ot long ago, Evan Oculam ’20 had a problem — his computer broke, which made it impossible to take the electrical engineering class he had signed up for.
“I was in a bit of a rough spot,” Oculam recalled.
Luckily, he got some financial help from the Allen Van Tran Engineering Scholarship Fund, which allowed him to complete the course.
“I was saving up for a laptop, so the scholarship really helped me out in a huge way,” he said.
Allen Van Tran ’15 also grappled with financial limitations while studying engineering at UC Riverside. Like more than half of UCR students, Tran was the first in his family to go to college and relied on scholarship support in his academic pursuits. While at UCR, he was awarded the Rosemary S.J. Schraer Endowed Memorial Fund Scholarship, University of California Education Abroad Program scholarships for his studies in South Korea, UCR Honors scholarships, and various undergraduate research grants. In 2015, he graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. Now, he is the youngest alumnus from the Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering, or BCOE, to establish an endowment at UC Riverside. The fund provides money to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing an engineering degree, with preference awarded to first-generation students.
“The time I had to devote to my education was an invaluable driving component to my success in academics,” Tran said. “Many students are bright and willing but have money or time constraints. Having a scholarship supporting them will allow them to flourish.”
Tran, 29, grew up in the Inland Empire after his parents immigrated from Vietnam in the 1970s to escape communism. His first foray into engineering was building Lego sets on Saturday mornings while watching “Pokémon.”
“I loved how the building blocks … could become a completely new outlet of creativity,” he said.
At UCR, he joined the university’s chapters of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Tau Beta Pi engineering honors society, the University Honors program, and took part in undergraduate research in Professor Juchen Guo’s lab. He also studied abroad at Seoul’s Yonsei University in fall 2015.