Senior International Sponsored Student Counselor
Justin Simundson, Senior International Sponsored Student Counselor, found his love of Vietnam while earning his PH.D in History at Texas Tech. He recently had the honor of editing the memoirs of Nguyen Thai who was the personal aide of Ngo Dinh Diem, the president of South Vietnam from 1955 until he was assassinated in 1963. Justin has been working at the Office of International Affairs since 2017. He also teaches in the History department at Texas Tech.
Tell me about yourself. What brought you to Texas Tech and the Office of International Affairs?
“I originally came to Texas Tech to do my doctorate in history. As part of my research on the Vietnam War, I learned Vietnamese and I went to live in Vietnam for a couple of years. That experience, especially teaching kids English so they can come study in the US, made me really interested in helping international students. Because of that, I applied for a position with the Office of International Affairs when I was wrapping up my PhD and I've been here since 2017.”
Tell me about your position at the OIA. How are sponsored students different from other international students at Texas Tech.
“I work with our international sponsored students, which are students who are fully funded by an outside sponsor (usually governments, companies, or the US government through the Fulbright program). While having a scholarship is obviously wonderful, these students face a lot of different and complicated constraints because they have requirements as TTU students, as international students with immigration issues, and as scholarship students with all the rules their sponsor imposes. So, my role is to help them navigate these issues so they can hopefully focus on their studies. I am also the liaison between Texas Tech and the sponsoring organizations, so I keep the sponsors informed about their students, help with placement of new students, and seek out new sponsors interested in sending students to TTU.”
What is your favorite aspect of your job?
“ My favorite aspect of my job is when I'm able to help students overcome some major obstacle and then see them continue and succeed at Texas Tech and beyond.”
What is one of the most interesting things you have done while working at the Office of International Affairs?
“I get to work with students from over twenty different countries, so it is always interesting to me not just to learn more about their cultures but also to see the unique contributions they make here on campus. ”
Tell me about the classes you teach and the book you recently authored.
“I teach in the History department in addition to working in the Office of International Affairs. This semester I am teaching US military history since 1900. I also edited a book that was published this fall, Crooked Bamboo. Crooked Bamboo is Nguyen Thai's memoir and centers on his inside account of South Vietnam's Ngo Dinh Diem regime and the political turmoil that paved the way for the Vietnam War. Mr. Thai served Diem as a close personal aide and as a top propaganda official, so he had a good understanding of what happened which is why he turned against the regime and spoke out before Diem was overthrown in 1963. I started working with Mr. Thai because my dissertation was related to South Vietnamese propaganda and I feel very lucky to have been able to help him publish his account because it really is a remarkable one. His life story not only sheds new light on key episodes of the Vietnam War but also offers important lessons on the dilemmas of politics and leadership during times of conflict.”