Distinguished Alumni Award Honors Alumnus’ Years of Service to the Veteran Community

WCU-Orange County alumnus Duc N., BSN ’20.

The WCU Distinguished Alumni Award is created to recognize individuals who are going above and beyond to serve their community. This year’s honoree was WCU-Orange County alumnus Duc N., BSN ’20.

Duc’s West Coast University story begins back in 2019 when, after eight years of service in the United States Marine Corps, Duc decided to change careers in order to pursue his Bachelor of Science in Nursing. However, it wasn’t enough for Duc to work as a nurse — a career that is already defined by its commitment to care and service — but Duc also found ways to dedicate his time and energy to helping fellow veterans.

“I’m partnering with non-profit organizations that help veterans transition from the military to the civilian world,” Duc explained. “The biggest challenge is going from a structured environment to home where you must figure it all out independently.”

While in school, Duc was involved with the Student Veteran Organization and the California Nursing Students Association (CNSA). “Being involved and utilizing all those resources gave me the platform to shine and helped me get to where I am today.”

Recently, Duc found a way to reach his fellow veterans through free group therapy sessions he calls “Holding Space.” The group is a safe place for veterans to share whatever is weighing on them so they can lighten that burden and begin to heal.

“We’re holding space for one another,” Duc said. “There is a huge stigma in mental health where we’ll say we’re fine and we don’t need help. It snowballs to the point where no one seeks help.”

For his work and dedication, Duc received numerous nominations from the WCU community for the Distinguished Alumni Award.

“I wasn’t expecting to get any awards at my age. When you do these things, you often don’t get thanked, and people don’t understand what you’re trying to do,” Duc said. “I’m hard on myself. It’s nice to be recognized because I know I’m on the right path. It boosts my spirits tremendously.”

He received the award at the 2024 Alumni Awards Ceremony where the WCU community gathered to celebrate outstanding alumni and honor their achievements. Duc, who was the final award recipient of the night, said he got a bad case of the nerves as the anticipation built.

“It was surreal,” he shared. “They had me sweating. I went up to the podium, and they were cracking jokes about saving the best for last. I was very honored and grateful.”

 As for what’s in the future, Duc says, “As long as I’m in a position where I’m serving others, I know I’m in the right place.”

He is currently working as a house supervisor, managing his facility’s patient care and nursing services, while he earns his Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, specializing in mental health nursing. Looking ahead, Duc plans to continue giving back to his alma mater, the healthcare community, and the veteran population. As he continues to navigate the healthcare landscape, he remains committed to embodying the spirit of the Distinguished Alumni Award with every step of his journey.

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