Michelle Truong '23 political science in DC outside the U.S. Capitol with Peter the Anteater

Michelle Truong '23 poli sciTo say that the 4+1 M.A. in Philosophy, Political Science, and Economics (PPE) is a perfect amalgamation of Michelle Truong’s interests, experience, and ambitions, might sound a little overstated, but you wouldn’t be far off. The recent UCI graduate (political science ’23) is about to continue her life as an Anteater as she begins graduate school at UCI’s School of Social Sciences this fall. 

“I think the most important thing UCI gave me is the confidence to believe in my own abilities,” Truong says.

While the recent grad admits she’s a little nervous about beginning her master’s program (“Economics isn’t my strong point,” she says), her undergraduate experience has equipped her with the education and fortitude to tackle not only her year, but life ahead.

A great scholar

Students are admitted into the 4+1 PPE program their junior year, and upon completing their undergraduate requirements their senior year, they immediately begin a year of MA coursework. The program aims to provide students with a broad, yet thorough education in the fields of philosophy, political science, and economics. Philosophy equips students with analytical skills and a moral framework; economics provides the tools for decision-making; and political science provides an understanding of the contexts in which ethical and economic principles may be applied. Truong, who is interested in pursuing a law degree, thought the program would lay a good foundation for law school.

Her talents didn’t go unnoticed by political science associate professor Matthew Beckmann, who got to know Truong when she took his undergraduate seminar on the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

“What I notice is that she is not out to ‘prove’ a particular thesis; rather, she is looking to draw a valid conclusion based on a careful weighing of evidence. To my mind, that is exactly the sort of disciplined approach that reflects a great scholar,” Beckmann says.

Stronger together

“Without UCI, I wouldn’t have done half the things I ended up doing,” Truong says.

Michelle (pictured right) and Lauren Le (neurobiology '25) wear traditional Vietnamese áo dài as MCs for UCI Vietnamese Student Association's biggest event of the year, Rose Pageant (photo courtesy of Long Truong).A couple of the activities she thought she’d never do was host the Vietnamese Student Association’s big charity event, the Rose Pageant, and run for student office. During her senior year, she was elected to serve as an ASUCI senator representing the School of Social Sciences. A friend told her that she thought she’d be great for the job and that was the push Truong needed to go for it.

“A lot of colleges have a reputation for being competitive, but the support at UCI is really strong. We’re all striving for the same things, but we know we’re stronger and smarter together,” she says.

Truong now wants to pass this strength on to others.

While Truong was born and raised in Orange, CA, her father was a “boat person” or part of the wave of refugees who fled Vietnam by boat or ship after the end of the Vietnam War. She grew up listening to stories about his journey to the United States.

“My parents uprooted their lives so that I’d have a chance at a better one,” she says.

Her motivation to work hard and achieve stems from their sacrifice and her desire to give back to others.

“I want to make my community a better place for the people who helped me become a better person,” she says.

During all four years as an undergraduate at UCI, Truong worked as a tutor at a middle school in Garden Grove with Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), an in-school academic support program designed to help students, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds, develop the skills and habits needed for college.

Michelle (left) poses with fellow Labor Summer interns Thi Le (urban studies '24) and Allysa Suhaidi (law '24) at their internship site, the Orange County Employee Association. This summer, Truong participated in “Labor Summer,” an internship program run by the new UC Irvine Labor Center. As part of the program, she interned at an Orange County labor union for eight weeks. At first, she thought she wanted to pursue copyright and intellectual property law, but witnessing the union's positive impact on workers' lives has caused her to consider labor law instead.

A (UCDC) dream come true

Another formative experience Truong had while an undergrad at UCI was participating in the UC Washington, D.C. (UCDC) academic internship program. In fact, Truong applied to the UC system partly because of the program; she first heard about it in high school and dreamed of attending for years.

Her dream came true the spring quarter of her junior year when she headed to D.C. to intern for the American Councils for International Education, a non-profit organization that facilitates cultural exchanges and foreign language instruction abroad. Her UCDC experience surpassed her expectations. And in many ways, it did feel like a dream. For instance, the building where UC students reside and attend classes is a mere six blocks north of the White House. After her internship each day, Truong walked by the White House and the significance of her surroundings left her in awe.

At the end of the internship, Truong met the high school students who were selected to go abroad. Although just a few years older, Truong couldn’t help but feel buoyed and optimistic by their presence.

“The students were so smart, yet humble. They made me feel better about the world,” she says.

A positive impact

The same could be said about Truong herself, whose genuine humility, intelligence, and eagerness to contribute to positive change are truly inspiring to those who know her.

“I have seen her shine in a myriad of ways, week in and week out. Michelle is smart and organized, interesting and affable, curious and open-minded. She is a terrific student, the kind that makes it so fun to teach at UC Irvine,” says Beckmann.

These traits led to Truong's acceptance into the 4+1 PPE program and will undoubtedly lead her to be a force for positive change. Whatever her future holds, her experience at UCI has given her the strength and confidence to make a positive impact on the lives around her.

-Jill Kato for UCI School of Social Sciences
-pictured top to bottom: While in UCDC, Michelle Truong brought along Peter the Anteater for a special photo outside of the U.S. Capitol. Michelle recently celebrated her graduation with her bachelor’s in political science. Michelle (pictured right) and Lauren Le (neurobiology '25) wear traditional Vietnamese áo dài as MCs for UCI Vietnamese Student Association's biggest event of the year, Rose Pageant (photo courtesy of Long Truong). Michelle (left) poses with fellow Labor Summer interns Thi Le (urban studies '24) and Allysa Suhaidi (law '24) at their internship site, the Orange County Employee Association.

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