Skip to main content

Thuy Thi Nguyen


Thuy Thi Nguyen (Thúy Thị Nguyễn) is Chair of the Cal LAW Pathways Advisory Council, and Partner at the law firm of Garcia Hernández Sawhney. Nguyen was also the founding Board Chair of California LAW Pathways, and in 2016, for her leadership in creating the community college pathway to law school initiative, Nguyen received the coveted Diversity Award from the State Bar of California – an award given to an individual who has helped diversify the legal profession. 

Nguyen served as in-house General Counsel to the Peralta Community College District for more than 11 years.  Nguyen was an adjunct instructor teaching education law for several years at what is now California State University, East Bay.  From January to June 2015, Nguyen took temporary leave from Peralta CCD to serve as Interim President and Chief Executive Officer of the Community College League of California and interim general counsel for the California Community College’s Chancellor’s Office.  In July 2016, Nguyen became the first Vietnamese American college president in the country when she was appointed President of Foothill College – a position she served for over five years. 

When she was 3, Nguyen and her family joined the wave of “boat people” who fled Vietnam after the end of the war.  They drifted in the Pacific Ocean on a boat for more than 20 days before a commercial ship rescued them and took them to a refugee camp in Japan.  Eventually, the family relocated to Wichita, Kansas, and then moved to the warmer climate of New Orleans.

When she was 14, the family settled in the Oakland area where she attended Castlemont High School, a predominately African American and Latinx-populated school.  Nguyen served as a student representative on the Oakland Unified School District’s Board of Directors and cadet colonel Oakland brigade commander in the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.  Upon graduation, the mayor of Oakland declared June 23, 1993 “Thuy Thi Nguyen Day.”  Nguyen is the founding president of the Castlemont High School Alumni Association and has been inducted into the school’s Alumni Hall of Fame.

Nguyen is the author of “The Equitable Protection Principle: How California Community Colleges Can Make Progress Toward Racial Equity in Today’s Legal Climate.”  Nguyen co-published a book, “25 Vietnamese Americans in 25 Years,” showcasing the contributions of 25 distinguished Vietnamese Americans to mark the anniversary of the fall of Saigon.  The book is archived in the Library of Congress and many public and university libraries across the country.  (Library of Congress, No. 002283307)

In 2002, Nguyen was listed among “30 Most Influential Asian Americans Under 30” nationally by Rainmaker Political Group (  In 2007, she was named one of eighteen “Best Lawyers Under 40” in the country by the National Asian American Bar Association. In 2011, the Vietnamese American Bar Association of Northern California honored her its Trailblazer Award, and in 2012, the Minority Bar Coalition presented her with its Unity Award.  The National Conference for Vietnamese American Attorneys presented her with its 2017 Trailblazer Award. 

On July 4, 2017, Nguyen was honored as part of the Carnegie Corporation’s “Great Immigrants” tribute in the New York Times.  The tribute is aimed at recognizing naturalized citizens who have helped advance society, culture, and the economy.

In 2019, Nguyen was named “100 Women of Influence” by Silicon Valley Business Journal.  Also in 2019, she was named one of the top 15 community college presidents in the country to follow on Twitter.  The Asian Law Alliance awarded Nguyen with its Community Impact Award in 2020. 

Nguyen is also the founding board member of Cal MEDICINE, a sister statewide initiative to diversify the medical profession in California.  Nguyen earned her B.A. in Philosophy from Yale University and J.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, where she was a member of the inaugural class of the Public Interest Law and Policy Program.  Nguyen is a Paul and Daisy Soros for New Americans Fellow.