College of Arts and Sciences / School of Health Sciences

Art and science major making the most of both worlds

icon of a calendarApril 18, 2024

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Art and science major making the most of both worlds
Thy Hoang

Thy Hoang

OU student Thy Hoang has embraced her passions for art and science as a double major in Studio Art and Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences.

Oakland University student Thy Hoang said growing up her parents always told her she had the brain of a scientist and the heart of an artist. 

Hoang admits she loves both science and art. She faced a difficult decision when deciding what she wanted to study in college: science or art? In the end, Hoang decided to do both, and is double majoring in Studio Art, in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences, in the School of Health Sciences.

“I’ve always felt split between those two worlds: art and science,” Hoang said. “I have my STEM friends, who are very logical, very straightforward and clear-cut. And then I have my artist friends, who are very romantic and expressive. 

“I always feared one would impede the other, but as I grew up I realized I could do both,” Hoang added. “I have never felt like I understood the human condition more than when I’m creating art or in the cadaver labs working on human bodies. Those two things are so similar to me and most people would assume that they’re on opposite sides of the spectrum. But they’re both about wanting to understand and to be understood. I've come to realize that it is possible for both of these things to exist together.”

Hoang’s art is already starting to get noticed, as she was recently awarded the Detroit Society of Women Painters and Sculptors scholarship.

“Winning this award is such an incredible honor, not just for the scholarship, but to be recognized by an organization as rich and uplifting for women artists as DSWPS,” Hoang said. “It is confirmation that I have the capacity to create art that fosters connection, and that others see my potential and are rooting for me to continue to persevere. I understand how lucky I am, and I could not have done it without my instructors and peers supporting me.”

Hoang is thankful she continued to pursue art in college because it’s challenged her in ways she didn’t anticipate.

“It’s opened my mind to what I thought was never possible with me,” Hoang said. “I never considered myself a 3-D artist, but I took Foundations of 3-D and it was completely out of my comfort zone and I loved it. I went in thinking, ‘Oh no, this is where I get humbled.’ But instead it inspired me so much. I’ve never got so much from a class before. I began to realize art is truly more about expression than the end product. It’s about the process instead of the destination. I realized how the idea of perfection impedes actual creation. Those messages really resonated with me and I left that class a different person than I did coming in.”

Thy Hoang artwork

One of Hoang's pieces of art, titled "Despite All, Still Here."

Hoang has also got to interact with other artists at Oakland and feels she’s a better artist because of it. 

“The community is definitely one of the best parts of the program,” Hoang said. “Obviously, we're individuals who have different interests, but we all have this underlying interest in creating and in what makes life so beautiful. It’s so much easier to connect with people and it’s something I didn’t have before coming to OU.”

Hoang hopes to build a career in both the medical and art worlds, before possibly pursuing a career as a medical illustrator.

A medical illustrator is a professional artist with specialized training and advanced education in medicine, science, art, design, visual technology, media techniques, and in theories related to communication and learning.

Collaborating with scientists, physicians, and other content specialists, medical illustrators serve as visual translators of complex technical information.

“I would love to become a medical illustrator one day and be able to merge my two passions into one, but that’s more of a long-term goal and not something I am looking to immediately dive into,” she said. "I would love to get experience in both fields before pursuing that and maybe even teaching that to other people. I will have such a unique experience that no one else will have. I’ll have lived experience in both worlds.”

Hoang has won several awards in the past, including the Congressional Art Competition twice and the Scholastics National Art and Writing awards (a gold and silver medal).

“Wining these awards, strangely enough, made me realize I wasn’t special and I don’t say that as a bad thing,” Hoang said. “It’s just that everyone is so unique that, in the same breath, no one is unique. Everyone has their own special talents and it made me realize how ordinary I am. I come from humble beginnings and that’s very comforting to me because it means anyone can do this. Winning these awards did help validate a part of me because I found that I could create something that moves people, but at the same time it helped me appreciate what other people could do.”

Both of Hoang’s parents were born in Vietnam. Hoang said her parents’ story of how they survived the Vietnam War and came to the United States is inspiring and full of resilience. She hopes to bring that same resilience to everything she does and make her parents proud.

“My parents always stressed that, no matter what, you have to get an education,” Hoang said. “We’ve had some difficult discussions along the way, but I’m happy with what I’m doing right now. I’m really thankful for everything my parents have given and supported me with. I get a lot of who I am from my dad. My mom always says, ‘You are truly your father’s daughter,’ and I am. My parents are the reason I create and why I’m so passionate about spreading awareness for my community and creating unity.”

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