History is personal for Roy Vu. The child of Vietnamese refugees, he grew up hearing stories of war and immigration from family and friends, stories which never appear in traditional history books. Dr. Vu set out to document those accounts, and to help pass them on to the next generation. He tells his students that history is more meaningful than memorizing dates: it’s about who we all are.
Why teach history? “I’m always intrigued with how the past shapes our understanding of the present,” Dr. Vu says, and how the past “gives us a sense of direction or purpose for the future.”
For Dr. Vu, those lessons started at home. “The personal accounts of my parents and their generation fascinate me as they dealt with the traumas of war, refuge and resettlement.” Dr. Vu’s academic research has focused on that generation and their lives, including articles on how Vietnamese immigrants created new communities in Texas and along the Gulf Coast. He’s also an Ambassador for the Southeast Asian Archive Program at the University of California, Irvine, a collection of writings, recordings, photographs, and oral histories about immigrants from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.
Attracted from Houston to North Lake College by the “collegial and friendly vibe” he encountered, Dr. Vu teaches U.S. history on both the Central and South Campuses. North Lake, he says, “is a remarkable workplace, and I truly enjoy the camaraderie of my colleagues.”
He especially enjoys bringing his personal passion for history to the South Campus. “The most rewarding aspect of teaching at the South Campus,” he explains, “is the opportunity to teach first-generation college students from low-income families.” Dr. Vu feels South Campus doesn’t get enough credit for its “wonderful events, guest speakers, and community outreach.”
He tries to teach students how relevant history is to their lives, their families, and their futures. “History is a lot more than memorizing dates and figures.”
Dr. Vu’s teaching style is “to allow history to shape students’ perspectives, not the other way around. Furthermore, I tell my students that history is personal because when an erasure of history occurs, we lose a part of our memory of who we really are.” If Dr. Roy Vu has his way, those memories will be kept alive.