We came from humble beginnings. My brothers and I, along with our parents, were refugees from Vietnam, as part of the second wave of the Vietnamese diaspora following the Vietnam War. So the idea that all three siblings would attend one of the most competitive and prestigious liberal arts colleges in the country was nothing short of a dream.
I was the first in my family to attend CMC, so you could consider me a trailblazer. The moment I set foot on campus in 1989 and learned about the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) program, I knew I belonged there.
My brother Luan was recruited for the CMS Stag soccer team by Coach Steve Davis. Besides the awesome soccer program, CMC stood above the rest for Luan because of the specialized individual attention each student receives in class from esteemed and caring professors.
My brother Dinh experienced the CMC community while on campus visiting his siblings. Like all of us, he was drawn to the strong sense of community, commitment to leadership and public service, and the focus on student athletes. We all agree that CMC provides the best of both worlds — strong community of a liberal arts college and the opportunities of a large university with access across the Claremont Colleges.
Luan went on to study International Relations, ran track and played soccer. Luan was an All-American and 1998 SCIAC Player of the Year. Dinh went on to study Economics and International Relations. My dad was especially proud to have both of his sons play on the same field for the CMS Stag soccer team for one year and was a regular at all the games.
Since graduation from CMC, Luan and I pursued management consulting and IT careers in Southern California. I initially pursued a corporate career and am now an entrepreneur. Luan established the Vietnamese American Athletic Development Inc., a nonprofit operating in local Vietnamese-American communities to help underprivileged youth through athletics, and is working at Fox Corp.
Dinh entered federal government service through the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) program, eventually serving in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon and as director for East Asian security affairs on the National Security Council in the White House. He’s currently living in Singapore with his family, working at an international insurtech startup.
Our CMC degrees helped to validate the sacrifices our parents made to bring us to the United States. Looking back, our experience at CMC significantly shaped our future and contributed to our success. We are eternally grateful to the professors who guided, encouraged, and nurtured our early development. We are also thankful for the lifelong friendships we developed with our classmates and the phenomenal network of CMC alumni. The American Dream is alive and well for the Lai siblings. Thank you for the experience and the memories, CMC!
— Kathlina Lai ’93