Mentor, Thuy An, develops lasting relationships with her mentees


A woman standing next to pink flowers
Thuy An Hoang Tran, GGAL Mentor

Thuy An Hoang Tran is an undergraduate student studying physiology at the University of Minnesota and has been mentoring with the GGAL program for over a year! Thuy An comes to WISE with a big heart to support immigrant and refugee women of color, both as a GGAL mentor and as a future medical doctor. Learn more about Thuy An below!



Why did you choose your major?

During my undergraduate study I was looking for a program to satisfy my curiosity for the mechanisms of living things, specifically human beings. [That's] when I found Physiology which is a science of life. Physiology allows me to investigate human functions from the molecular levels to organ systems to the entire human body; [it also allows me to investigate] how we interact with the external environment and behave in society. The human body is a never-ending mystery to me and there is always something new for research and discovery. Not to mention that physiology advances our understanding of diseases and treatment in medicine!


Through research and education, I aspire to advocate for equity in health care, concentrating on health disparities among women of color and from the immigrant and refugee backgrounds.

What are your plans for after college or what is your dream career?

I plan to pursue medicine and obtain my medical degree from medical school. My dream career is to work in Emergency Medicine or Surgery to directly treat patients from diverse populations and medical conditions. Through research and education, I aspire to advocate for equity in health care, concentrating on health disparities among women of color and from the immigrant and refugee backgrounds.


What drew you to mentor at WISE?

I am an immigrant myself as our family came to the US less than 13 years ago. Being the first generation student, woman of color, and immigrant, I wish I knew a program like WISE when I was younger. I was impressed at how WISE offers a wide scope of support for the young students – from daily homework help, college planning and application resources to educational sessions on how to set boundaries and develop healthy relationships. I wanted to provide mentorship, share my experience and resources to these young ladies in order to empower them and give them the necessary tools to succeed their own goals.


The ultimate goal [as a mentor] is to nurture the young ladies to be aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, to empower and inspire, and provide them the necessary tools for success and independence.

What were your personal or professional goals as a WISE mentor or intern?

My purpose is to provide academic support to ensure [the GGAL student's] success in their educational journey, host workshops regarding life/study skills and leadership training, and help the young ladies navigate resources online and in the community for their post-secondary goals, including finding work opportunities and college-planning. Through the Healthy Relationships sessions, I aim to open discussions on sexual assault and harassment, domestic violence, and sexual health needs; and connect them to resources and how to take care of themselves and families should they find themselves in distress. The ultimate goal is to nurture the young ladies to be aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, to empower and inspire, and provide them the necessary tools for success and independence.


What did you learn or take away from your experience with WISE?

I have learned so many things from the program as well as from the my mentees. Personally, I think mentorship is a ladder where you continuously learn from others while mentoring the mentees and giving back to the community. WISE has shown me numerous resources and programs in the community that assist women and families from immigrant backgrounds. During my conversations with the program participants, I am impressed at their resilience in managing their family situations and simultaneously working hard to achieve their educations goals and beyond. Personally, by sharing my own obstacles from my cultural and immigrant background, the young women and I connected and became closer in the process! During the college planning and skills workshops and Healthy Relationship sessions, I learned how to teach and present the information, listen to the students, provide constructive feedback, and encourage respectful and open conversations on these sensitive and difficult topics.


Did you experience any challenges during your mentorship or internship? What were they and how did you overcome the situation, if applicable?

My mentee and I had a hilarious time searching on Google on how to solve geometric problems. I have not seen Geometry since my middle or high school times! Everyone learns and everyone teaches differently. I was able to explain the same problem and topic from different approaches and methods, in order to help my students understand its mechanism and how to solve the problem. Getting the correct answer is one thing, but sometimes the challenge is for the students to comprehend the formulas and philosophy behind them, so they can utilize this knowledge to solve any problem in the future!


During the college planning and skills workshops and Healthy Relationship sessions, I learned how to teach and present the information, listen to the students, provide constructive feedback, and encourage respectful and open conversations on these sensitive and difficult topics.

Please share a memory or experience that was significant to you during your mentorship/internship.

I enjoy chatting and getting to know every single girl in the program! Specifically I love connecting with the girls I see on a regular basis while helping them with their Math and English homework. During the Healthy Relationships session, we were discussing sexual violence, rape culture, and setting healthy boundaries in a relationship (among family, friends and significant other). I witnessed the young ladies sharing their concern about bullying and harassment at school, sexual health, gender biases, and struggling to navigate their own family relationships at home. Drawing from my own experience working in clinics and the Emergency Department, I shared my advice on how to seek sexual and women health needs, such as the importance of sexual education and protection, maintaining regular care with the family physician, and who to contact and where to seek assistance in the case of trauma and sexual assault. Their vulnerability and courage inspired me to share my own struggles in navigating personal and family relationships as well. Both me (the mentor) and the young ladies (mentees) walked away from the session with a deeper understanding on how to develop healthy relationships, an appreciation for our culture and family traditions while standing for our own values for independence, and became friends and partners in life beyond just mentor and mentee.