The son of Vietnam War refugees, Matt Nguyen has dedicated his career to empowering children and families across California through teaching, policy advocacy, and constitutional rights litigation.
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 get an education and succeed, Matt’s parents built a better life for themselves and their families. After the Vietnam War prevented him from completing his high school education, 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 ours nation’s true greatness comes from its long, but imperfect, history of weaving immigrants and their descendants into America’s bright fabric. For that reason, Matt has been a national voice in support of our immigrant communities.
Matt has championed social and economic opportunity for all Californians.
As an aide to California 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, combat climate change, and balance California’s budget.
Matt oversaw a healthcare policy team to facilitate Governor Gavin Newsom’s transition and develop the Governor’s first-in-the-nation healthcare initiatives on prescription drug pricing and Medicaid expansion for undocumented young adults; promoted bipartisan legislation to protect Dreamers as part of Senator Kamala Harris’s transition; and advised Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm on mobilizing technical pathways to empower 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 Representative to the European Union, where he rallied worldwide support for Ebola victims and Syrian refugees. Against the backdrop of North Carolina’s voter suppression laws, Matt championed voting rights in underserved communities through President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign.
Matt serves as a Supreme Court Chambers Attorney to Justice Goodwin Liu, where he works each and every day to uphold the rule of law and safeguard the constitutional rights of all Californians.
Matt is a tireless advocate for high-quality public education for all children.
While in the Governor’s Office, Matt promoted equitable investment and local accountability in our community colleges and K-12 public schools through the local control funding formula (LCFF). He also inspired dozens of top college graduates from low-income and minority backgrounds to join the Teach for America corps and begin their careers as teachers in high-need K-12 public schools.
Matt 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 school funding inequities. He also advised the ACLU of Southern California in a historic $150 million settlement for disadvantaged LAUSD public schools, and in a major $7 million settlement vindicating the education rights of Riverside County students.
In addition to his advocacy, Matt has also taught students across K-12 public schools and in our nation’s top institutions of higher education. At the university level, Matt has taught education law and policy, tort law, legal writing, and clinical education at Yale University; and education law and policy at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. Matt has also founded and organized educational conferences for thousands of middle and high school students.
Matt is a homegrown leader — a graduate of Orange County public schools, 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 highest distinction.
A Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow, Matt earned his Juris Doctor from Yale Law School, where he was the only student of Vietnamese descent in his graduating class. At Yale, Matt was a founding advocate of an coalition that protects the fundamental rights of parents and children; an editor of the Yale Law Journal and Yale Law & Policy Review; a guest lecturer; a teaching fellow; and a JAMA-published researcher on state and local responses to cancer injustice.
Matt was recognized as a top 100 changemaker by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and as an emerging global leader by Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald. In his free time, Matt enjoys going on hikes with Natsu, his Shiba Inu; traveling abroad; and volunteering with BSA Troop 319—where, a decade ago, he earned the rank of Eagle Scout.