Last January Minh Tran ’09 went around campus talking to different student religious leaders. He had noticed a gaping hole in the spiritual fabric of Yale, and he decided to patch it. There was no coalition for the dozens of religious communities on campus.
After pitching the idea to student leaders, he approached the University chaplain, Sharon Kugler. Chaplain Kugler was thrilled to hear about his idea for an Interreligious Leadership Council because she had been thinking of creating something like it herself.
Minh worked hard to build consensus and wrote a framework for the council. Under his leadership, the IRLC was formed, bringing together more than 30 student leaders. Once a month since January 2008, we have come together to discuss matters of common concern to the different religious communities on campus.
With Minh as a founding secretary of the council, the sole office of the IRLC, we have worked with the Yale administration to host an open house of religious groups for freshmen during Camp Yale. We have co-sponsored many events with the University Chaplain’s Office, including vigils for different crises in the world.
In founding of the Interreligious Leadership Council, Minh will leave Yale with a lasting impact. The IRLC is now an institution at Yale, recognized by the University Chaplain’s Office, the Yale Religious Ministries, the Yale College Dean’s Office and the President’s Office as the student voice for matters of faith.
Minh’s contribution here was not simply in writing a framework and pulling together the different religious communities on campus. His bigger contribution was establishing an institution that reflects Yale’s movement toward the embrace of diversity. Minh recognizes that we are stronger as many than as one, and that diversity is not simply the composition of people, but the interactions of different peoples. Put another way, Minh’s work with the IRLC illustrates his role as a social entrepreneur and his ability to create social capital in already existing institutions.
As a psychology researcher of inter-group, inter-racial relations, Minh understands the value of true diversity and the work that it takes to build true diversity. His work at Yale with founding the Interreligious Leadership Council is both paralleled and even surpassed by his work in New Haven in bringing different cultures into the classrooms of New Haven public schools to affirm the different heritages of his students.
Building community can explain Minh’s instinct and his many undertakings. The Interreligious Leadership Council is a community for those who have a faith and even those who have none. Minh’s tenure as vice president of the Morse College Council and his current job as a freshman counselor similarly exemplify his desire to build community in the residential college he loves. His service on the Freshman Class Council and Sophomore Class Council reflects his love for his class and his desire to bring together the class of 2009.
Minh’s contributions to New Haven as a Dwight Hall public school intern, bringing Yalies to New Haven schools and New Haven children to Yale, speak volumes about his passion for bridging the communities. Minh’s mantra is simple yet profound: “We are stronger as many than as one.” And his three summers in different New Haven neighborhoods have given him a sense of what more could be done to better connect Yale and New Haven.
While Katie Harrison ’11 and Mike Jones ’11 have also served Yale and New Haven, we must ask how their service compares to that of Minh, both in terms of sheer hours and breadth of accomplishment. It is no coincidence that the superintendent of the New Haven public schools and Yale College’s Council of Masters have both recognized Minh with prestigious awards for his service.
Given the chance to be the Ward 1 alderman, Minh will continue his work of building community and making New Haven a better place for everyone. His heart, his leadership and his commitment to Yale and New Haven are things we can all trust.
Usama Qadri is a junior in Berkeley College.