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How Dr. Lena Tran Is Trailblazing A Path To Leadership For Young Vietnamese American Women in Education

Last updated Friday, March 10, 2023 20:56 ET , Source: Lena Huong Tran

Lena Tran, current president at Columbia College educates young Vietnamese American Women on how to pursue leadership positions in the United States.

Sonora, California, 03/10/2023 / SubmitMyPR /

The United States is often illustrated as a land of opportunity for any person, no matter their background, but the balancing act performed by those with cross-cultural life experiences leave them drained and excluded from their peers. In the Asian community alone, 2.2 million Vietnamese Americans are navigating this confusing landscape in their work and family life.

As a business major, Lena Tran hadn’t ever imagined going into education. During college Lena worked in a college setting and this career choice had originated simply from a need: Her mother was a widow with 7 children and Lena needed a scholarship to further her education. She didn’t expect anything else from her job, but eventually discovered how passionate this field made her.

Since coming to the United States at 8 years old, Lena had always lived in communities that didn’t represent or reflect who she was. She hadn’t experienced a strong Asian presence in the towns she lived in until she started working in Silicon Valley. There Lena found many leaders she admired and wanted to emulate, but she had never been taught how. Due to her mother’s Buddhist beliefs and how common they are in the Vietnamese community, Lena’s world became split in two. She rose to the cutthroat, individualistic startup environment, but returned to a home that emphasized compassion and a collectivist mentality her American workplace didn’t replicate.

Relationships in America presented another challenge too: Work colleagues didn’t invite each other to their personal gatherings, meals weren’t shared at home with colleagues, and respect wasn’t as formal. She found that the intimate connections developed in tight-knit Vietnamese communities weren’t represented in corporate America. This leaves many promising workers unmotivated and lost. Their performance often worsens and they stop participating.

These difficulties led Lena to develop a dual skill set for each culture, addressing each colleague and client according to their respective backgrounds. This experience birthed her ambition to help other Vietnamese American women to take on leadership roles. She found that the women who took this path were able to successfully integrate the community-driven ethos of Vietnamese culture, thriving as business leaders, rather than attempting to fit into a workplace that does not understand their background.

Most Vietnamese people who originally immigrated to the United States came in search of a better life for themselves and future generations. Vietnamese parents would often steer their kids into lucrative professions, such as STEM, the medical field, and law, so any hardships they may have experienced aren’t passed onto their children. Unfortunately, this mentality perpetuates stereotypes that Asians and Vietnamese Americans are only skilled in technical professions and aren’t successful leaders.

According to Lena, parents also don’t encourage their kids to follow passions outside of these few categories and it’s hard to blame them considering their good intentions. However, Lena wants to send a message to Vietnamese American women about how they can become great leaders who have pride in their heritage and achieve their career goals.

Despite education being a highly regarded profession, it is still seen as a less desirable career path in the Vietnamese community. Lena, however, knows other young people have similar aspirations to branch out of the designated paths their parents show them. By organizing conferences focused on Vietnamese American representation in educational leadership roles, Lena hopes to bring more open-minded attitudes to her community and build a pipeline into this industry for future generations. Lena believes this mission allows them to find comfort in their diversity and locate an environment that nurtures it. Once they’ve settled into these organizations, they will see more work they can pioneer for their fellow Vietnamese Americans looking to find their way, too.

Says Lena Tran, “Leadership is emotional and changes every day because it involves continuous development. I love that leadership is a concept defined by the individual embodying it. For me, authenticity, observation, and open-mindedness are the traits that have molded me into a successful leader, but because I’m an immigrant and not the normal definition of an American, I struggled for a long time with conforming to standards that didn’t align with my beliefs. But through education, I’ve witnessed how diversity and community can function in professional spheres and I’ve found my belonging there. I create connections in everything I do and seeing students become successful in front of my eyes truly gives me my glow.”

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