Alumna Spotlight: Lanh Nguyen

Accounting graduate makes the most of co-curricular activities at DCTC

Lanh Nguyen, 29, attended Dakota County Technical College as an international student. Lanh majored in Accounting and graduated with her Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in May 2019.

Lanh was born in Vietnam and grew up in La Gi, a district-level town in Binh Thuan Province on the country’s South Central Coast. In 2013, she earned a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) from Hoa Sen University in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

After earning her BBA, Lanh worked for nearly three years as an import-export documentation specialist at IUM Logistics, a global shipping and air transport services company in Ho Chi Minh City. She was 25-years-old when she came to the United States in 2016.

Lanh’s future college plans include earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a graduate degree in supply chain management over the next five years.

Lanh IUM gallery

Lanh Nguyen on her life in Vietnam

What did you love most about growing up in Vietnam?

I love being able to bike to school every day. My close friends and I used to live about two miles away from our high school. Our bikes did not have shifting gears so there were days when we had to bike against strong winds and wished we had had a motorbike, but we enjoyed very much casually biking with the wind on the way home.

Bicycles were essential to kids in my neighborhood because it was how we got to places. The neighborhood was small, and our parents did not give us a ride to school.

What is your favorite place in Vietnam?

I love the Da Nang and Hoi An old quarters! I visited these cities on the central coast of Vietnam once. They have been the tourist attractions of the nation for a while, but they somehow manage to keep their rich cultural environment intact.

I also would love to travel to the mountainous cities on in the northwest someday. I want to see for myself the breathtaking view from atop of a mountain in the Hoang Lien Mountain Range, and I want to actually feel like I was standing on cloud!

How has your Vietnamese heritage helped you adapt to life in Minnesota?

I think most Minnesotans and Vietnamese people are very humble and supportive. My social network in the States was really small at first. But as I began knowing more people, I found myself fitting right into the Minnesota culture thanks to the characteristics we have in common.

When I first came here, the language barrier constrained me from socializing. People I know from DCTC (Kristen, Natalie, Anna, Diane, my teachers, friends, and faculty I had chances to work with) and my family encouraged me a lot to overcome the obstacles. Their encouragement built my self-confidence and helped me expand my social life.

Vietnam gallery

Lanh maximizes her time at DCTC

While excelling as a full-time student at DCTC (three semesters on the President’s List), Lanh worked for two years in the college’s Student Affairs division. She also participated in numerous student clubs, organizations, events and activities, including:

  • Business Professionals of America (BPA) DCTC Chapter
    • Competed at 2019 BPA National Leadership Conference in Anaheim, California
      • 2nd place in Project Management competition
      • 4th place in Spreadsheet competition
      • 5th place in Payroll Accounting competition
  • Heart of a Leader leadership training
  • DCTC Open House volunteer
  • Student Senate Budget Committee
  • Business Etiquette Luncheon
  • Multicultural Student Leadership Association (MSLA) events
  • Presidential Search Committee

Lanh credits her participation on the college’s Presidential Search Committee with helping her land her new job as an export analyst at CHS, a worldwide agribusiness owned by farmers, ranchers and cooperatives across the U.S. She works at the CHS location in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.

“President Michael Berndt’s interview skills set a great example for me on how to answer the questions to the point while highlighting my relevant work experience in detail,” Lanh said. “That meeting was a perfect opportunity for students to learn, in person, about job interviews!”

Lanh’s role at CHS involves preparing and acquiring necessary documents to export grain and feed ingredients worldwide in compliance with the U.S. export regulations as well as the destination’s import regulations. A single shipment pairs with a set of documents that she needs to present to banks or directly to buyers for payments. She also assists traders and logistics team members with solving problems that develop during the time cargo is in transit.

“My new job doesn’t sound like something related to accounting, but knowing accounting helps me foresee some problems that could affect my job, especially at the end of fiscal year,” Lanh said. “My accounting background also helps me understand discussions related to finance across the departments. I can read company financial statements and understand how CHS is performing and recognize development goals in the future.”

Anna Voight: Student Life Perspective

Lanh Nguyen was an exceptional student who made the most of her time at DCTC by augmenting her learning in the classroom with real-world experiences related to her field of study.

Anna Voight

Many of these experiences came through her participation in co-curricular and student activities on campus. Her involvement in Business Professionals of America (BPA) allowed her to take what she was learning in the classroom and compete in real-world scenarios against students statewide and nationwide in contests related accounting, business and more.

Lanh got additional hands-on experience in her field when she served on the Student Life Budget Committee where she helped review and recommend an annual budget of $400,000.

She was also a highly valued student employee working in the college’s Student Affairs division. In this role, Lanh worked alongside college employees at events, on projects, and on committees, gaining invaluable experience to grow in career readiness competencies essential for workplace success, including teamwork, leadership, intercultural fluency and more.

I think I speak for the entire Student Affairs division when I say we dearly miss having her on our student employee team! Lanh’s work ethic, desire to learn and critical-thinking skills made her an asset to all of her roles in co-curricular activities.

Lanh took advantage of the opportunities presented to her while a student, and she graduated with a resume full of skills and experiences to complement her accounting degree! I am so proud of Lanh and all she has accomplished.

Anna Voight
Associate Director of Student Life
Dakota County Technical College

More about Lanh…

Lanh in Hoi An, city of 120,000 in Vietnam

Lanh is married and her husband, Samuel Adams—named after a leader of American Revolution, is a property accountant for Cushman & Wakefield in Bloomington, Minnesota.

“Sam is a very supportive person,” Lanh said, “especially when I was taking a full load of courses every semester and attending extracurricular events, as well as working part-time at the college.”

Lanh reported that her family owns a “loving and lovable” cat named Camber. “Camber might be a British shorthair, but I don’t know much about cats,” she said. “When I met Sam, he already had Camber for three years, which makes our cat six years old now. Camber fixes my stereotype of a sneaky cat. He likes to lie close, literally, anywhere you are!”

In her free time, Lanh loves making crafts of all kinds. “Sewing and knitting are my favorites,” she said. “I have been checking out knitting books from the library, learning knitting techniques from YouTubers, and teaching myself sewing with memories from childhood when I used to watch my older sister sew.”

Lanh added that she has picked up gardening in Minnesota. She’s working on finding ways to effectively sow seeds in early spring. Lanh resides with Sam and Camber in Minneapolis.

Lanh family gallery

Accountants and Auditors

Interpret budget statements in order to give financial advice.


This is a very high-wage career that pays well above the statewide median of $21.49/hour


Median: $33.06/hour
High: $40.61/hour

Seven-county Twin Cities metro

Median: $34.10/hour
High: $42.18/hour


This career is currently in very high demand and seeing high growth compared to other careers. Growth rate in the U.S. is 9.4 percent.

There will be a need for about 30,295 new Accountants and Auditors to meet market demand between 2016–2026. This includes the demand due to replacement (workers leaving the occupation or retiring) as well as growth.

Minnesota State CAREERwise Education

Lanh college gallery

Marie Saunders: Accounting Faculty Perspective

About Lanh Nguyen…

Lanh was a first-year student in my Financial Accounting course, and I found her to be quite intelligent and an eager learner. It wasn’t until she joined BPA a year later that I got to know her as more than just a student, but personally.

Marie Saunders

I was impressed by Lanh’s courage more than anything. She came to the U.S. with a purpose and a goal, and she was bound to achieve these. Lanh excelled at the BPA Minnesota State Leadership Conference, which qualified her for the BPA National Leadership Conference in Los Angeles. While in L.A., we went to an Asian market and learned quite a bit about Lanh’s culture.

About the accounting profession…

When students first come to study accounting at the college, I like to remind them of what an exciting profession they have chosen.  Organization and communication are the two biggest skills required. It takes an organized person to analyze an entity’s financial records and then communicate with company executives the information provided by these records.

In addition, accounting is a profession required by many industries. As long as there are businesses, there will be a need for accountants. Our job outlook will always be good.

Marie Saunders
Accounting Faculty
Dakota County Technical College

More about Accounting at DCTC…

As an accounting major at DCTC, you will trained to analyze, interpret and record fiscal information regarding the operations and financial condition of businesses and organizations. Working with spreadsheet and accounting software, you will acquire the skills necessary to prepare financial statements, tax returns and government forms. You will also learn federal and state tax and payroll laws. Accountants need to be lifelong learners with the ability to work with all aspects of business.

Award options

The 60-credit Accountant Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree provides basic and intermediate accounting skills to prepare you to enter the workforce as an accountant or transfer and obtain advanced degrees. The 54-credit Accountant diploma provides basic and intermediate skills to enter the workforce as an accountant.

The 32-credit Accounting Clerk diploma provides basic accounting skills to obtain a career as an accounting clerk. The 16-credit Small Business Accounting certificate is designed to provide accounting skills for an entrepreneur to start or manage a business, or for administrative personnel involved in the accounting function of a business.


Lanh Nguyen Q & A

First winter in Minnesota with former teacher

Why did you choose DCTC?

I wanted to study abroad because it was my dream to experience education in a developed country. My former high school teacher lived close to the campus, and she recommended that I enroll at DCTC due to the college’s affordable tuition.

After searching on the internet, I learned that the curriculum of the Accounting program was practical, which could help me enter the workforce early while saving up for a bachelor’s degree.

What did you like best about the Accounting program?

I love how passionate and dedicated my professors were to pass along their knowledge and diverse experiences to their students. Although most of my classes were on campus, online lectures were also available. We learned by practicing and our professors made sure to go through the practical questions/homework with students. We were also taught Excel and QuickBooks. Those are useful tools used by many companies.

How did your participation in extracurricular activities help you succeed in college?

Competing at Business Professionals of America (BPA) events helped me reinforce my knowledge in accounting because I had to be good at my field to compete with students from other colleges in the state as well as throughout the nation.

The insights I gained from the Heart of a Leader training course helped me to bring coordination and positive energy to many teams I participated in.

These are just a couple of examples of how extracurricular activities helped me to be knowledgeable and a great team member. Even a simple takeaway can go a long way. Who could have known the participation on Presidential Search Committee more than a year ago could help me to get my current job!?

What advice would you give students thinking about participating in extracurricular activities?

Making time to participate in the activities is challenging when you have lots of homework, a job and a family to take care of. My advice is to choose a club/activity you are most interested in and stick with it. Schedule time for it as if it were one of your classes.

Some of you may find you are unsure if you would like an activity enough to keep it as a routine, or some may not feel confident with meeting people (I was one of those!).

Don’t think too much! Sign up and face it! Once you make connections with likeminded friends, you’re on the ball. DCTC has so many sources for you to explore and take advantage of. And they are free! Student Senate meetings are a good place to start.

Five words that describe you as a college student:

What is your favorite moment from your favorite extracurricular activity?

That was the moment I got the yellow shirt for the most improved member in Heart of a Leader training. It was a delightful and surprising moment when my name was called after three days of hard work and being mentally and physically exhausted.

This course gave me fond memories spending time with my friends, and it sure changed the very quiet and introverted part of myself. I am learning to give encouragement and sincere compliments to create positive energy for people around me.

What person has influenced you the most in life?

My sister, Le, is always the reason for me to keep learning. She opened my world by teaching me English when I was seven. Doing housework with her was always fun. She usually demonstrated the work and told me “watch and learn!”

Her words followed everywhere and became my preferred method of learning. Literally, we will learn a lot from people around us if we mindfully observe their works and behaviors. She was a senior accountant for a well-known company in Vietnam, but she chose to be a nun two years ago and is continuously learning to help others.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

I may have a sewing brand of myself; nothing much, but something for me to enjoy. I may have a kid and my child will speak Vietnamese—his/her mother’s mother tongue, haha! I may invest in a language center for children in my hometown. This center will not only teach English, but also other common languages. I hope my fellows will be able to see the world from different perspectives through languages.

What languages do you speak?

I speak Vietnamese and English. I also took French classes in senior high school, some Korean and German courses while I was working at IUM Logistics, and a Spanish class at DCTC. Yet, I can only speak a few sentences in those languages. It’s hard to keep a language alive when I don’t use it often.

Do you think in Vietnamese or English?

To me, languages are tools to communicate, and through communication, we discover the culture of the society where those languages are used. Teaching languages is not only teaching grammar and pronunciation, but also introducing cultures to learners. Harold Torrence, a business and Spanish instructor at DCTC, taught us that in his class. I’m lucky to have the opportunities to know some aspects of American culture. I’m trying to think both in Vietnamese and in an American way.

When I first started life here, I was shocked by how people kept chatting all the way from the parking lot to the office, on buses, and in the elevator as if they could never run out of topics to talk about. One time, a stranger tried to start a conversation with me in the elevator. I looked at her and silently asked, “Do I know you?”

Now, I know it’s awkward to have long silent moments in America. But not all American like socializing, and not all Vietnamese people like to keep their distance. It depends on the situations.

I think it’s not important in which way I think. It’s the ability to think in different ways and understand how people think the way they do that matters. When I understand people, I’ll try to adjust my behaviors.

One word that best describes your experience at DCTC:


Lanh Nguyen 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Biking
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Bad Gastein, Austria—for hiking and winter photos
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Ski down a long difficult hill without falling
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Travel the entire world 2) Run a crafts & plants shop 3) Donate and invest the rest in education
  5. Favorite TV show you’re watching now: Parks and Recreation
  6. Best movie you’ve seen lately: Inception
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Building a language center for children in my hometown
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Barred owl—strategies and wisdom
  9. Dream occupation: My dream occupation has changed multiple times since I was little. I don’t have one right now. I am happy with my current job because there are always new things to learn in this position.
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Professor Albus Dumbledore
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Create fun and encouraging environment for people around me
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Saving the Earth for the next generations

Learn more about the Accounting program at DCTC by contacting:

Marie Saunders
Accounting Faculty

Lyle Stelter
Accounting Faculty

Anika Stafford
Academic and Financial Aid Advisor

Learn more about Student Life at DCTC by contacting:

Nicole Meulemans
Director of Student Life and Activities

Anna Voight
Associate Director of Student Life

Lanh travel and life gallery