Selkirk College alumna Tanya Tran begins grad school at the University of Victoria (UVic) in September with more than $30,000 in fellowships and awards to help pursue her educational dream.
Originally from Ottawa, Tran received an undergraduate degree at McGill University in Montreal where she achieved a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a focus on Fresh Water & Marine Sciences. She also participated in the field study component that took her to Panama for four months of experience with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
“Before I came to Selkirk College, I did apply to grad school but didn’t have funding to go,” says Tran. “There are other ways to get to your dream. Your goal can be the same, but the pathway can be different.”
Tran’s passion for protecting water resources led her to the Integrated Environmental Planning Program in the School of Environment & Geomatics at Selkirk College in 2014. It’s a program that focuses on bridging land-use planning and management with protecting the environment.
Tran, the Selkirk College Graduation 2016 valedictorian, credits her experience at the Castlegar Campus for helping her successfully transition into a Master’s program.
“Going back to college helped me improve my resume and improve my grades that I required to put me at the top,” she says. “And I don’t think I would have gotten into grad school without the mentorship I received at Selkirk College. Instructors really care about you. I am so thankful for that.”
Tran will pursue a Master’s of Environmental Studies at UVic where she will be part of Dr. Natalie Ban’s Marine Enthnoecology Research team. The work focuses on coastal and marine conservation, and social-ecological systems. It integrates natural and social science with western and traditional Indigenous ecological knowledge.
“Dr. Ban’s work is very exciting,” says Tran. “Marine Biology has been my dream since I was very young, I’m thrilled to explore new ecosystems. Potentially collaborating and helping First Nations communities is something I will also find very rewarding.”
In her new educational pursuit, Tran will use the tools provided at Selkirk College to help build her expertise.
“Completing the Integrated Environmental Planning program helped me get the background needed to join this lab,” she says. “The program opened me up to real-world applications of social sciences and planning, how they all work together with traditional sciences and how to manage real-world environmental issues.”
Tran has secured vital funds totalling $16,500 from UVic in fellowships and awards including the President’s Award as well as the elite National Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada award for $17,500.
“University gets very expensive. It’s difficult to go for a Master’s as it is, but financially it’s challenging too,” she says. “I don’t think I would have been able to get these funds without the help from my Selkirk College instructors. Not only did they inspire me to work my hardest and do well in class, they took the time to write recommendation letters for UVic and the scholarship I applied for. Whatever they put definitely had a huge impact on me receiving these awards.”
Being a first generation born Canadian, it was instilled in Tran the value of taking advantage of opportunity through hard work. Her parents came to Canada during the Vietnam War as refugees from that country.
“My parents came from a hard life during the war,” she says. “My dad arrived here at 17 without much money in his pocket.”
While Tran is excited for the learning opportunity ahead, she says she will miss the community atmosphere at Selkirk College and the West Kootenay. While at Selkirk College, she embraced campus life and built strong relationships through giving her time and energy to others.
“I hope to bring that energy with me to grad school,” she says.
Since graduating from Selkirk College in 2016, Tran has been working with Salmo Watershed Streamkeepers Society advocating for protection of water resources. She’s also deeply rooted in the community and works with other organizations.
After she’s completed her graduate studies, she’d love to return to the Kootenays and sees herself always connected to community.
“I see myself continuing to work with communities when it comes to environmental advocacy. That is the only way that we can make a difference. We need to all work together.”