Damien Nguyen, a SUNY Oswego double major in human development and criminal justice, recently earned the statewide Norman R. McConney, Jr. Award, which recognizes Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) students who overcome obstacles to excel in their academic endeavors.

EOP is an access program to help students with the potential to succeed through academic and financial support. Nguyen was nominated by his EOP director Joey Tse for his achievements throughout his time at SUNY Oswego. 

“Damien Nguyen is a professional, dedicated, kind hearted, respected and trustworthy individual,” Tse wrote in his nomination. “I cannot say enough about the positive impact he has made on the lives of those around him.”

Nguyen, who graduated in May 2023, held multiple leadership positions during his time at SUNY Oswego and during his time in EOP. He has helped first-year students transition from high school to college, as well as seniors working to finish their college education strong. 

“I was a peer leader, I’m an RA (resident assistant), I was an academic coach, I work at OLS (the Office of Learning Services). I am an ambassador for EOP here at Oswego, but I’m also an ambassador for EOP for SUNY,” said Nguyen. “I was a peer health coach. I’ve done a lot of things. I’ve worked with a lot of students.” 

Supporting others

In the nomination, Tse noted that Nguyen has overcome a series of hardships but that has led to a determination to help others through support, education and becoming a positive role model.

“For a peer leader, I work with strictly new students, so people who accepted admissions and plan to attend the summer bridge program,” Nguyen said. “I work with them during the summers, but during the semester, I work with any EOP students.”

During the summer EOP sessions, “he helped to create and facilitate several social events and was always around to meet not only the students he was responsible for, but all of the students he met,” Tse recalled. “Students felt comfortable talking to him about the struggles in their lives including with their academics.” 

Nguyen was inducted to the Chi Alpha Epsilon, which is the EOP honor society, in fall 2022. He was also chosen to be one of a few SUNY EOP ambassadors to represent all SUNY schools in fall 2022. 

Tse has been a mentor for Nguyen and has worked with him throughout the past four years. Nguyen plans on going to graduate school to work toward being a mentor like Tse. He aspires to help traditionally disadvantaged students in college with programs such as EOP, the TRIO federal outreach and student services programs or SEEK (Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge). 

For more information on Oswego's EOP, visit the program website.

The honor is named in memory of Norman R. McConney, Jr. (1946–2016), a graduate of the University at Albany and former assistant dean for special programs at SUNY. McConney, alongside former Assembly Deputy Speaker Arthur O. Eve, helped create the EOP as a statewide program.

“When SUNY was founded 75 years ago, the mission was to create an educational environment where all are welcome," SUNY Chancellor John B. King Jr. said at an April 17 awards reception in Albany for the 46 statewide recipients of the award.

“When I visit our campuses, I am continuously awed and inspired by the dedicated, hardworking EOP students I meet," Chancellor King noted. "EOP is a ticket to upward mobility for New York students, which is why I am honored to recognize these students who stand as role models demonstrating what is possible. With the financial support of New York State, and the resources provided at SUNY campuses, New Yorkers have an opportunity to further their education.”

-- Written by Gabrielle Kroeger of the Class of 2023