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The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

Roadrunners Revealed

A student's passion evolves into documenting personal campus stories

Vinh-Son Nguyen

For Vinh-Son Nguyen, walking up to a stranger to ask if he can take a photograph for the Humans of UTSA page on Facebook is a form of exploration. And if the premed major loves anything, it's exploring. He's come to the realization, he says, that becoming an astronaut would be his dream job and has actually interned at NASA. "Being the next explorer to do things no one has ever done and expand the bounds of human reach are something that really inspires me," he says. "And I find that space, like the stories of fellow humans, really makes people think."

When it comes to Humans of UTSA, which he began in February, Nguyen has some rules about whom he approaches. Primarily, a person needs to be alone; he doesn't bother students who are studying, talking on their phone or hanging out in groups. He finds people are more apt to be personal when no one else is around. He's also discovered that talking to faculty and staff has been one of the more enjoyable aspects of the project, he says, because "they've just lived more than students, and there's more wisdom there."

A sense of wonder, surprise and connection are just a few of the things Nguyen wants Humans of UTSA to bring to its followers. Despite wanting to instill that sense of community, he was reluctant to reveal himself as the man behind the camera, explaining he doesn't want Humans of UTSA to be thought of as just his project, especially since his days here are winding down. He'll begin his third and final year at UTSA in the fall but will spend spring 2016 interning in Washington, D.C. He'll then transfer out to complete his medical studies.

With time constraints in mind, Nguyen wants to make Humans of UTSA something that can be handed down. He'd like to see a student organization formed around the project to ensure its longevity. As a UTSA Ambassador and head of media production for the campus organization For the Kids, Nguyen recognizes how hard it is for one student to keep up with an ongoing project. Until then, he is lining up friends to help him collect photos and interviews that he can post at least once a week while he is home in Houston for the summer.

Ultimately, Nguyen hopes that when people read the Humans of UTSA stories, they take a moment to consider their fellow students as well as the faculty and staff around them. "I want to give a bit of humanity back to society," he says. "I see people on their phones all the time. If they have free time, they're on the phone. We're geared toward technology and are missing those potential connections and conversations that could be made. I want to make people think about that."

–Michelle Mondo


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