When Newman senior Michelle Tong competes in the Miss Vietnam Wichita pageant this June, it will be the culmination of an incredible experience.
“This is by far one of the most nerve-racking things I have ever done, but one reason I decided to participate this year was to step out of my comfort zone, work with amazing and confident Vietnamese female leaders who are on the planning committee, and make friendships along the way,” said the Wichita native and Newman University senior. “Plus, why not find an excuse to wear a cute gown and áo dài (a traditional Vietnamese dress)?”
Tong got involved with Miss Vietnam Wichita because she knows some past competitors. The pageant preparation process includes weekly rehearsals. For the Miss People’s Choice title, contestants have the option to attend community events, partake in social media challenges and spread the word about the pageant by encouraging the community to like and share their headshots on Facebook. Contestants will participate in private interviews later this month to compete for the Miss Interview title.
“The experience so far has been amazing,” Tong said. “I have really enjoyed spending time with my pageant sisters and am excited for everyone to see them shine on stage. We have a group chat and there is constant support, shopping advice and silly jokes each day.”
Finding community at Newman
Tong, a nursing student at Newman, chose to go into the field because she’s always been interested in health care.
“Through different volunteering opportunities in high school, I learned that I enjoy talking to people and learning about their lives,” she said. “I felt like as a nurse at the bedside, it would be the best of both worlds, and it has been so far.”
At Newman, Tong has been heavily involved with the Multicultural Leadership Organization (MCLO) and will serve as president this upcoming school year.
“Inspired by MCLO, my platform is to not only share Vietnam’s traditions, but encourage the exchanging of cultures throughout Wichita,” she said.
Tong is also part of Newman Chorale, the Asian Student Association, Gardening Club and Newman President Kathleen Jagger’s President Student Cabinet. She currently works on campus as a resident assistant and student coordinator in the Admissions Office as well. This past year, she received Newman’s Student Employee of the Year Award.
Georgia Drewes, associate director of admissions, nominated Tong for the exclusive award.
“As admissions student coordinator, Michelle has more detailed projects than our student ambassador team,” Drewes described in Tong’s nomination. “She gives tours, meets with visitors, assists at both on and off campus events and often assists us during Christmas break after our other student workers have traveled home. She also works increased hours over the summer to assist with our continuing events, visits and communications.”
Drewes said she is constantly impressed by Tong’s prompt time management, willingness to help and exemplary attention to detail.
“As someone who tends to take on a lot of tasks myself because I know it will get done ‘right,’ I have zero qualms about handing Michelle a task because I know she’ll do it correctly, to the fullest and present it to me in a timely manner. She takes so much stress off me and is a wonderful partner in the recruitment office who is constantly learning, improving and eager to help.”
Geoff Louvar, admissions digital marketing manager, added that his team has been blessed to work with Tong in Admissions.
“Michelle has been an absolute rockstar for us,” he said. “Her positive energy just brightens your day. Michelle is a true testament of a future Newman graduate that will transform society.”
After graduation, Tong plans to begin her career at a hospital in Wichita. She eventually hopes to work in a neonatal intensive care unit or in family nursing. She’s also interested in being a travel nurse.
Ultimately, whether through her experience with Miss Vietnam Wichita or at Newman, it’s all about making connections for Tong.
“Finding a community I believe is a huge part about coming to college,” she said. “I’ve found a second family through MCLO and could not be more grateful to the student leaders before me who founded it just a few years ago. I also have an awesome Chorale family who I love and appreciate with every rehearsal.”
Learn about life at Newman
College life is more than classes, books, tests and residence halls — it’s about connecting with other people, making lifelong friends and future colleagues and building relationships with experienced faculty who can be a resource in your career and your life for years to come.