Monday, November 21, 2016

By Karen Gross

GPLLM student Kevin VuongHere’s how Torontonian Kevin Vuong describes himself: A connector and a city builder, helping to build a more resilient and prosperous Canada where no one is left behind. If that sounds lofty and idealistic, consider this. Vuong - at just 27 - has collected more honours, fellowships and awards than the vast majority of Canadians three times his age. Most recently, he was named one of Canada’s Top 30 Under 30 and featured in Corporate Knights magazine for his work in helping to build a more resilient and livable city.

Here’s why he’s enrolled in the Global Professional LLM, an executive-style master of law at the University of Toronto focused on global business law, and open to non-lawyers as well.

“I aspire to run for public office one day,” he says. “Having a legal foundation, understanding the perspective that lawyers have is invaluable in crafting better policy and making better decisions.”

A child of refugees from Vietnam, Vuong says he and his brother grew up in Brampton with a roof over their heads and food on the table but not much else. As he watched his friends collect the latest toys and gadgets, he felt increasingly marginalized and bitter. In his teens, Vuong turned to petty theft and believes he was headed for the criminal justice system before his father caught him and put him on a better path.

“I was lucky to have a social support system and mentors along the way who gave me the opportunity to work and essentially apply my skills of hustling to doing something productive,” he says.

He channeled those skills into a supercharged drive to succeed and to give struggling outsiders the same kind of leg-up he’d been given; working to pay for an undergraduate business degree and extending his reach through community involvement.

Today, Vuong is the Partnerships Lead at Ryerson University’s Magnet Project, where he helps people facing barriers to employment connect with institutions and businesses and lead them to jobs. He’s also a naval reservist and intelligence officer in the Royal Canadian Navy, something he chose to do as a way to give back to the country he says gave his family so much.

And Vuong is a tireless volunteer, board member and political activist involved in too many projects and organizations to name here. By his own calculation, he estimates he was already working about 100 hours per week before adding the GPLL.M. to his schedule. But the investment paid off almost immediately.

“Four classes in, I actually found myself using some of the stuff I was taught in class,” Vuong says. “The way they built the program is for us to use what we’re learning in the classroom and take it back to the community and workplace and apply it.”

Among his classmates are a pediatric surgeon, a cancer researcher, a former MP, a former spokesman for the former prime minister and an assortment of business leaders from Bay Street. 

“We’re a very diverse group of individuals,” Vuong says. “We’re all thinking at a strategic level, but we’re coming from different industries and looking at things in different ways. I think it’s that diversity that made the program so invaluable for me. It’s paying dividends in my career already, so I can only imagine where I’ll be 10 months from now.”