College wasn’t always in Duy Tran’s plans. The readiness programs at his high school were far and few, and as a first-generation student, he didn’t have much support. That changed when a school counselor pulled him aside and made him an appointment with a CU Denver academic advisor. He immediately clicked with advisor Nimol Hen and decided to enroll as a pre-business major.
Last Saturday, after years of hard work and perseverance through trying times, Duy received his master’s in Leadership for Educational Organizations. But that doesn’t mark the end of his journey at CU Denver—for the past two years he’s also served as student engagement coordinator at the Lynx Center, campus’ one-stop-shop for student, faculty, and staff needs.
“Because of the struggles I have experienced in and out of school, I have empathy and compassion for understanding student struggles,” Duy said. “I never try to fix them. I just try to be there and listen and help them navigate support, if they ask for it.”
When he was 6 years old, Duy immigrated from Vietnam to Denver with his mother, brother, sister, and grandmother. As a child, he had big dreams of becoming a millionaire by the time he was 22. Now 33, he’s grateful for his decision to go to college and credits his success to the strong mentors and mentees in his life. “They really helped shape who I am today,” Duy said.
The feeling appears to be mutual. “He is one of the most enthusiastic and hard-working, well-loved, staffers on campus,” said Marcia Neville, communications manager for the Division of Student Success.
Duy earned his bachelor’s in communication with a minor in psychology from CU Denver in 2012. It took him eight years due to personal challenges outside of school, he said. “I’ve made great friends—some have become parent and older sibling figures,” Duy said. “They helped me get back on track.”
He landed a job as an administrative assistant at the nonprofit Asian Pacific Development Center and within two months was promoted to youth educator/coordinator and assistant grant manager. He worked with middle and high school students across the state.
In 2016 Duy got a call from CU Denver. “They told me there’s an opening position for the admissions counselor position and said I should apply,” he said. After serving in that capacity for a year, he moved to the Lynx Center. “I love what I do,” Duy said. “The relationship building, connecting with students.”
He’s not sure what he will do with his master’s, but he knows he wants to make a difference through education policy reform.
Duy’s one regret as a CU Denver student? “I never took the time to appreciate how beautiful the campus and city are. It is so unique compared to other universities,” he said.