Ryan Huynh embraced community — and explored his family’s journey
Reflecting on his undergraduate experience at Yale, Ryan Huynh says he most appreciates the communities on campus and in New Haven that he poured himself into over the past four years and that, in turn, have supported and cared for him.
He has volunteered to assist the local refugee and migrant communities through his work with the Migration Alliance at Yale (MAY), serving as its president during his junior year. He worked to prevent sexual misconduct on campus as a participant in the university’s Communication and Consent Educators (CCEs) program, serving as a project coordinator this academic year. His major, the Program in Ethnicity, Race, and Migration (ER&M), became another vital and enriching community.
“I’ve been so lucky to find these spaces,” said Huynh, a resident of Berkeley College. “I’ve found a lot of people in all of them who mean a lot to me, and, at the end of the day, the highlight of the past four years is the people I’ve met and built relationships with and learned from.”
Huynh, whose father was a refugee from Vietnam, has a passion for migrant justice. He joined MAY, formerly the Yale Refugee Project, as a first-year student. In partnership with local non-profit organizations, the undergraduate group provides a range of aid and programming to migrants in the greater New Haven area, including refugees, documented and undocumented immigrants, and asylum seekers. That year, Huynh spent Friday afternoons working with MAY’s men’s youth group, playing soccer, visiting museums, and exploring corners of New Haven with high-school-aged migrants and refugees.
“That was a very special experience,” he said. “It helped me to get to know New Haven and feel involved with the local community.”
As an ER&M major, he was able to pursue his academic interest in migrant justice while also examining his own background as the son of a refugee. In his senior thesis he investigated the ways that second-generation Vietnamese Americans — the children of refugees — learn their family histories, carry those memories, and share them with ensuing generations. Through the project, he had the opportunity to interview other Yale students who are the children of Vietnamese refugees.
“We shared our stories with each other,” he said. “I had the privilege to combine those stories in my senior paper. It was unique to write such a personal meditation while doing cool research.”
In his first semester on campus, Huynh attended workshops hosted by the CCEs program, which is run out of the Office of Gender and Campus Culture and aims to foster a more positive sexual and social climate on campus. He soon joined the program and remained committed to it over his undergraduate career. This year, he helped lead the group’s survivor support project team.
“It’s about prevention and harm reduction,” he said. “We’re devoted to thinking about how we can make people more likely to keep an eye out for each other and create a more caring community.”
After graduation, Huynh will serve as a Woodbridge Fellow at Yale’s Center for Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration, a university-wide interdisciplinary research center that houses the ER&M program.
“The fellowship seemed like a good opportunity to stay plugged into the community and give back to this space on campus that has been really special to me over the past four years,” he said.