ZM: This is Zoë Maughan and it is May 17, 2022. I am in the Watzek Library and am meeting with Thanh Evoniuk via Zoom today. Thanh, we are really glad you are here to share some of your story. I am wondering if you could begin by stating your name and telling us just a little bit about yourself. Could you start by stating your name and telling us a little bit about yourself?
TE: My name is Thanh, my last name is Nguyen, but when I got married, I changed my last name to my husband's last name, which is Evoniuk. My background is I came from Vietnam. I was born and grew up in Ho Chi Minh City, and I came here to study abroad, and then I stayed here until then. So, it's [been] about 9 years that I've been here.
ZM: Great, so you already answered my next question, which was "what part of Vietnam are you from?", but would you like to speak to that anymore?
TE: I...no. [laughs].
ZM: Okay, we'll move forward. Could you tell us a little about your childhood and maybe if you had some early memories that you'd like to share? Just whatever you're comfortable sharing.
TE: What specific question about my childhood that will be helpful?
ZM: Yeah, just maybe about where you grew up and what your family was like?
TE: I grew up in, again, Ho Chi Minh City and my family, I have one sister, my mom, and my dad. My mom and my dad separated back in...when I was young. I'm really close with my sister.
ZM: Awesome. Can you tell us when you left Vietnam and describe what that process was like for you?
TE: At first it was for studying, and for going to school. And the process was picking the right school. We went to an agency, that agency is professional in searching for schools and placing students internationally. And she matched me with a school in Seattle and I started my associate's degree there. After that, I pursued my bachelor's degree and master's degree in Oregon: so I moved from Washington to Oregon
ZM: Great. What school in Washington?
TE: Seattle College.
ZM: Gotcha. So, could you speak a little bit of what it was like to adjust to life in the United States as a student? Maybe what were some of the differences?
TE: There is a lot of culture shock coming here. But, I think I just took it day by day, and I'm highly adaptive. So I was just able to navigate my life through the differences. And I enjoy knowing more people and knowing a lot. So my main focus is on learning, and everything else is just, not really my main focus, so I wouldn't feel it as much. I think it's a great opportunity to be able to come to a different country and to learn from different people, to experience life in the way that I [wouldn't] be able to if I stayed in my hometown.
ZM: That makes sense. So can you tell us when you moved from Washington to Oregon, to the Portland area?
TE: So, I came here just to visit, because Washington and Oregon [are] really close, like next to each other. So I came here and I thought it was somewhat like my country and I just wanted to move somewhere because I don't want to stay in one state for my entire study. I thought if I came to the United States already I might as well experience a little more and I don't want to do any dramatic change. And I felt that Oregon was somewhat like my country, where there are food carts, and basically smaller than major states. And I found a lot of great opportunities here in a small city. Yeah, I liked the opportunities that I found here.
ZM: That's great. What were some of your first impressions of Portland when you visited and later moved here?
TE: My first thought is that it is just cozy and warm, and feels small enough to get along with.
ZM: Right. A small feel and a city at the same time.
TE: Yeah, but it's big enough to not feel like you're so surrounded by everyone and everyone knows each other - I don't like that. I like to be on my own [laughs]. Not to have everyone know me. But then I also like to have the community support. So that a little bit of people know me but not too much. Because I have that experience in my country; I stay within my district, people know each other real fast and they just know the ins and outs real fast and have stories about it, which I don't like.
ZM: Finding that balance sounds really important. Can you tell me a little bit about the neighborhood you first lived in when you moved to Portland?
TE: I lived in South East Portland. And it's like Vietnamese/Asian area, and I don't like it that much because I...right now I live in Beaverton right now and I like it way more...
ZM: ...Me too!
TE: It's bigger, has more space, it also has more nature and it's just a little more calm and less hectic. I just drive out to Portland a lot because of the food, and be closer to the community, but not as much in Beaverton.
ZM: Right. And it's nice from Beaverton, you can still drive on over there [to Portland].
TE: Yeah, you have to live everyday, you don't need to go out and eat everyday [laughs].
ZM: Exactly. [laughs] So, I feel like maybe you spoke to this a little already, but when have you felt most at home in Portland? And what do you like about the city and community?
TE: I felt most at home when I was at Beaverton because my husband and I live here. So, you know, it's not really about the city itself, but it's also about the environment, you know, you build a home in Beaverton. This doesn't really directly answer your question...
ZM: That's okay. That's great.
TE: I never really feel at home in Portland because of the dynamic, meaning, I never really tried to build a house in Portland. Build a home, not a house.
ZM: I see what you mean. Have there been any instances while living in Portland that made you feel unwelcome? Have you witnessed or experienced racism or discrimination?
TE: In Portland, I feel like it is a little bit exclusive. Meaning, because the Asian community is up there and they have a lot of influence, so I feel like it's not diverse enough. But I don't feel any discrimination, or anything like that. It's just for my personality, I don't like to be so much into one community. You know, if you walk in that town/area and you feel so much Asian American, or so much African American, or American American. Then, I don't like living in that area, but I like to visit.
ZM: Right. That makes sense. It sounds like you like to be surrounded by more diversity.
TE: So I don't have any discrimination stories. I just feel like it is influenced by Asian culture.
ZM: That makes sense. So we'll move onto some college and career questions now. We talked about this a little bit, but can you tell more about where you attended school and each of your degrees and how you decided to go to those schools?
TE: I started with Seattle College because my agent recommended it to me and it’s had a lot of influence on my decision. But also I like a big city. When I was in Vietnam, I liked the feeling of experienc[ing] something completely different, and Seattle was completely different because it’s bigger and [has] more events. So that's why I chose it, because of the state and the city. And then I started with an associate's degree in business because I always liked business. And then after that, I moved to Portland and pursued an accounting degree at Portland State University because one of my professors at Seattle College hired me to be his tutor. And I felt like I add value to the study, and I felt like I knew I had good knowledge of accounting: I know what I'm good at, basically. And I chose an accounting degree because I wanted to pursue a CPA, which is the accounting degree after the bachelor degree. So then I tried to get the CPA, but it requires 5 years of university level. So then I added another major, which was finance, to fulfill the 5 years. And after that, I went to work for a CPA firm and finish my CPA there. But then, I had to go back to school because I did not get selected for the H1B, it's basically a sponsorship for jobs. So then, I went back to get a master's in finance, and then I got hired by my current firm. And they sponsor me so I can get selected. So that is my entire study and career.
ZM: That's great. Can you tell a little bit more about your current firm sponsoring you? Can you tell me more about that?
TE: What do you mean?
ZM: I'm just curious about what that process looks like and what that sponsorship meant - like how that supported you.
TE: So, for international students to stay and work in America, there is OPT (optional practical training), which is only one year. For some people with STEM degrees, which is science and technology, engineering, and mathematics I think - you are able to work for three years without any sponsorship. But anything more than that, you need the sponsorship. And if not, you basically cannot work here legally. So the sponsorship is for that.
ZM: Great, let's see. So you spoke to this a little bit. But, the question is, what do you do now and how did you become involved in that line of work? So what does your current position entail?
TE: I'm a wealth management associate, so I help people with their wealth, accounts, retirement plans, financial plans, education plans, life plans. And I got involved with line of work because I felt I've always liked it. I always want to advise people on the thing that I came for, which is finance and business. And then, what is the other question?
ZM: It was just what do you do now and how did you become involved in your line of work?
TE: So after my degree with a master's in finance, I already became what I wanted to be: in the role of client facing responsibilities, and wealth management meets that requirement that I have for myself.
ZM: That sounds great. So, I read your little bio on the ColdStream website and I saw that while you were working at Portland State University, you worked on a project to translate the city's annual financial report. And I was just wondering if you could talk a little bit more about that project and the importance of making that financial information accessible in other languages.
TE: So, I was the co-founder and the chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at Portland State University under Beta Alpha Psi. Beta Alpha Psi is the accounting honor society and, you know, I just joined them to get more access with all the resources. Basically other students, alumni, the companies. And then I felt like there was a need for more students with diverse backgrounds, and Ali and I co-founded the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. And after that, we did many projects to promote diversity and made other people feel included in the accounting honor society, or just in accounting and business in general. We invited guests from different backgrounds to talk about their line of work. One of the projects was the City of Portland, it came to us because City of Portland's Officer, I don't remember his title, CFO, I think. He came to Portland State University and asked for someone that can help host this project. And of course Portland State directed him to the accounting department. Then the accounting department directed them to Beta Alpha Psi and then Beta Alpha Psi thought this was the best opportunity for diversity and inclusion. And then I took on that project. So what I did was to recruit students that speak different languages and were able to translate from the financial report. The four languages we translated, which are the most popular languages that are spoken in Oregon are: Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, and Chinese - Mandarin. So, for each of the language, we had two volunteers, and I just oversaw the work and facilitate them in any way possible, and connected them with the city of Portland and the managing part.
ZM: That's great. Could you talk just slightly more about why it's important to make this financial information accessible to people who speak additional languages?
TE: It's really important because if you don't speak English, you just cannot read it [laughs]. And some people speak decent English, but they just cannot read those kind of things. So to be able to translate in their language, first of all, creates awareness. Meaning, 'oh, they are in my language.' So it creates awareness and attention, and stuff like that. And also, makes the community feel like the city cares for them. After that, they will be able to read and understand in both languages. Maybe they want it in both languages, maybe they have a little bit of English, so they can read it in English and lean on the other version. And after that, they will be able to understand what the city spends their money on, where the revenues came from. They just will understand the city more. When you understand more, you will be able to contribute and help in any ways that you can. So the project has that deeper meaning of community involvement. The awareness, the care from the city to the people, and the people from the city. It also creates opportunities for the people to contribute to the city.
ZM: That sounds like a really important project.
TE: And it's like the first project in the United States to translate financial reports into different languages. So innovation, and it creates the first path to involve other communities in the United States.
ZM: That's great. Seems like a really important and straightforward way to foster more community involvement.
ZM: Okay, so I'll move onto our questions about community now. You have spoken to these a little bit more already. So the first one is: do you currently feel a connection to the Vietnamese community here in Portland?
TE: I don't. I just have my friends. But I don't do anything that is Vietnamese community related. Just because of my work and my family takes the majority of my time, so I don't really have time.
ZM: Do you think that there are events that bring people together in the community or places in particular where they gather?
TE: Not that I'm aware of.
ZM: Gotcha. Let's see, you already answered part of this. But in addition to community organizations, do you participate in any religious organizations?
TE: I don't really participate.
ZM: Gotcha. What role would you say that your Vietnamese heritage plays in your everyday life? I know that's a big question [laughs].
TE: My mom and my sister are Vietnamese and they are here, so we still speak the language. Also, my close friends still speak the language. And we also order our food when we get together. We eat out at Vietnamese food. We watch shows from Vietnam. Basically everything is the same except for my work and the language that I speak with my co-workers and my husband and my husband's family. But everything else is Vietnamese… the way I eat, the way I talk, the way I think. It's somewhat Vietnamese rooted.
ZM: That's great that your mom and sister are here. Could you tell me a little bit more about when they moved to Oregon?
TE: They moved to Oregon about 2 years ago. And, yeah, they came here and joined me.
ZM: That's great. It's so nice to have your family close by.
TE: Yeah, finally, yeah.
ZM: So do you see any differences between older and younger generations of Vietnamese Americans?
TE: There's a difference in thinking. The older ones, they think differently, and the younger ones, they think differently. And it's because of the environmental changes. Of course, even Americans, with [the] generation[s] they have, they have different thinking. And because they think differently, they act differently. I think there are a lot of disconnections because they don't understand each other. Right? And a lot of people, if they are born here, and their parents born in Vietnam, they even have a huger gap. To communicate, to understand each other, to be Vietnamese, to understand that they are Vietnamese. So I think it is a big challenge for the Vietnamese community in general to make that gap smaller and make people understand each other better, and to honor their background. Because it doesn't matter if you were born here or anywhere you were born. If your parents are Vietnamese, you have [those] Vietnamese roots, and you need to honor it.
ZM: That makes sense, thank you for sharing. So I just have one final question, and that is just is there anything that we haven't talked about that you'd like to share?
TE: I think we talked a lot about everything. So I don't have anything else.
ZM: Great! I just had one final question that I realized I didn't ask you earlier. Could you tell me your graduation years? From your associates, bachelor's, and master's?
TE: I cannot remember. I think Associate's was 2016. And then Bachelor's was… I know the Master's was 2020.
ZM: Great! That's super helpful, just to have a little timeline. Alright, well, if you don't have anything you'd like to discuss, we can wrap up. Thank you so much, again...
TE: Associate's should be 2014 or '15. I don't know [laughs].
ZM: That's okay, no problem at all.
ZM: But thank you so much for meeting with me. Again, this has been Zoë Maughan speaking with Thanh Evoniuk via Zoom on May 17th, 2022. Thank you.
TE: Yeah, thank you, bye.