Wa Tim Ngo first stepped onto American soil on January 3, 1980. He was a refugee from Vietnam and spoke only three words: "hello" and "thank you." He was fifteen years old.
As the years passed, it became a goal in his family that all the children would earn their associate's degree. Tim attended the University of Idaho working towards that goal. Before he could finish, his family moved to Virginia. He had his credits transferred, was accepted to NOVA, and soon had earned an associate's degree in both general education and his real area of interest, automobile technology management. As he was finishing up his work there, he came across a flyer introducing a program that was "a pathway to get a bachelor's degree." It was the BIS program at George Mason University.
Though Tim had accomplished the family goal of achieving his associate's degree, he felt that it was not enough. He wanted to complete his four-year degree. He met with an advisor in the BIS program. He described the program as being "for adults who want a fuller education on their own time. You choose your own concentration that can build on the educational background you already have."
Tim was not initially sure what his concentration would be. After meetings with his BIS advisor, talking about what he wanted to study and accomplish, he put together a package of courses that both met his interests and the college requirements.
As Tim began his final year, he found the pressure with his schoolwork increased. The senior project was a bit intimidating but he decided, "I've gone this far, I am not going to give up!" Though the challenges continued, working full-time, going to class in the evening, lectures and projects, he persevered. In 2005, Tim graduated with his BIS [concentration] in automotive technology management.
Stepping out into the world with his degree has made a big difference in the opportunities that are available to him. "The degree does help a lot. These days companies do look at the degree very hard" when hiring someone. Tim currently is working full-time as a flight attendant with United, traveling around the world.
To any new or potential BIS student, Tim "encourage[s] them to go for it! ... Think positive. If Wa Tim Ngo can do it, anybody can do it too!"
By Pamela J. Martin