Building Toward the Future
Student supports family while completing college degree
MARIETTA, Ga. (Jan 24, 2020) — After arriving at Kennesaw State University in 2014, Kha Huynh’s daily routine became anything but ordinary for a college student.
He typically woke up around 5 a.m. and began his workday at Clay National Guard Center at Dobbins Air Reserve Base around 8:30 a.m. By 3:30 p.m., he would pack his things and head to campus to attend night classes. At 8 p.m., he would head to his second job at Aaron’s in Kennesaw to complete a shift as a janitor, wrapping up just before midnight. Once he got home, he would spend his extra time studying before catching a few hours of sleep and restarting the routine.
It was done out of necessity, said the construction management student. Both of his parents suffered from hepatitis, incurring large medical bills and preventing them from working regular jobs. An only child, he took it upon himself to lift the financial burden off of his parents while working toward a degree.
“I kept telling myself, ‘If I keep my own pace and envision what I want to do, it is going to happen,’” he said.
After graduating from nearby Osborne High School, Huynh, a first generation American, began a six-year stint in the Army National Guard, assisting in numerous disaster relief efforts throughout his years as a cavalry scout and infantryman. Though his educational journey originally began at Georgia Military College in Fairburn, Huynh said he found himself caring for his parents, both Vietnam natives, on a regular basis and opted to transfer to Kennesaw State to be closer to home.
While a student at Osborne, Huynh recalled attending several engineering days at the University, which inspired him to pursue civil engineering. In time, he realized that he enjoyed aspects of construction management more and shifted course.
“I found that construction management was a lot more hands-on, and I really enjoyed the project management side of the field,” said Huynh, who graduates in May. “There are design elements, financial skills and management all grouped into one. You never see the same thing over and over.”
He particularly enjoyed courses in construction finance, residential methods and construction law, all of which he said opened his eyes to the intricacies of running a construction business. Outside of his major, he cited a marketing course taught by a Coca-Cola executive as being an eye-opening experience.
“Before then, it never really occurred to me how integral marketing is to your business plan, and I began to look at my surroundings in a very different way,” he said. “It’s in every aspect of everyday life.”
Having completed his service in the National Guard, Huynh is now completing a full-time internship as an assistant project manager at Advanced Systems in Woodstock, where he completes reports, assists with payroll and attends court proceedings for the company. He has also become an active member KSU’s National Association of Home Builders and Association of General Contractors student organizations.
“Kha is a shining example of what we hope all of our students aspire to be,” said Khalid Siddiqi, chair of the Department of Construction Management. “His dedication to his country and in supporting his family while completing a rigorous degree program has been remarkable, and his service in student organizations and his internship opportunities will undoubtedly guide him in his future career.”
Upon graduation, Huynh said he intends to work as a project manager at a construction firm and continue to support his family. As an older student who has seen his peers graduate ahead of him, he said that he is at peace with his educational journey.
“I have no regrets for how my academic career panned out,” he said. “A lot of students look for the quickest route out of school, but my journey has gained me a wealth of experience that I think will factor heavily into the construction field. I know that my parents are proud.”
– Travis Highfield
Photos by Jason Getz
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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its approximately 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.