L to R: Shishei Tsang, Jennifer Whetham, and Phu Nguyen.
L to R: Shishei Tsang, Jennifer Whetham, and Phu Nguyen.

Questions with the Office for Institutional Diversity

Get to know Shishei Tsang, Phu Nguyen, and Jennifer Whetham.

By Human Resources | October 11, 2023

Meet staff members Shishei Tsang, Jennifer Whetham, and Phu Nguyen.

Shishei Tsang

What is your favorite book?

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. No notes. You need to read it yourself.

What is the best trip you have ever taken?

I went to Las Vegas with two friends who were ARMYs going to the BTS concert. I wasn’t an ARMY, but I am a Big Bang VIP (this is showing my age), so I just tagged along as an honorary ARMY for a few days. We also went to Zak Bagans’ The Haunted Museum, and it was… interesting. (Google “Post Malone cursed in Vegas.”) I walked out with a mystery cut on my toe.

What’s one thing you’re learning now, and why is it important?

The to-do list will never end, so do your best, spend time with people you love, eat good food, do things that make you happy and live life. No ragrets.

Phu Nguyen

If you could plan the perfect meal, what would it be?

A steaming bowl of Pho on a gloomy autumn day, a glass of pinot noir, and a full bottle of Sriracha (with Twilight playing in the background).

When was the last time you celebrated something?

My partner spent the last six months studying for a big exam and recently passed! We were surrounded by friends in celebration over a home cooked meal, wine, and a delicious pear crumble.

Which of your teachers is most memorable and why?

My ceramics teacher once made our class smash our favorite work. It was a lesson on detaching ourselves from seeking perfection in the product of our work, and rather to trust and focus on the process.

Jennifer Whetham

What was the last thing you did that you were proud of?

I am trained in a special writing pedagogy called Gateless, and this summer I got to lead a five-day retreat on Orcas Island using the Gateless method. The group ranged from young writers who had just graduated from high school to folks who were in their 80s. What I love about the Gateless Method is that it focuses attention on what is working from a craft perspective, so writers build from their unique strengths. We wrote the roof off!

What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done for fun?

Scuba diving! When I was little, I used to jump into the deep end of the pool and practice holding my breath and sinking my body as close to the bottom as possible, looking up at the silvery skin separating the water from the air. I don’t scuba dive enough to get really comfortable, so every time is terrifying! My most recent dive was in the Great Barrier Reef—something I’ve always wanted to do—and my guide was so patient with me. Before you can dive, you have to go underwater and remove your mouthpiece and like REALLY lose it, then guide it back to your mouth and put it back in. I was just absolutely frozen with fear at the prospect. She helped me find my courage and take the risk. During the dive, which felt like being in the world’s most amazing aquarium, I was equal parts scared and having a complete blast.

What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?

In the summer of 2010, I decided to quit my job as tenured English faculty, cash in my retirement, and move to London to write a novel about Shakespeare. Over the course of teaching the Shakespeare class and an integrated learning community with a historian that combined the history of film with creative writing, I developed a theory about what Shakespeare scholars call the “authorship question” that transcended the binaries of the Stratfordians (Will Shakespeare) versus the Oxfordians (Edward de Vere) and included a whole cast of historical characters ranging from Kit Marlowe to Queen Elizabeth I. My working title was All is True, and it began with the fire that burned down the Globe during a production of Henry VIII. I’m geeking out right now just writing this! Anyhoo…over the course of the year I bounced around the planet, visiting my mother’s family in Australia, spending several months in Spain as a work scholar at a retreat center in Mallorca (crying in the kitchen as I peeled potatoes and washed an endless stream of pots and pans), living in various parts of London, and of course an extended stay in Stratford Upon Avon where I fell in love with Will Shakespeare’s entire extended family through visits to the Shakespeare houses. I also visited Castle Hedingham, where the Earl of Oxford was born. I didn’t end up writing the novel—not yet!—but I have a literal chest full of journals and a virtual collection of Google Docs where I tried to record every single terrifying, miraculous moment. My sister asked me, a few months ago, if I regret my choice. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but that year of failing to write my novel shaped me in ways I am only just beginning to understand.

Tags: Institutional