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English major Brooke Tran ’23 is reimagining humanities at Pacific

Brooke Tran presents her findings on the relationship between international college student success and meal plan swipes. Through Pacific, she’s discovered her passion for research and education equity.

What can you do with a humanities degree? Ask Brooke Tran ’23, who is “reimagining the liberal arts” at Pacific. An English major with a passion for education equity, Brooke added minors in data science, film studies and sociology to expand her skillset and personalize her academic experience. 

With her humanities background, support from faculty mentors, and valuable experiential learning opportunities, Brooke is graduating from Pacific with a strong foundation for her future career as a researcher and policy maker.

Personalizing her Pacific experience

Brooke grew up in what she describes as an “ethnic enclave of Vietnamese American immigrants and refugees” in Westminster, California. When she arrived at Pacific, she discovered the opportunity discrepancies in her community. Her interest in educational policy bloomed, and Pacific enabled her to acquire skills and connect with mentors to feed this growing passion.

One critical source of support for Brooke was the Pacific Humanities Scholars Program, which mentors students and provides them with the opportunity to experience the humanities both in and outside of the classroom. 

“As a first-generation college student, I really valued the mentorship and peer-support I gained from this program,” Brooke said.

Professor Jeffrey Hole, former Humanities Scholars Program director, encouraged Brooke and her classmates to push themselves past the point of comfort and immerse themselves in a variety of different subjects and worlds. 

“We urge our students to build their skill set and explore a multitude of different fields,” Hole explained. “Brooke took the advice and ran with it.”

By expanding her academic focus to encompass a unique blend of English, data science, sociology and film studies, Brooke now has the skills to tell stories with data and new perspectives on how to analyze situations.

Researching and finding success

Brooke’s professors quickly saw her potential and encouraged her to pursue her interests in education equity and policy. Instead of summer internships, she sought research opportunities, starting with a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in 2020 through Pacific’s Office of Undergrad Research for her project, “The Humanization of Asian Americans: Dispelling the Model Minority Myth in Relation to Higher Education.”

The next summer, Brooke worked at the University of Iowa with Professor Nicholas A. Bowman who created an index based on meal swipes that could predict graduation rates: “Predicting International College Students’ Success Through Meal Plan Swipes.” 

“From there, I helped write our research article, ‘International Students’ Social Networks with International and Domestic Students as Predictors of College Success,’ and we submitted it to The Journal of Higher Education,” she said. “If accepted, I will be a published author, which is an important achievement in the world of academia.”

After gaining experience in the classroom and through summer research fellowships, Brooke was prepared to research what inspired her to start in the first place: her community. 

“With the support of my research adviser, Professor Marcia Hernandez of the sociology department, I created an Institutional Review Board-approved study to work with members of my community,” she explained. “My research addresses the wrongful stereotypes and assumptions of the Model Minority Myth and unravels claims that inherent racial and ethnic qualities determine educational outcomes. My mixed methods research is a means of understanding community needs through acknowledging lived experiences. I will present my findings at two conferences later this year.”

Continuing to make a difference in education

After graduating this spring, Brooke will pursue a Master of Public Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at University of Michigan. She was selected as a Rackham Merit Fellow and will receive full coverage of tuition and fees and a yearly stipend. 

“I am excited to build upon my knowledge and research of education equity from my time at Pacific,” Brooke said. “At Ford, I plan to obtain a certificate in Southeast Asian Studies and conduct social policy research at the intersection of poverty, immigration and education.”

Brooke describes the benefits of Pacific’s Humanities Scholars program.

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