Naturally, one would associate the shirt with people of Asian descent but Xuan didn’t want just the Asian and Asian American students wearing the t-shirts. He made a point of selling the shirts to well-known students on campus that were not of Asian descent as a way to get his message across and to promote dialogue. Over 500 shirts were sold and were even worn in a bakery in Japan and marketed to other schools in the tri-state area. This is just one of example of how Xuan worked alongside the Center to orchestrate political movements on campus and shows how he lives up to his mantra of “thinking big”.
Xuan stresses the importance of not “pigeonholing yourself”. During his undergraduate years, he made a point of bringing the centers together so that everyone is involved and in turn, also gets their message across. He thanks Angela, Sheila, and the presence of the Asian American Cultural Center in general for this and also for the development of his personality and his Asian American identity. Xuan was first introduced to the Center during the second day of his college career when he just happened to stop by at a meet and greet type of orientation event that Angela was holding at what was the first location of AsACC. This event being what he credits as one of the fondest memories of his college career (besides meeting his wife!).
“I always remembered Angela speaking that day. The way she was so confident and a great role model. That always resonated with me. Up until that point, I never thought of myself as Asian. It wasn’t until sophomore year that I became active.”
When I asked what he would do if he had a chance to redo some part of his undergraduate years at UConn, Xuan responded that besides one of those things being attending a basketball game, he would have liked to have had the knowledge that he has now. “Thing would be completely different if I knew what I know now,” states Xuan, “But things happen for a reason and I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now if it weren’t for that.” As UConn students, we are protected in this little bubble that we know as our campus. However, once we graduate, we realize that there is still so much out there and so much that we haven’t learned. He recommends that students take advantage of their time at UConn if they really want to get the most out of it. He jokes, “Knowing what I know now, I am going to teach my kid everything. He’ll rule the world!” Additionally, Xuan advises students to be “the artist” in any situation they are put in.
“A lot of the specialists in certain fields hire artists to give their view of something — on how to make things better. Let’s say group of engineers are trying to make a cogwheel. They bring in a painter to make a cogwheel. It may take a little longer but it may be a little more efficient because they are thinking outside the box. Different views can mean better things. It’s always good to challenge yourself. Even in photography and in my job, certain protocols were old and not working. That is my take on the world. Make things look different. Make people look at things a different way.”
Outside of talk of AsACC, I was able to connect with Xuan on that fact that we were both psychology and premed majors during undergrad. He is a now a supervisor of about 55 to 65 people on a clinical team in an anatomic pathology lab where he draws upon the prior knowledge he gained from his classes at UConn. On the side, he does wedding photography which started as almost a joke with his brother-in-law when they decided to take up a photography assignment of a last minute wedding. The photos turned out great and Xuan and his team celebrated success as they did as many as 12 weddings one year and were able to travel as far as the Dominican Republic. In addition to wedding photography, Xuan also enjoys crafting Faberge eggs. One of his proudest creations is the one that topped his wedding cake when he and his wife got married. He now happily resides on the shoreline of Connecticut with his wife and son, Ethan Fox, who just celebrated his first birthday!