Matt Nguyen has dedicated his career to empowering children, families, and communities across California through public education, policy advocacy, and constitutional rights litigation.
The son of Vietnam War refugees, Matt’s family story informs his deep commitment to service.
Matt’s parents fled South Vietnam as child refugees during the tragic fall of Saigon. They arrived in American refugee camps with minimal English and only pennies to their name.
Through their own perseverance and the support of generous social programs that gave them the opportunity to succeed, Matt’s parents built a better life for themselves and their families. Coming from a working-class background, Matt’s father labored on the docks to put himself through college. During Matt’s childhood, his mother taught him firsthand the importance of giving back through her nonprofit dental service for indigent youth across Orange County.
Born and raised in Orange County, and humbled by his parents’ sacrifices, Matt understands that America’s greatness comes from its long history of weaving immigrants and their children into our nation’s bright fabric. For that reason, he has been a national voice in support of our local immigrant communities.
Matt is a champion of social and economic opportunity for all Californians.
As an aide to former Governor Jerry Brown, Matt worked to raise the statewide minimum wage to $15 an hour (making California the first state in the nation to do so), broaden access to housing and quality healthcare, and balance California’s budget.
Matt promoted bipartisan legislation to protect Dreamers as part of Senator Kamala Harris’s transition; oversaw a healthcare policy team to facilitate Governor Gavin Newsom’s transition; and advised Governor Jennifer Granholm on mobilizing technical pathways to enable community college graduates to access thousands of middle-class jobs in clean energy.
During the Ebola crisis and Syrian Civil War, he served as a humanitarian advisor for the USAID, where he rallied worldwide support for Ebola victims and Syrian refugees. Against the backdrop of North Carolina’s voter suppression laws, Matt championed equal voting rights in underserved communities through President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign.
Following law school, Matt clerked for Justice Goodwin Liu on the Supreme Court of California, where he worked to uphold the law and vindicate the rights of over 40 million Californians.
Matt is a tireless advocate for high-quality public education for all.
While serving in the Governor’s Office, Matt promoted sustained statewide investment in our community colleges and K-12 public schools, and responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
Matt has also directed a nonprofit education rights clinic that represented thousands of children and families across the country in landmark constitutional challenges to school segregation, the school-to-prison pipeline, and severe funding inequities. He actively supported the ACLU of Southern California in a historic $150 million settlement for disadvantaged LAUSD public schools, and in a major settlement vindicating the education rights of Riverside County students.
In addition to his advocacy, Matt has also taught hundreds of students in K-12 public schools and our nation’s top institutions of higher education. At the university level, Matt has taught education law and policy, torts, legal writing, and clinical education at Yale University; and education law and policy at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy.
For his work in education, Matt was recognized as a 2018 changemaker by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and an emerging global leader by U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald.
Matt is a homegrown leader and a graduate of OC public education, UC Berkeley, and Yale.
Matt is a proud product of Orange County public schools, during which time he enrolled in concurrent coursework at the Coast Community Colleges. He then graduated salutatorian from UC Berkeley.
With the support of a national scholarship, Matt earned his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from Yale Law School, where he was the only student of Vietnamese descent in his graduating class. At Yale, Matt was a guest lecturer; a teaching fellow; a founding member of an advocacy coalition that protects the fundamental rights of parents and children; an editor of the Yale Law Journal and Yale Law & Policy Review; and a JAMA-published cancer policy researcher.
In his free time, Matt enjoys going on hikes with his Shiba Inu (Natsu), traveling abroad, and volunteering for local Boy Scout Troop 319—where he earned the rank of Eagle Scout.