When Southwestern Adventist University announced a special fundraiser in 2020 with a series of keepsake Christmas ornaments featuring various SWAU landmarks, they never expected current students to participate--their finances are already committed to tuition.
At the time, Linh Vu was a new transfer student who had just begun her junior year in the nursing program at SWAU. When she heard about the fundraiser and saw the 2020 ornament featuring the Mizpah Gate, she knew she had to do it.
“Honestly, I really wanted the ornament,” Vu laughs. “But the reason I so badly wanted it is because SWAU means so much to me.”
Though she had attended community college, Vu hadn’t finished a degree, as she was hired directly out of high school into a good job working for a military and criminal attorney. A decade later, Vu adopted a baby girl, and, like all parents, immediately began dreaming big dreams for her child.
“Education was immediately at the forefront of my mind for her,” Vu says. “I didn’t want her growing up and saying, ‘You didn’t attend college; why do I need to?’ So I knew I had to go back to school and get that degree.”
Though her background is in paralegal and human resources, Vu decided that she still wanted to do something hands-on, but also wanted something completely new and exciting. She started looking into public health. After taking both anatomy & physiology and microbiology at her local community college, she began applying to nursing schools. One of the eight to which she applied was Southwestern Adventist University.
“I knew nothing about Adventists, and--I’ll be honest--I didn’t even know where Keene was,” Vu says with an embarrassed chuckle. “But because I attended parochial schools during my childhood, the religious aspect of SWAU really made it stand out to me.”
Out of the eight nursing schools to which she applied, Vu was accepted to seven.
“I had choices,” she says. “Yes, I wanted them to accept me, but I also needed to choose the right school for myself.”
She was lucky enough to make a campus visit just before the U.S. began shutting down due to COVID, and what she saw left her with no doubt that SWAU was the place for her. During her campus tour, Vu followed her guide into a nursing skills lab while a class was in session. Dr. Ron Mitchell, professor of nursing, stopped class to chat with Vu and give her a chance to ask questions.
“From that visit and that moment, I knew students at SWAU are not just a numbers game,” Vu says confidently. “The university really cares and is committed to their students’ education. I felt I would get so much more than a degree from SWAU, so I chose them.”
And when the keepsake ornament fundraiser was announced, Vu chose to give, too.
“Throughout my childhood my parents instilled in me the idea of tithing and giving back to society with both my finances and my time,” she explains. “It’s always been in my heart to do things for others before I receive something for myself. And any support I can offer to students with education goals is something I can definitely get behind.”
Funds raised through the SWAU Christmas ornament series support the Southwestern Fund, a general fund that benefits various areas of need at the university. This can mean anything from building lighting to parking lot paving to scholarships for students.
During the first year of their annual fundraiser, SWAU raised over $82,000 and sent out over 300 ornaments. The 2021 ornament features Evans Hall, and the university’s goal for the year is $88,000. All 2021 graduates from SWAU will receive a keepsake ornament as a welcome into the alumni association.
“I give because I believe there are causes greater than myself,” Vu continues, “and I believe I should give for the sake of giving--without any strings attached. I trust the organization to use what I give to benefit the cause that most needs it; I’m just happy I’m able to give back to the institution that’s given me such a wonderful education.”
She adds that since transferring to SWAU, she’s gained friendships that will remain with her for life, and that she refers to her tutor as a “guardian angel” because they have been “phenomenal” at helping her grasp difficult concepts in nursing. The university’s impressive NCLEX pass rate was one of the many reasons Vu chose SWAU, and she is confident that when the time comes, she’ll contribute to those continued high numbers.
“I often ask myself how I stumbled into this program at SWAU,” Vu admits. “Then I think about the people who helped me conquer the first semester, and I know: God put me here. And when I’m done and have my degree, I’ll be able to tell my daughter, ‘I did it, and you can, too.’”
Donors committing to $250 ($100 for alumni who have graduated in the past 10 years) or more during a calendar year will receive their very own one-of-a-kind keepsake ornament featuring Evans Hall in 2021. Visit swau.edu/give for details and to commit your gift.