Hanh was born in Saigon, Vietnam. Her grandparents raised her from the age of six, after her mother moved to Spokane. When Hanh was 17 she joined her family members in Spokane and enrolled at Rogers High School. Her English skills were rudimentary, but she doggedly pursued mastering the language and her coursework. Within a year she competed for and was selected as an Act Six Scholar to attend Whitworth, where she is now a senior majoring in chemistry.
Last summer Hanh and a team of graduate and postdoctoral students conducted computational quantum chemistry research at Texas A&M University. During her 10-week internship funded by the National Science Foundation, Hanh produced original research that she will submit to a scientific journal for publication; Hanh has also conducted bioinformatics research at Whitworth. After graduating, she plans to earn a doctorate in chemistry and work in cancer research, a goal she has held since middle school.
Through her job on campus as a resident assistant, Hanh sends monthly support to her grandmother in Vietnam; she had also been saving money to participate in the Jan Term 2014 Technology & Culture in Southeast Asia study program. But when her aunt and uncle in Vietnam had a baby and could not afford the hospital bills, Hanh sent them her savings and gave up the opportunity to study abroad.
Hanh's fellow RAs decided, without telling Hanh, to find a way for her to do the program. "We've all been blessed by Hanh and believe it is our turn to bless her," wrote Lauren Davies, '13, in a message to Esther Louie, assistant dean for intercultural student affairs. The RAs raised a portion of the funds from student donations; Esther put the word out to Whitworth staff, faculty and administrators, who pitched in the balance. "Hanh embodies the values and mission of Whitworth," Esther says. "She hungers for knowledge and is motivated to make a difference in our world."
To view Hanh's student profile, a video interview and photos, click here.