E M Tran (2011)
Degrees: B.A. in English with a concentration in Creative Writing
MFA, University of Mississippi
PhD, Ohio University in Creative Writing
What is your history with LSU? When did you attend, what did you major in?
I attended LSU from 2007-11 and was an English major. I started off as a Business major, but it was a very poor fit. When I went to the academic counselor, she basically asked me what I enjoyed (I said English!), and whether or not I wanted to be a Literature or Creative Writing focus. I made a spur of the moment decision and said Creative Writing, which is funny because it’s had such ramifications on my life since.
What is your fondest memory of your time at LSU?
My favorite memories from LSU are always Saturday nights in Death Valley. I still get a chill whenever the Tiger Band plays those opening notes. I remember really distinctly the very last home game me and all my friends went to when we were Seniors, and we all sang the Alma Mater at the end--I was really aware in the moment of some special chapter in our lives coming to a close. (It’s cheesy and sentimental, I know!) I could go and have gone to games now as an alum, but really, we’ll never be able to recreate the magic of being a student in Tiger Stadium.
What was your journey like post-graduation? How did LSU (English) equip you with the skills and tools necessary to succeed?
I ended up getting my MFA from Ole Miss, and my PhD from Ohio University. At both of those institutions, I brought with me from LSU the importance of creating community. Specifically, literary community had been modeled for me by my professors and by the English Department. While I wasn’t a huge participant in that community as an undergrad, I still saw it happening, and that was important. Because, when I got to my post-graduate degrees, I understood in a really natural way that community doesn’t happen without a lot of work and intention, and so, it was important to me to help create and maintain that for me and my peers, through facilitating readings, department tailgates, post-workshop gatherings—things like that.
What is it like being an alumni of LSU?
It’s amazing! I’ve always been a diehard LSU fan, but when my book came out, it was really surprising how the LSU literary community came to rally for me, organizing an event and, more importantly, showing up for it. And, there’s also something special about taking part in a fandom. When I see someone wearing LSU gear somewhere outside of Louisiana, it’s like meeting a friend of a friend. When I was at Ohio University, Joe Burrow was the LSU quarterback, and he also was from the small Appalachian town where Ohio University is. There were LSU flags everywhere, and they even sold Tigers gear at the Wal-Mart. I remember feeling like I was a part of some weird little family even when I felt displaced in Southeast Ohio.
As someone who has graduated from LSU, what advice do you have for current students?
Nurture your interests, even if they feel like they’re not a part of your “plan.” Everything can feel like a race when you’re trying to graduate and build a career, but you have your whole life to do that. Indulging what you love to do—reading, writing, art, music, athletics—will also enrich you, and who’s the say they can’t be a part of your plan, anyway?