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William Pham

William Pham’s parents were refugees from Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in the mid-‘70s. His mother worked overnight stocking shelves at a grocery store when Will was young. When he was growing up, Will wasn’t ashamed of his heritage, but he wasn’t exactly proud of it either. That changed when he served a mission to Vietnam for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I gained an appreciation for my culture,” he says. “We were constantly trying to find ways to help and show love. We heard about this part-member family whose house had collapsed. So that was a two- or three-week project: building their house from scratch. We taught an English class, and I was amazed at what a change that made. Going there and seeing how much an act of service can impact a person’s life—that was just amazing.”

On his mission, Will also learned about BYU from a sister missionary, and when he returned home, he enrolled and moved to Provo. With that same sister’s mentorship, he discovered the Ballard Center for Social Innovation, which fed right into his newfound love of service.

When he needed an internship, Will sought out an employer with a long and deep record of social innovation. “I chose Disney because they do so much good,” he says. “They’re moving to a lot of green solutions, and they’re heavily involved in community empowerment, wish-granting, and youth development programs all over the world. Disney checked all of the boxes.”

Will’s internship is in special events management, but he’s hoping to someday work in corporate social responsibility. “I love it,” he says. “It’s kind of a crossroads between my passion for events, my education in business strategy, and my core of social innovation.”

With just one semester left at BYU, Will already feels he’s come a long way—and he’s grateful for all the help he’s received to get there. “I probably wouldn’t have been able to go to college without that help,” he says. “All my savings went into my mission. When I came back and didn’t have anything, it was awesome to get that help from the school and the donors. It’s just amazing to go from being a poor pre-freshman to getting offered a great post-college job, and I attribute all of that to my BYU education.”