Tran brings inspiration, optimism to students
6 mins read

Tran brings inspiration, optimism to students

A proud alumna of USD, Lena Tran had just gotten back from living in France for the summer and was trying to figure out what she wanted to do. That was when former associate vice president for diversity, Jesús Treviño, approached her in August of 2015 about an opportunity to be a part of a growing team at USD.

“From that moment, I applied, and (now) here I am having the two years plus of higher education experience, which has been amazing,” Tran said.

Tran currently serves as the intercultural programming coordinator for the Center for Diversity and Community. She said she has taken pride in helping students in any way she can.

“Every day is always different. I think the beauty of the work that I do is the ability to connect diverse large audiences,” Tran said. “If a student comes to my office and they feel really isolated, they just need someone to talk to and (someone who) has the ability to understand. As a minority status, I know what it feels like.”

Sean Companion, a sophomore nursing major, said Tran always wants to make the CDC an inclusive place for everyone.

“She really strives to be successful and keep the CDC a welcome space,” Companion said. “Every time she talks about something, you really know that she cares. She’s a great leader and model to look up to. She does everything for the students, nothing’s for her. She just gives.”

Tran recently announced her decision to resign from the CDC for personal reasons. Her last day will be Oct. 27.

“I have had the most rewarding and amazing time the past two years,” Tran said. “My decision to leave is really to expand my next chapter of professional growth and pursue personal projects that I have been wanting to pursue.”

Facing challenges

Growing up, Tran said her family worked tirelessly to provide a better life for themselves.

“My father was a prisoner of the Vietnam War and with our family coming (to America) in the 1990s… we had nothing,” Tran said. “But we had our hopes and we had each other.”

Tran said her K-12 experience wasn’t easy. She was bullied throughout school and she had to fight for herself.

“I was a critical thinker,” she said. “I was like, ‘I’m human, I’m here too, but why am I not being acknowledged?’ I was putting all this effort in, but there were other students who weren’t able to get the same incentives. I just had to always work harder, be better.”

Many overlooked Tran because of the neighborhood she came from, she said.

“I grew up in a neighborhood that was crime filled,” Tran said. “People thought I would be growing up into someone that just didn’t make it.”

Tran said because of her past, she relates to the students who think no one understands their situation.

“I know what it’s like,” Tran said. “I am a first generation, coming from a family of refugees, so I had to live a double life at time. I can completely understand when people can’t understand.”

Changing the narrative

Tran said her experiences are what have driven her to work with diversity.

“I will always know what it’s like to be on the other end, and I have the ability to change that narrative and create an environment or be that person that I wished I had when I was a student,” Tran said. “That makes me get up.”

Companion said Tran is welcoming and willing to help complete strangers.

“I remember I said I wanted do a semester abroad and she’s like ‘I’ve got you.’ Just the fact that she had just met me and how she acts to a complete stranger, she’s just willing to help them out,” Companion said.

Diedra Gatzke, a junior accounting major, said there are many things they admire about Tran.

“She’s always been a hard worker. She’s willing to give it her all, no matter what’s in her way,” Gatzke said. “She really contributes and cares about her students, and really dedicates her time and herself to taking care of them and giving them the best opportunities possible.”

Gatzke said Tran is always optimistic and has impacted their life in a great way.

“She’s always cheerful and uplifting,” Gatzke said. “No matter what’s happening, she always has a positive outlook on it or is looking for how to improve the situation. She’s inspired me to do the most that I can with the limitations I have as a person.”


Tran said that no matter what she’s doing, she’s always thinking of students.

“I always try to think about who have I not acknowledged or who might not be at the table,” Tran said. “That’s inclusion, and that’s where innovation and creativity stems from. Anything that I can do, I can make a difference.”


Tran said although she knows her role can help students feel comfortable on campus, she hopes her departure won’t affect how the CDC helps students.

“The biggest thing I’ll miss is the outreach of students that I’d meet at the CDC that were trying to find a place on campus,” Tran said. “Nothing should really change. If everybody was fully committed to this work, one person leaving shouldn’t make be a drastic move.”