Fooothill College President's Biography

Thuy Thi Nguyen, J.D.


Thuy Thi Nguyen (Thúy Thị Nguyễn) serves as the seventh President of Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, California, a position she has held since July 2016. Nguyen is believed to be the first Vietnamese American college president in the country.

Prior to her arrival at Foothill, Nguyen served as interim general counsel for the California Community College’s Chancellor’s Office. As overseer of equal employment opportunity plans for 72 community college districts and 113 colleges, she led the move to an innovative funding approach that encourages community colleges to assess and strengthen their efforts in equal employment opportunity. Nguyen also organized regional training workshops covering such topics as why diversity in hiring matters and how to address unconscious bias, highlighting evidence that a diverse faculty helps close the student achievement gap.

For over eleven years, Nguyen was the General Counsel for the Peralta Community College District. At different points during her tenure at Peralta, she served in additional roles as Acting Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, District-wide Strategic Planning Manager, and legislative liaison. From January to June 2015, Nguyen took temporary leave from Peralta CCD to serve as Interim President and Chief Executive Officer of the Community College League of California.

When she was 3, she and her family joined the wave of “boat people” who fled Vietnam after the end of the war. They drifted in the Pacific Ocean on a boat for more than 20 days before a commercial ship rescued them and took them to a refugee camp in Japan. Eventually, the family relocated to Wichita, Kansas, and then moved to the warmer climate of New Orleans.

When she was 14, the family settled in the Oakland.  Nguyen attended a predominantly African American and Latino school, Castlemont High, where she embarked on a path of community leadership and service.  At Castlemont, she served as a student representative on the Oakland Unified School District’s Board of Directors and cadet colonel brigade commander in the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. Upon graduation, the mayor of Oakland declared June 23, 1993 “Thuy Thi Nguyen Day” recognizing her community service.

Nguyen is the founding board chair of California L.A.W. Pathway, a non-profit organization that coordinates the unprecedented statewide 2+2+3 Community College Pathway to Law School program that Nguyen initiated with the State Bar of California’s Council on Access and Fairness. The Pathway includes six California law schools, six undergraduate universities, 28 community colleges and 16 high school law academies.  She also helped spearhead a Spanish language court interpreter program at Peralta. In 2016, Nguyen received the coveted Diversity Award from the State Bar of California, an award given to an individual who has helped diversify the legal profession. 

She co-published a book, “25 Vietnamese Americans in 25 Years,” showcasing the contributions of 25 distinguished Vietnamese Americans to American society to mark the anniversary of the fall of Saigon. The book is archived in the Library of Congress and available at the Viet Museum in San Jose and many public and university libraries across the country.

Nguyen was an adjunct instructor teaching education law for several years at what is now California State University, East Bay. She is immediate past board president of the Marcus Foster Education Institute, which promotes excellence and educational opportunity in East Bay and San Francisco public schools.

In 2002, Thuy was listed among “30 Most Influential Asian Americans Under 30” nationally by Rainmaker Political Group (politicalcircus.com).  In 2007, she was named one of eighteen “Best Lawyers Under 40” in the country by the National Asian American Bar Association.  In 2011, the Vietnamese American Bar Association of Northern California gave her its Trailblazer Award and in 2012, the Minority Bar Coalition presented her with its Unity Award. She is the founding president of the Castlemont High School Alumni Association and has been inducted into the school’s Alumni Hall of Fame.

Nguyen earned her B.A. in Philosophy from Yale University and her Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, where she was a member of the inaugural class of the Public Interest Law and Policy Program. Nguyen is a Rotarian and a Paul and Daisy Soros for New Americans Fellow.

Top of page October 04, 2016