At the age of 34, Alang Tho is already the pride of his community in the remote mountains of Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam, being the first member of his ethic group to be awared a doctoral degree for his research on indigenous employee voice and inclusion.
Born in 1985 into a poor farming family in the remote mountainous region of Quang Nam Province, Alang Tho is a member of the Co Tu ethnicity, a minority group of around 100,000 people spread across Hue City, Da Nang City, and Quang Nam Province in the central part of the country.
As a child, Alang Tho had to walk many kilometers across mountains and swam rivers to get to his local elementary school, at a time when electriciy was not yet available in his hometown and other unspoken difficulties had been driving most of his peers to drop out of school from a very young age.
But the challenges could not hinder Alang Tho’s determination to get a proper education, as it was the dream to become a government offical that kept him going in the face of hardship.
“On my most challenging days, I dreamt of a better future. This kept me from giving up on my study,” Alang Tho told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
“Moreover, every time I went to school I found happiness and discovered new things. I was even so afraid I would miss great lectures from the teachers that I unfailingly went to school even when it rained, the weather was sunny, or I was down with sickness.”
He attended high school in Hoi An City in Quang Nam, before getting enrolled at the Da Nang University of Economics.
After graduation Alang Tho worked for a while at the Kon Tum Province campus of Da Nang University in the Central Highlands.
His PhD journey began when he was selected as a recipient of both the Australia Awards Scholarship (AAS), awarded by the Australian government, and a Vietnamese government grant under Project 911 in 2013.
Alang Tho decided to receive the AAS to study at RMIT University in Australia.
His PhD thesis explored the indigenous voice and inclusion of ethnic minority officals in the workplace, focusing on barriers that limit the voice of ethnic minority employees there.
The thesis also proposed relevant policies to encourage integration and participation in the policy-making process of ethnic minority officials.
Alang Tho was invited to present his thesis at the Australia and New Zealand Academy of Management (ANZAM) conferences in 2017 and 2018.
He was the speaker at the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE) 2018 in Kyoto, Japan and SASE 2019 in NewYork, the U.S.
“Have a dream and dare to dream” is the message he wishes to send to students in Vietnam, especially those coming from ethnic backgrounds.
He encourages ethnic students to pursue studying and work hard to make their dreams come true.
"Doing your job well, learning from co-workers and leaders, and loving what you do will help erase the barriers of being an ethic minority," he said.
“When you perform well and truly dedicate yourself to your work, you will earn the respect from your colleagues.
"By then, the ‘ethnic minority’ label will become your competitive advantage."