Student receives award for guiding incoming students using Facebook
Winn Huynh, a fourth-year chemistry student, received the Chancellor’s Service Award and posts advice for people on Facebook. (Pinkie Su/Daily Bruin)
By Karishma Daibee
June 5, 2016 2:04 p.m.
Winn “PenQuin” Huynh’s Facebook profile picture of a penguin, recognizable by hundreds of students, reminds him that anyone, regardless of size, can make a difference.
Huynh, a fourth-year chemistry student, gives advice on the UCLA classes of 2016-2019 Facebook groups about student life and academics. This year he received the Chancellor’s Service Award, which honors graduating students who made significant contributions to UCLA.
Though he is involved in several other service projects on campus, Huynh said the most memorable part of his UCLA experience will be the connections he made by giving advice on Facebook.
He first became active in his own class’ Facebook group when he was admitted to UCLA.
“I was bored, so I went online,” said Huynh. “People were asking the same questions I had, so I thought I’d share the answers I found with everyone else,” said Huynh.
When he saw questions on his class’ Facebook group, he did research to find the answers and posted his findings in a way that was easy for students to understand.
Huynh said he found it difficult to adjust to college life because he didn’t have anyone with experience to help him get through the college application process. Huynh is a first-generation student and was raised by a single mother.
He said he wanted to answer students’ questions online to bridge the gap between people with access to technology and those whose parents couldn’t afford to give them that privilege.
“Instead of making everything equal, how can you make it equitable to access?” Huynh said. “It’s important to give extra help to those who need it.”
Though he said he can’t answer everyone’s questions, Huynh thinks helping one person is enough to make a difference.
Huynh has become known for his timely and accurate advice, said Alex Sin, a third-year electrical engineering student and Huynh’s friend.
When he’s online, Huynh said he responds to questions in about 30 minutes. Huynh said he receives anywhere between five to 30 questions a day on class Facebook groups and in private messages, but doesn’t consider it a burden.
After he attended orientation his freshman year, Huynh wrote a guide in which he answered students’ questions about what they could expect in their first year. Since then, he has written and updated several other guides about enrollment, financial aid, moving into the dorms and other topics.
“Every time someone asks a question, I’m given the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life,” Huynh said.
Huynh said he wants to become a college professor someday and help students as they figure out their identities in college.
“I hope to inspire students and stress the importance of values like leadership, service, identity and personality,” he said.
Huynh has personally mentored a number of students he initially met by giving them advice on Facebook.
Vincent Liu, a second-year biology student, said he became close to Huynh after he sent him a private message. Liu said he was too shy to ask his questions publicly and was afraid they were stupid, but Huynh never made him feel that way.
He said Huynh was an essential part of his success throughout his UCLA career. Huynh helped Liu join a student organization by having multiple mock interviews with him and helped him write his resume for his application.
Huynh has also served as a project consultant for the Grand Challenges-Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, which works to promote environmental sustainability.
Rachel Kennison, Huynh’s professor and assistant director of the undergraduate research center, said Huynh does not back down when confronted with a challenge. Kennison added he manages to persevere and succeed in spite of his heavy workload in and out of the classroom.
Huynh said though he may not be able to devote himself to helping people on Facebook when he graduates, he knows there are other people who will.
Huynh said he hopes during his time at UCLA, he motivated students to not be ashamed of their mistakes.
“I hope to be able to inspire students to be themselves and go through their college careers without the fear of what others may think,” Huynh said.