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Faces of EMERGE - Alumnus Phuong Ta

As a member of our initial cohort of students in 2010 at HISD's Chavez High School, Phuong Ta was one of EMERGE's very first alumni. Since then, he's gone on to receive a bachelor's degree in American studies from Tufts University and a master's in policy, organization, and leadership studies from Stanford University's Graduate School of Education. Phuong is now a senior associate with Isaacson, Miller, where he is an executive recruiter for leaders in higher education and arts and culture organizations.

When Phuong joined EMERGE, he was also new to the U.S. as an immigrant from Vietnam. His lived experience has fueled his passion for advancing leaders from underrepresented groups in mission-driven organizations. He has a special interest in issues of first-generation college students and the LGBTQ+ community. For example, while at Stanford, he co-founded the Resilient 1st Gen group to help foster a strong sense of belonging for the first-gen community at the university.

At Isaacson, Miller, Phuong is particularly cognizant of the challenges women, people of color, and first-generation college grads face during the executive search process. Just as his EMERGE mentors encouraged him to be outspoken about his accomplishments, he now advocates for the job candidates he recruits to do the same. "I know firsthand how difficult it can be to brag about ourselves because we are raised to be humble," he said this summer while speaking on a virtual panel at Tufts on Change-Making in the Workplace.

We asked Phuong to reflect on his experience with EMERGE. This is what he shared:

Thanks to the guidance and encouragement of my EMERGE mentors ...

particularly Anna Lugo, Rick Cruz, August Hamilton, Suzy Sanchez, Sherri Huggins, Leah Barton Kim, I became one of the first two students from Chavez HS (along with my good friend and EMERGE alum Daniela Salazar) to attend Tufts University. EMERGE believed in my potential before I did, and for that, I’m grateful.

It's been humbling to watch...

how EMERGE has grown from our small cohort in Chavez HS back in 2010 to over 1,600 students in five school districts 11 years later. I’ve loved to come back and volunteer to support the program and witness the great work EMERGE continues to do.

My favorite memory with EMERGE is...

when I was a chaperone for the EMERGE Summer College Tour in 2014, hosted at Tufts. Going on a trip to visit top colleges was a dream we shared in the early days of EMERGE. Accompanying over 90 EMERGE HISD students to tour nine colleges in the Boston area was coming full circle for me. On our last night of the trip, we organized a dance party for the students and painted the Tufts cannon – it was epic!


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