“Failure is a reward. It gives me an opportunity to practice and get better at something.”

These are the words UNT doctoral student Sandy Nguyen lives by. It's Sandy's attitude that sets her apart from other people. When you meet her, you tend to walk away feeling energized and motivated.

“I live by the five main concepts of Resilience Theory, which outlines how to achieve optimal sports performance: positive personality, motivation, confidence, focus and perceived social support,” Sandy says. “I take these concepts and apply them to my life both inside and outside the gym. At the end of the day, we all are given a choice, and I feel the one thing that is unique about me is when there seems to be no other option, I follow my heart and know I can find a way to succeed.”

It's clear that Sandy has a passion for success and the success of others, whether it's teaching, learning more about life or sharing personal experiences with the people she meets. Motivated by her passion for education and personal fitness, Sandy places the highest value on the relationships she forms with her students. A native of the Mojave Desert region of southern California, she attended school at California State University Northridge, where she studied kinesiology with an emphasis in applied fitness.

In 2015, Sandy was introduced to the aquatics program. Impressed by UNT's world-class facilities and institutional passion for motivating and developing students (a passion that she herself has, along with fitness development), she knew she wanted to live in North Texas and call UNT home. She was hired as a graduate assistant at the Pohl Recreation Center and immediately began living UNT's mission statement. Her favorite part is about UNT being a “research university deeply committed to advancing educational excellence and preparing students to become thoughtful and engaged citizens of the world.”

Thoughtful and engaged is exactly how Sandy sees herself and others around her, which is why she earned her master's in Recreation, Event and Sport Management in 2017. But she wasn't finished learning. Nguyen is now a full-time doctoral student in the Higher Education program, with a concentration in Sport Management, and hopes to further pursue research and teaching as a professor after graduation (projected for May 2021). Currently, she co-teaches an introductory course for graduate students, GSTEP (Graduate Student Excellence Program), which is for students currently in or interested in teaching positions.

Sandy believes motivation is the key to success, whether in life, fitness or educational goals.

“I stay positive because I believe that I have the inner strength to overcome what obstacles are always in front of me,” Nguyen says. “Regardless of what your goal is, push yourself to meet it and make sure you remain aware, mind, body and spirit; there are no limits for someone with the mind of a champion.”

Personal fitness is important to Sandy, and she walks the walk when it comes to her own fitness journey, making physical activity and proper diet a priority.

Her advice for others to become the best version of themselves is:

  • Whatever you're doing for fitness, make it fun.
  • Use the SMART system when creating goals for yourself; make them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. You'll have a much better chance of meeting them this way.
  • Listen to your body. We're all different and different foods affect people differently. Know how what you put in your body will affect you.

Sandy uses the knowledge she has gleaned from her research on fitness and wellness to help others. She recently presented at the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association conference in Boston and just wrapped up volunteer work at the USA Sevens Rugby championship global tournament. In addition, she is planning to continue her work in a national study examining collegiate men and women's rugby, measuring the importance of inclusion, equity and diversity in sports.

“I'm living my dream academically and enjoying my journey as a student,” she says. “Texas has been home to me, and I love my Mean Green family.”