Dat Duong, a public health (pre-med) major, was born in Vị Thanh, Vietnam, and moved to Dallas at the age of 4. While in various leadership roles in high school, he also held a job at In-N-Out Burger. The self-described “extrovert” keeps moving toward greater things — and says with a smile that he is excited to find himself during his four years at The University of Texas at Austin.
Duong, an LGBTQ and mental health advocate, says that he was drawn to UT for its diversity, inclusivity and mental health resources.
That’s one of the main draws of UT: They really care for student development and student success.
During his sophomore year of high school, he was a pilot officer for Active Minds, an organization addressing mental health issues. He helped create Life Squad, partnering with the Suicide and Crisis Center of North Texas to assist teenagers in suicide prevention.
“I wanted to help make space for students to feel safe and comfortable to talk about mental health and break the stigma,” says Duong of his leadership.
He also interned full time for eight weeks at UT Southwestern Medical Center and “fell in love” with the hospital environment, including the fast-paced emergency room. Seeing the impact of public health officials during the pandemic influenced Duong to study public health; he hopes to become a physician.
Duong finds painting a relaxing hobby, but he also wanted to make a difference with it. During the protests after the killing of George Floyd and others, he donated the money from the artwork he made for family and friends to the American Civil Liberties Union.
His accomplishments resulted in a UT Impact Scholarship, awarded to students from across the state who are having an impact in their communities, and a scholarship from the Terry Foundation, which provides four-year awards to Texas residents attending UT Austin and several other universities in the state.
“To receive not only the Terry scholarship, which is a full ride, but also the full ride from the Impact. … I was just overwhelmed,” he says of the honors, which will cover extra expenses.
Thanks to UT’s support, Duong won’t need to work at In-N-Out Burger while he focuses on his studies — but he has already visited the Guadalupe Street location near campus for a meal.
A first-generation college student, Duong says he wants to use his degree to give back to the community that shaped him. “I want to be a part of the next generation of minority scientists.”
Duong is involved with the Freshman Research Initiative, which students can apply for through the College of Natural Sciences. “I get to do research in my first year, which is something a lot of other universities don’t offer,” he says. “That’s one of the main draws of UT: They really care for student development and student success.”