Alex Tran: Amplifying Community

As soon as Alex Tran started talking, his concern for the well-being of everyone around him became clear. A senior concentrator in educational studies and psychology, Tran is dedicated to making the Colgate campus a better place for students of all backgrounds, and he cares deeply about letting every student share their experiences and learn from one another. Tran expressed that he loved the concept of senior spotlights and immediately tried to shift the spotlight to other students. 

“It’s pretty cool that [The Maroon-News is] doing this, I really appreciate that … because there [are] a lot of talented seniors, I also want them to … be heard.” 

Tran himself is a very talented senior — he is a co-president of the Senior Honor Society (SHS) and a member of Sipsam (a K-pop dance group).

Tran came to Colgate planning on concentrating in educational studies because of his dissatisfaction with education in its current form. After taking a course in psychology during his first year, however, he discovered a passion for the subject that led him to expand the scope of his studies. 

Tran is currently working on his senior thesis for psychology, and his passion for the work is abundant. He explained that his thesis research is what keeps him going. 

“I’m [researching] women of different races engaging in different power posings and how that influences perceptions of sexism. And this is just something that I like [to do] research on in general, like intersecting marginalized identities and how that’s perceived within higher systems of oppression such as racism and sexism.”

Tran’s dedication to studying the issues that impact marginalized groups extends beyond academia — he uses his positions in organizations on campus to help amplify the voices of students from minority groups. 

Hailing from Hanoi, Vietnam, Tran hopes to give international students more of a voice on campus. During his first days at Colgate, he was filled with the nervousness that comes with traveling to a new place and a new school. When he reflects on convocation, he says that the speeches given by SHS members left a lasting impression on him. 

“I was a new student studying abroad in the [United] States for the first time. So seeing those people, like just giving a speech was just so inspiring.”

Tran says that the class of 2021 SHS’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues on Colgate’s campus renewed his interest in the organization when he was a junior. 

“They were doing the 13 Days of Education and [it was] the first time that I felt that, like, ‘Wow, these people have an impact on campus, and they’re really cool people also.’ So I was like, ‘Yeah, I might give it a try,’” he said. “My vision in there when I was first applying was just, like, to … increase representation of international students within [the] Senior Honor Society, and also to be … a student advocate, as there are a lot of things I want to see happen on [the] Colgate campus, to vouch for more … students of color’s voices, as well as, you know, opening different opportunities for different intersecting marginalized identities.”

Even after he joined the society, Tran initially had no plans of applying to be the president. 

“[I] really enjoy working with [other SHS members] and being around [them] just inspired me to apply for the presidency.”

Tran and his co-president, senior Eliza Leal, started their positions with the firm belief that every member of the organization should be able to bring their ideas and experiences to group discussions. 

“When me and my co-president applied for presidency, we both agreed that the leadership that we are envisioning for Senior Honor Society is not going to be the kind of, like, dictatorship, like ‘This is what you should do and then you should do it.’ But because everyone in [SHS] is so involved on campus in different ways, we want to create an environment where everyone can feel like they can draw their connections into [SHS] and also maybe flaunt their individuality in different programming and events.” 

Tran uses his membership in SHS to help support other international students.

“I want to make Colgate a more welcoming space for international students by, well, making them feel like it is somewhat of a community and home here. It will never feel [exactly] like home, but at least they feel like it is a community where they feel like they belong and are represented.”

SHS kicked off its 13 Weeks of Education initiative this semester, which will continue in the spring. Tran is proud of the events they’ve held so far. 

“The first week we had an … open discussion about taking up space in the ‘isms.’ … Students, faculty [and] staff [came] together in solidarity and [took] part in unpacking all the ‘isms’ like racism, sexism [and] heterosexism. And it was just, in my opinion, a very good [and] liberating talk and it was an honor to have Dean [Paul] McLoughlin also [participate] in the conversation.” 

The 13 Weeks of Education are ongoing, and Tran is looking forward to the events SHS has planned for next semester. 

“Over the past few years, we have been through a lot of trauma as a nation, and a lot of students … also face individual trauma with like COVID-19 [and] everything too. So I feel like there’s a lot of collective healing that needs to be done there.”

The normal stress of graduation is intensified by Tran’s status as an international student. There’s uncertainty surrounding his post-graduation plans.

“Well, it’s my last semester, so it’s a lot of nervousness … I’m [very] excited for graduation, if I can graduate, and [crossing my fingers] my parents can go to the States to attend graduation.”

Another important aspect of Tran’s life at Colgate is his love of dancing. He is a member of Sipsam, Colgate’s K-pop dance group, and is thankful for the people he’s met through the group. Tran performed with Sipsam at Dancefest 2021, which occurred last Saturday.

“I like to dance. … [Sipsam members are] just really, really nice people in general, and I really find community there … I was just really lucky to have found them during my Colgate career.”