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Mai is a PhD student looking to tackle Southeast Asian refugee resettlement and deportation.

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"Categorical, linear thinking isn’t always the best approach to your career. I’m both a poet and a researcher, and the two disciplines of poetry and political science aren’t mutually exclusive. Don’t be afraid to take an interdisciplinary approach."

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Mai Nguyen Do
Class of 2017



My career roadmap has been somewhat defined.

Platypus Press accepted my debut poetry manuscript. Through its publication in 2016, I became connected with Southeast Asian American activists and advocates across the country, many of whom are working on the issue of Southeast Asian deportation.

My first political internship was with Christy Smith for Assembly in 2016, which then opened up doors for a subsequent internship at California Clean Money Action Fund and an officer position with the Santa Clarita Valley Young Democrats.

After interning for CCMAF, I landed my first job in early 2018 as a Political Fellow at Courage California. I initially applied for a different position but was turned down, then their Political Director called me up out of the blue and offered me the new Political Fellow position.

My first promotion was also at Courage California. I went from a fellow to a Research & Policy Associate. In that role, I assisted on legislative bill and electoral campaigns, often employing my knowledge in field organizing from my past internships.

Through my literary mentor, National Endowment for the Arts fellow Bryan Thao Worra, my second poetry collection, centered on issues of refugee resettlement, police brutality, and intergenerational hope, was published in 2019 by the nation’s first Lao-led publishing company.

I applied to, was accepted into, and enrolled in the Ph.D. program in UC Riverside’s Department of Political Science. I started my first quarter in September of 2019. I research Southeast Asian refugee resettlement and deportation in the U.S.

During the 2019-2020 school year, Dr. S. Karthick Ramakrishnan, a leading scholar in Asian American politics, took me on as an advisee. I joined the AAPI Data team as a researcher and received my first appointment as a Teaching Assistant for a course on race, ethnicity, and immigration.

I received my first fellowship, the Minority Fellowship from the American Political Science Association, during the summer of 2020.



Here are my extracurriculars relevant to this pathway


  • I was an award-winning delegate on the Model UN team at COC during my senior year.

  • I also interned for Christy Smith for Assembly 2016 during the fall of my senior year.

  • Platypus Press accepted and published my debut poetry collection, which is centered on Vietnamese history and intergenerational haunting, in 2016.

  • I taught Vietnamese language classes on Sundays at the Van Lang Language & Cultural Center in Northridge from 2014 to 2017.


  • I worked briefly as a Social Media & Marketing Associate at the Rose O’Neill Literary House, which is housed at Washington College.

  • In 2018, I was elected Assembly District Delegate to the California Democratic Party for Assembly District 38.

  • I presented on Asian American literature and subjectivities at the Thinking Its Presence conference in late 2017.

  • I’m an alum of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies National Leadership Academy,which I was lucky to be recommended to in 2019.


What I'm currently doing/hope to do

I am currently a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Riverside. My research focuses on Southeast Asian refugee resettlement and deportation in the U.S. I also work as a researcher for AAPI Data, a project led by Dr. S. Karthick Ramakrishnan that publishes demographic and public opinion data on Asian Pacific Americans. As a researcher for AAPI Data, I work on projects like our State of AAPI Philanthropy report, for which I’ve conducted interviews of people working at philanthropic organizations. In addition, I currently work as a Teaching Assistant for a summer undergraduate course on race, ethnicity, and immigration in the U.S. Although various retreats and programs I’ve been accepted to have been postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19, I’m continuing to work on my third poetry manuscript, which draws a lot from my research on Southeast Asian refugee communities.


How to maximize my time in high school?

  • Advice #1: You’re a COC student in addition to an AOC student, so build community both ways. I got my first internship and first job through friends I made at COC, and those friends are some of my closest ones to this day. We still have a running group chat where we share news, local politics memes, and of course, job opportunities we think are relevant to each other. In the sometimes-dangerous realms of advocacy and activism, these trusted circles can be crucial lifelines, both in situations in which your career or your personal well-being are in jeopardy. If you’re going into this work, you have to have people nearby who you can literally trust with your life.

  • Advice #2: Categorical, linear thinking isn’t always the best approach to your career. I’m both a poet and a researcher, and the two disciplines of poetry and political science aren’t mutually exclusive. Most creative writers I know also engage in work as policy advocates, and I’ve relied on them for help with certain public policy projects I’ve worked on. Additionally, I sometimes use literary works both in my own projects and as teaching tools, and my own research occasionally inspires poems. Don’t be afraid to take an interdisciplinary approach. Tying together different parts of your life can create unique opportunities. It can be hard at times, but when you can, you should demand the respect and space to be a whole person with the complexities that entails.

  • Advice #3: You really don’t need five associate degrees. One is more than enough. You also don’t need a 4.0 GPA or enrollment at a prestigious university to succeed, especially if you’re interested in doing field organizing or other, more grassroots advocacy or activism. In these spaces, experience, commitment, and skill sets often count more. It doesn’t matter if you’re an A student if your coworkers can’t count on you to be wholly dedicated to manifesting your organization or campaign’s mission. Trust yourself and focus your limited energies where you think it matters, whether that’s just surviving your classes, taking on an internship, caring for your family, or volunteering at Bridge to Home on the weekends.

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