2020-21 Director Candidate Khánh Vũ

Candidate Statement – CESSE Director-At-Large 

Being an immigrant and first-generation, my family and I came to the USA in 1975 during the Fall of Saigon at the ending of the Vietnam War. Coming to the land of opportunity was a blessing, but it was a hard start. We eventually landed in Denver in a government housing aka “Denver Projects''.  We were one of twelve Vietnamese families who helped start the Vietnamese community in Denver. I graduated with a BS in Chemical Engineering with 3 minors: McBride Honors in Public Policy, Latin American specialization and Environmental Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines (CSM). After the merger with BP and BP shutting down the Denver office, I left Amoco with 5-years experience as a production engineer then helped my nascent Asian family grocery store.  We grew it to the largest Asian grocery store in a 7-state region and acquired some real estate holdings.  After selling the grocery store and taking a 2-year break, I joined CSM as the 4th Director of Multicultural Engineering Program supporting underserved and low-income students. I joined as the SASE ED after my 5 years at CSM and grew SASE to be the largest Asian American organization in the US.

First and foremost, CESSE has given a lot to me as a new CEO. It has shaped how I think and guide SASE strategically. I want to give back to other CEOs, in particular new CEOs. In this time of COVID and increasing VUCA world, I believe CESSE will be more important in 2 areas: a) building a strong STEM CEO community b) addressing diverse problems. In the world that seems to be more divided and political, CESSE has a strong position to guide the discussion to scientific and fact-based dialogues and decisions.

In the first area, the continuing success of CESSE will be answered by these 2 questions a) Does the CEO feel a beneficial return of their time and involvement to them and their organization? b) Does the CEO feel that CESSE is a community for them? At SASE, I have built a diverse and strong community of young leaders. Not only at SASE, but in the various other organizations that I have been involved in such as CSM (a community of multicultural STEM students) and my church (started a youth ministry that is thriving and growing). I have demonstrated that “my why” is focusing on building communities such as during the 2019 CESSE CEO meeting.  At that time, Eileen Murray and I (co-chairs) had to pivot around Sandy’s departure and work with staff members who were leaving. Even in that tenuous situation, we were able to create a strong program and strong attendance (higher than the previous preceding years). 

In the second area, our CEOs will encounter many challenges.  The known challenges can be less difficult to solve.  It is the unknown challenges, particularly the blind spots that are the most challenging. To solve these challenges, you must bring a diversity of thought and background.  In the 2019 CEO meeting, the D&I panel was overwhelmingly received positively and requested to return in 2020.  Karl & Cortland were introduced to CESSE because of the D&I panel and our conversations. As I said at the end of the 2020 CEO meeting, CESSE has made strides since I joined, but there is so much more that CESSE can do.  I will continue to be part of this change either on the board or as a member.

Building upon my STEM heuristic background, I will bring a breath of diversity of thought and experience (retail, real estate and higher education). In 2010, we decided to be a virtual organization and not charge for membership. I also bring the perspective of a smaller, younger and nimble organization.  Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to playing a leading role in the CESSE family.



Khanh VuKhánh Vu and his family immigrated to the USA from Vietnam at the end of the Vietnam conflict. Khánh graduated from the Colorado School of Mines with a degree in chemical engineering and 3 minors. He worked for Amoco after graduation as a production engineer. He subsequently went to work for the family businesses: Asian grocery and real estate. He helped grow the family business to become the largest Asian grocer in the region. After selling the retail business, Khánh continued to work in real estate.

His passion for helping young adults and fondness for Mines led him back to accepting the position as the fourth Director of the Multi-cultural Engineering Program (MEP), which Khánh was part of MEP's inception in 1989 as a student and was instrumental in the founding of the Asian Student Association in the early '90s, which later became PASES (Professional Asian Society of Engineers and Scientists), eventually merged with SASE. As a Society of Asian Scientists & Engineers (SASE) volunteer, Khánh helped plan the 2011 National Conference. Khánh joined SASE full time as the Executive Director in late 2011. Khánh oversaw the doubling of the collegiate chapters and tripling its membership during his 1st-year tenure with SASE. SASE has become the largest professional Asian American Organization in the US by numbers of chapters, conference size and organizational support. He looks forward to growing SASE to its full potential.

Khánh enjoys spending time with his wife, Uyển, and 4 children: Thiên Ân “JP”, Thiên Sơn “Vincent”, Thiên Hải “Dominic” & Thiên Hà “Teresa”. His hobbies include youth ministry, volleyball and being a foodie.

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The keyword that comes up again and again at CESSE is trust. Our community members meet through our hallmark events and continue the conversations well beyond. Whether you are looking for a sounding board to help you work through a challenge, tips and advice on industry practices, or referrals to other people who have a solution you can use, CESSE is here to be, or become, your professional network of choice.

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