Each year as part of Clarke’s Commencement ceremony, we recognize a valedictorian for their academic merit. Behind the GPA, we often find a person with an incredible story – and this year was no different.
Sr. Thuy Vy Tran entered the Vietnamese Dominican Sisters when she was just 18 years old. As part of her ministry, her convent sent her to America to seek an education and to build a stronger relationship with the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters. When she arrived in 2016, she had studied English grammar but had little to no practice speaking the language. She spent a year studying with the sisters at Sinsinawa Mound before they helped her apply for and receive a scholarship to Clarke.
Vy knew that learning complex psychology and religious terminology in a foreign language would be difficult, but she was up to the task. She also quickly garnered the support of her classmates, professors, and everyone who met her.
“My advisors and my professors were so helpful. They would record the lectures so I could listen again to the material,” Vy said. “Every class presented a whole new vocabulary for me, so to be able to listen again and again helped me with the course material and with learning the language.”
Like many Clarke students, Vy also put her learning into practice through two internships that helped her give back to the community. In the first, she led a scripture group through guided discussions, pulling her experience as a Religious Studies and Psychology major, and her Philosophy minor for unique perspectives. She worked closely with Coni La Barbera, Pastoral Minister for the Dominican Sisters, on the scripture discussions, as well as a support group for sisters living with dementia.
Dementia is a very real issue we are facing as a society on the global scale and it can make for some very tough and emotional conversations. Vy has an acumen to be able to see someone, to approach them with empathy, and to apply everything she’s learned to help them open up. She was able to build trust and strengthen our group,” Coni said. “No matter what she is called to do in her ministry, I think this experience will stay with Vy, just as she will stay in our hearts. I feel very blessed to have her in my life. She gives me hope for our shared future.
Members of the Clarke community also recognize the impact Vy has made not only through her studies but through the warmth she has brought to classes, events, and campus life.
“Vy is a brilliant and kind human being – a rare and wonderful combination,” said Eden Wales Freedman, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty at Clarke. “She humbly and consistently improves the lives of all those she encounters. It has been an honor to work with her and all our students. We are a stronger, more loving community because of her presence.”
As Vy prepares to return to Vietnam after graduation, there is no denying she has left an impression on the One Clarke, One Community, and that it has done the same for her.
“If there is one word for my experience at Clarke and with the sisters, it is gratitude” said Vy. “I will graduate this May and return to Vietnam. I do not know what my assignment will be after that, but I know that what I have learned here will help me in my ministry, whatever that turns out to be.”