UNLV English professor wins
2009 Whiting Writers’ Award
This article has been read 290 times.
Storyteller draws inspiration from family stories
A UNLV alumnus and professor will have a rise in reputation in the literary community and thousands of dollars after winning a prized literature award.
Vu Tran, an English instructor at UNLV, was named a recipient of the prestigious 2009 Whiting Writers’ Award.
Each year, 10 individuals are recognized by the Whiting Foundation for their breakout talent, with each recipient receiving a $50,000 award.
Tran laughed when discussing how he would spend the award money.
“I’m not sure yet, but I have to admit, I’m having a lot of fun thinking about my options,” Tran said. “Having options is priceless. In any case, it’ll probably go towards debt, maybe a new car, maybe a trip abroad somewhere. I’ll have some fun buying Christmas gifts this year too.”
The nomination and selection processes for the award are completely anonymous and writers are not permitted to apply for consideration.
Tran said he was not privy to the nomination process, but he speculated that his award was based off his story collection and an excerpt of his work-in-progress literary crime novel.
Tran’s story collection includes tales of Vietnam, inspired by stories his parents told him as a child. He also wrote a novel titled “This or Any Desert,” which is about an American police officer who is forced to hunt down his missing Vietnamese ex-wife in Las Vegas.
He said he wants his award to shed light on UNLV’s English department and Master of Fine arts program in creative writing.
He added that he hopes the honor can “help affirm [department] pride in the written word and in what they’re pursuing as artists and scholars.”
Colleagues and students praised Tran, a 2006 UNLV doctoral graduate and Glenn Schaeffer Fellow, for his writing and his receipt of the award.
English department chair Richard Harp called Tran’s award “the best possible award for a young writer.”
“[I find it] hard to imagine an award that could contribute more to the English department, particularly since he is so young,” Harp said.
As Tran’s former professor, Harp said Tran was an “exemplary student and impressive young man.”
Sheri Pate, a secondary education major taking the Composition II class Tran teaches, said Tran is “one of those rare teachers who takes the time to see the world through your eyes.”
“[Tran] helps you learn in a way that works for you,” Pate said. “I look forward to my classes with Dr. Tran because it’s always an intellectual adventure, challenging me to think even further outside the box and after every class, I’m even more inspired to always have meaning, sense and clarity in everything I write.”
Heather Mayers, a student in Tran’s world literature class, said she looks forward to taking more courses from Tran in the upcoming semesters.
“He teaches in a way that gets every student involved in discussion,” Mayers said. “He is more interested in hearing the thoughts of his students than pushing his views of the reading on us.”
Pate said she believes students can benefit from Tran’s instruction. “I’d recommend to any student at UNLV to take one of his courses,” Pate said. “He’s one guy you don’t want to miss.”
His collection of short stories first won the UNLV College of Liberal Arts’ Outstanding Dissertation Award.
Then graduate director Richard Harp nominated Tran for that recognition and explained the qualities of the writing that he believes make it unique.
“His short stories incorporate both realism and romance in a contemporary setting,” Harp said. “There is an element of mystery about the persons in the stories.”