Van C. Tran is Associate Professor of Sociology and Deputy Director for the Center for Urban Research at The Graduate Center, CUNY. His research focuses on the integration of immigrants and their children, race and ethnicity, diversity and intergroup relations, neighborhood gentrification and integration, as well as urban poverty and inequality.
Tran received his A.A. in Liberal Arts from Hostos Community College (2002), B.A. in Sociology from Hunter College (2004), A.M. in Sociology (2007) and Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Policy (2011) from Harvard. He was selected as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania (2011-2013). He then taught as an Assistant to Associate Professor of Sociology at Columbia (2013-2019). He transitioned to the Ph.D. Program in Sociology at The Graduate Center, CUNY on July 1, 2019.
As an immigration scholar and urban sociologist, his research and teaching are deeply intertwined with the diversity, history and vibrancy of New York City. He embraces the city, its neighborhoods and its people as a social laboratory for original research and innovative teaching which seek to inform urban social policy. His research adopts a multi-disciplinary and multi-methods approach to the dual study of immigrant and urban life, with a focus on how immigration has transformed local communities in both traditional immigrant gateways and new immigrant destinations across the country.
The author or co-author of over 25 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, Tran’s research has examined lingsuistic, socioeconomic, civic and political integration of second-generation Latinos. He is working on a book manuscript on the consequences of gentrification for neighborhood social processes in Manhattan's West Side. With Jennifer Lee, his new work explores the Asian American experience, focusing on their views towards affirmative action, patterns of socioeconomic attainment, and the transition from higher education into the workplace. With Maria Abascal and Jennifer Lee, his most recent research seeks to understand how exposure to accurate information about contemporary immigrants and trends in immigration might affect native-born Americans’ attitudes toward immigrants using a series of innovative survey experiments.
His articles have been published in both general and leading journals within the field of immigration, including Social Forces, International Migration Review, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, City & Community, The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, among others. His research has appeared in interdisciplinary journals such as Population Health Management and Politics, Groups, and Identities. He has also published in academic magazines for the general, educated audience such as Contexts and Pathways.
Tran’s work has been supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Science Foundation, Southern Poverty Law Center, the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at University of Pennsylvania, and the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston at Harvard Unviersity, among others In 2018, he received the Nancy W. Malkiel Scholar Award from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, in recognition of his research excellence and an extraordinary commitment to creating inclusive communities in the university and in the profession.
Tran served as consulting editor for the American Journal of Sociology (2017-2019). He was on the editorial boards for Social Forces (2014-2017) and for The Sociological Quarterly (2013-2016). Since 2018, he has served on the editorial boards for Ethnic and Racial Studies and for Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. He has also served as an ad-hoc reviewer for grant foundations, university presseses and 32 academic journals, including leading journals in five related disciplines: sociology, demography, political science, public health and epidemiology.
Tran has won wide recognition for his teaching and mentoring. In 2018, he was the recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching, the highest university-wide teaching honor at Columbia that recognizes teaching excellence among faculty who have had a lasting influence on the intellectual development of their students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. In 2017, he received the Faculty Mentoring Award from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, which recognizes faculty excellence in mentoring Ph.D. students during their graduate careers. He offers courses on race, ethnicity and immigration, neighborhood effects and urban poverty, American society and public policy, and research methods, including the popular seminar Immigrant New York. He has worked with a diverse group of students and published extensively with them on multiple topics. He also served as a faculty mentor for undergraduates from underrepresented backgrounds for the GSAS-Leadership Alliance Summer Research Program. His former students are enrolled in leading Ph.D. programs across the country.
At Columbia, Tran assumed many leadership positions. He was the founding faculty organizer for the Race, Ethnicity and Migration Workshop, which provides an intellectual home for scholarship on race, ethnicity, and migration in New York City. He served on the Advisory Committee for the Urban Studies Program at Barnard College, providing oversight on program curriculum and faculty recruitment. With Mae Ngai, he co-organized the Transnational Asian/American Speaker Series at the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. As the co-convener of Columbia Population Research Center's Migration Research Cluster (2017-2018), he organized a national conference on Shaping the Future of DACA. He also served on two university-wide committees on Inclusion and Belonging and on Citizenship: Promoting Democratic Inclusion and Full Participation.
Beyond Columbia, Tran has held both elected and appointed positions at the American Sociological Association (ASA) and the Eastern Sociological Society (ESS). He serves on ASA's Distinguished Contribution to Teaching Award Committee (2018-2020). He was elected to the Council for the ASA Sections on International Migration (2015-2018) and on Asia and Asian America (2019-2022). He was on the ESS Program Committee for the annual meetings of 2007, 2015 and 2018. He has organized and participated in many high-profile panels, including many presidential and thematic sessions at ASA and ESS. In 2019, he received the inaugural Outstanding Service Award from ASA's Section on International Migration in recognition of his intellectual contributions.
Tran is committed to public service. He was named to the academic advisory committee for New York at Its Core, a landmark permanent exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York (2014-2018). He was on the selection committee for the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans (2011-2016). He was on the advisory board for the Youth & Hope Foundation, providing medical resources to the most disadvantaged children in rural Vietnam (2015-2018).
Tran is engaged with the public. His op-eds have been published in The Los Angeles Times and the New Haven Register. He has been cited or quoted in major news outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Reuters, Public Radio International, New York Magazine, CNN, NPR, NY1, among others. He was selected as an NPR Source of the Week in July 2015.
Tran was born in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), but grew up in Phanat Nikhom and Sikiew Refugee Detention Camps (1990-1996) in Northern Thailand. His family was resettled as refugees by the International Rescue Committee in New York City in 1998. Upon arrival, he lived in the Pelham Bay Park section in the Bronx and worked full-time at a hardware store on the Upper East Side, while attending Hostos Community College and Hunter College of the City University of New York (1999-2004). He developed his interest in immigration and urban inequality as an observer of the city’s eclectic ethnic neighborhoods and immigrant communities.