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Alumni Spotlight: Kate Doan

This is the first feature in our Alumni Spotlight Series which follows NEIVSA alumni in their post-college years. Our goal is to have honest, reflective interviews. On Saturday February 23, I had a chance to interview Kate Doan who served on the Boston University Vietnamese Student Association executive board in 2012 and in 2013.

How did you arrive at your current job position?

Kate: I am currently a clinical research associate. After college, administrative coordinator at MGH lab because I thought it would be good to work at Mass General Hospital. I wasn’t interested in it, but it was something I could do with my science major degree. I realized I wanted to work with people. There was an opening with a biotech company in Burlington that works with hospitals and patients.

Are you satisfied with where you are now?

Kate: I feel awesome. I like research more. The work I’m going deals with gene therapy trials and it is all new in the field.

Did you envision yourself where you are now?

Kate: No, not at all. As a bio-major, I thought I was limited to the options of either being a doctor or going to grad school. I really didn’t want to do either. I now recognize that there are more opportunities available to me. My current job is something not mentioned about at all. I travel a lot with my new job. I get to experience the benefits as if it were a finance position.

How does culture currently play a role for you?

Kate: It doesn’t play a role, but I’m not saddened about it. I have predominantly Chinese friends and this creates for me a sense of community.

How does the real-world environment compare to the college environment?

Kate: Real life is not as stressful as college. In college, I was split between homework and free time and can feel that I could never take a break. I was so young, I didn’t know how to balance things. I had the mentality of work hard, play hard—and sometimes felt I could explode from stress of school. You could say I have college PTSD.

Overall, the stress you go during college is necessary since you’re working hard all the time. I learned to identify and manage stress. As you get older you learn from those experiences to prioritize, make professional connections, and remove toxic people from your life. As an adult you find balance. Work is done when you are home. The gym is great place for relieving stress and maintaining mental health. I make sure to connect with friends and family and to cover all my bases.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

Kate: I plan to live in my current condo for its 5-year lease. I also want to begin and work on a side hustle. I became a Yoga certified teacher in 2017.

Let’s talk about surviving college. What was your most stressful moment and how did you deal with it?

Kate: In my freshmen year, one of my hardest courses was chemistry 101. When it came to tests, I was cramming and couldn’t understand the subject. I asked my friend Kanta to help tutor the material to me.

Another instance, was hosting the annual VSA volleyball tournament in my sophomore year. I had to look for referees and made sure I was doing justice to the fundraiser as well as the sport. I learned more every single time. The goal was not to reinvent the wheel, and to make sure everyone’s on the same page. It was also helpful to hear advice from visiting teams. For example, they would advise us which brands of volleyballs to purchase.

What positions in VSA did you hold?

Kate: I was Treasurer and Vice President.

What was your most memorable VSA moment?

Kate: Doing my sophomore year as treasurer, I invited VSA members to my student village apartment. We play a dance game and my apartment was packed.

What skills do you personally you consider as assets for VSA?

Kate: I am extroverted so asking for and collecting money from people wasn’t an issue. I also like to meet new faces and making sure people felt seen and appreciated for coming. Though I don’t speak Vietnamese that well, I want to make sure people have a happy and good time. For example, I liked hosting a Night in Saigon and other social activities.

Has VSA contributed to your growth?

Kate: Yes, VSA contributed to my growth and free time out of class. I learned how to be more responsible and learned what it meant to be part of something bigger than myself. I volunteered my free time for something good. I also experienced what I was like to work as a team and how to communicate and resolve issues.

Now for a few fun questions. Name a couple of interests you have.

Kate: Rock-Climbing & acro-yoga.

What are you looking forward to in 2019?

Kate: I’m looking forward to traveling to Tomorrowland in Boom, Belgium.

What’s your favorite Vietnamese dish?

Kate: Banh hoi with grilled pork and salad.

Do you think your identity is represented in mainstream media?

Kate: No, not yet. I think mainstream media thinks Asian people buy what white people are buying. For now, I listen to the Asian Boss Girls podcast. I like this podcast because the hosts look like me and are regular people.


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