Past Scholarship Recipients



Tran B. Che

2012 Scholarship Recipient

“Receiving the Vietnamese American Bar Association of DC Scholarship in 2012 was truly an honor and gave me guidance in my legal career path. At the scholarship dinner, I met incredible people who worked at some of the biggest firms in the country and others who were making a huge difference in our country through their government and NGO positions. Board members like Hansel Pham helped give me guidance as to how to go about pursuing a career in international law. Supporters and members of the VABA-DC chapter like Executive Director of Boat People SOS, Nguyen Dinh Thang, introduced me to pro-bono opportunities within the Philadelphia community to help Vietnamese Americans. The opportunities that have opened for me from this scholarship was something I never anticipated but am truly grateful.

My scholarship money went towards tuition and helped me save money to pursue other endeavors such as going to Vienna, Austria to work for the United Nations. The financial support helped me offset some costs and was very valuable during a time when I needed the assistance. What's most important to me is that the network that VABA-DC has created for me. Through the scholarship dinner, I was able to build upon my legal network where I've had opportunities to meet with VABA-DC members in Vienna, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC and soak up their advice and knowledge.

For me, it was intimidating to first come into the legal profession not knowing anyone and being fearful of coming out of my legal education without a job or any connections. The Vietnamese community nationwide has provided me with a supportive network and given me opportunities to work in international locations that I never dreamt of. I am truly grateful that VABA-DC came together to form an organization that has had a significant impact on my legal career.”




Tram Nguyen

2012 Scholarship Recipient

“As a Vietnamese American aspiring attorney from an area of the country where there are not many Vietnamese Americans, it was truly an amazing experience for me to be in the presence of so many successful Vietnamese American attorneys at the VABADC Scholarship Reception. I felt so honored to be among these inspiring individuals and proud that they were there to recognize me as one of the Scholarship Recipients. I will forever be thankful for the support and encouragement I received from all the attendees and the VABADC board members. The scholarship is particularly meaningful to me because the receipt of this scholarship allowed me the opportunity to develop lasting friendships with people who will help me grow personally and professionally. More importantly, receiving the scholarship and being in attendance at the dinner reminded me of how great the Vietnamese American community is and how fortunate I am to be a part of it. I hope to work directly with the Vietnamese American community post-graduation and I am currently applying for fellowships that will hopefully enable me to achieve that goal.”


Van-Ann Bui

2011 Scholarship Recipient

“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak outundefined--
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak outundefined--
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak outundefined--
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak outundefined--
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for meundefined--
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

- Martin Niemöller


“Me” – A topic we all love to talk about. We live in a society where it is all about “me” – Instagram pictures of “me”, Facebook statuses about “me”. Everyone loves to speak out for themselves; but why are we so hesitant to speak out for the “others”? In a day and age where society has become so focused on inflating the egos of the self, it comforts my heart to know that organizations, like the Vietnamese American Bar Association of D.C., exist to focus on empowering individuals in our community to speak out for the “others”.


Growing up in a very traditional Vietnamese family, I was raised to keep your head down low, speak only when you were spoken to, do not confront your elders, do not question your elders. My parents me that hard work itself will bring its own rewards – and while I believe that is true, hard work only by itself – in the highly intense community that we are a part of – only serves to remove you further from that community. In the work that we do – whether it be advocating for the rights of low income families, trying multi-million dollar cases, networking with high-powered GCs – we work in a community that is larger than us, that is larger than the individual “me”. As Vietnamese Americans who may not have been raised with the traditional American mindset, in order to succeed in this increasingly competitive field, we need to learn the importance of being a part of that community and how to be a part of that community. Step 1 is learning how to speak out for others.


By providing scholarships to Vietnamese American law students, VABA-DC is (a) speaking out for “you” and “me”, and (b) is empowering “you” and “me” to speak out for “him” and “her”. Through the scholarships funds I received, I was able to contribute to my legal education in order to make it more feasible to attend law school. While in law school, I took a class on “Asian Americans and the Law” where we studied the impact that the law has had on the history of Asian Americans in the United States and what we can do to improve on that history. I also served as the Student Liaison between the Asian American Bar Association of New York and the various law schools around the city of New York. Since graduation, I have been working as an associate at the law firm of Proskauer Rose LLP, where I have recently been asked to serve as one of the co-chairs of our Asian-American Affinity Group. In these roles, I am able to take VABA’s lead and serve my greater community by listening to the needs of others in our community and taking steps to improve ours and their situations and circumstances. Without someone who believed in me and who spoke out for me, this would not have been possible. I hope that I am able to serve the greater community in the same way that it has been able to serve me. The next time I ask myself if I am able to speak out for someone else, I hope that the answer is “Yes”.


Nguyen D. Luu

2011 Scholarship Recipient

“I am so grateful for the opportunities that I was given when I became a law student member and a scholarship recipient of VABA-D.C. To me, being a member of VABA-DC and the scholarship recipient does not only mean receiving a recognition, but it also means reaching a fundamental milestone in my career. Through VABA-DC, I had the unique opportunity to volunteer in an effort to assist Vietnamese American victims of the BP oil spill in the Gulf States, in which VABA-DC was one of the leading organizations of the effort. The VABA-DC scholarship dinner also allowed me to meet other inspiring and highly accomplished Vietnamese American judges, attorneys and students from throughout the United States. I made lasting professional networks that helped me establish my legal career.


I am also humble that the leaders of VABA-DC have provided scholarship, resources, and mentorship to develop the future leaders of the bar association. I hope that many more law students and attorneys will continue to volunteer their time and skills to help build a strong and vibrant bar. I am certain that VABA-DC will continue to grow and make a lasting impact not only to our legal community, but also to our Vietnamese American community at large.”


Caroline Pham

2010 Scholarship Recipient

“Receiving the 2010 VABA-DC scholarship was a tremendous honor and special experience for me. Not only did it allow me the opportunity to take unpaid internships at government agencies so I could gain historic experience during the financial crisis, but it connected me to the thriving Vietnamese-American legal community here in DC and gave me role models to identify with and look up to as true leaders.


When I was growing up, I didn't know a single Vietnamese-American lawyer. But when I walked into the scholarship dinner, I saw more Vietnamese-American lawyers in one room than I had ever seen in my life. That made me feel so incredibly proud to be part of this community and in the company of trailblazers like Congressman Joseph Cao and Judge Jacqueline Nguyen, and was an inspiration to try and follow in their footsteps. I don't come across many other people that look like me in my practice area of banking law and financial regulation, so it was especially meaningful to me to meet all of the successful and talented members of VABA-DC.


Being involved with VABA-DC also reminds me of my Vietnamese heritage and our history in coming to the United States. I have always been grateful for the huge sacrifices that so many made for what they believed in, and that is why veterans law is important to me and a way that I hope to be able to give back.


I am still advocating for greater access to educational and professional opportunities for students through my professional activities with UCLA Young Alumni Development Council and the ABA Business Law Section and committees. In addition, after receiving offers for a federal clerkship and law firm associate position, I am currently a GW Law Center for Law, Economics & Finance (C-LEAF) Associate and Visiting Fellow and assist with the many programs C-LEAF hosts to bring together thought-leaders to discuss the most critical issues facing the economy and financial system today, which are always open to students and provide valuable networking and professional opportunities. I am thrilled that the VABA-DC scholarship continues to provide law students with the means necessary to achieve their success and am proud to support such an important mission.



Julie V. Tong

2010 Scholarship Recipient

"Receiving the VABA Scholarship in 2010 was, and will forever be, one of the proudest achievements of my career as an attorney--not because of the award itself, but because I was being honored by the very individuals whom I admired the most. The experience was made all the more special when my father could join me at the Scholarship Dinner and share in the celebration.

I remember meeting Judge Jacqueline Nguyen and other legal professionals and feeling humbled, inspired, and most importantly, grateful for all that they had done for the Vietnamese American community. Throughout the evening, I thought to myself 'surely, I had not accomplished so much to be honored.' All of a sudden, I remembered the last scene of Saving Private Ryan in which James (played by Matt Damon) laments that he did not know what he did to deserve what everyone had done for him. In reply, Captain Miller (played by Tom Hanks) whispers 'earn it.' It is with this sentiment that I embrace what the Scholarship has meant to me.

With all of my heart, I thank VABA for having selected me for the Scholarship. I hope that I make you proud and earn what I have received."




Ha-Thanh Nguyen

2009 Scholarship Recipient

“Receiving the VABA-DC scholarship in 2009 opened up many opportunities for me professionally and personally. The scholarship helped finance my summer expenses allowing me to take on a public interest internship in the Civil Rights Division of U.S. Department of Justice, where I worked on human trafficking cases and assisted in prosecuting civil rights violations. More importantly, the VABA-DC scholarship dinner provided a forum for me to meet and get to know a tremendously talented and impressive group of attorneys, civic leaders, and professionals that have become my mentors, friends, and colleagues. After graduating and joining Clifford Chance US LLP as a litigation associate, I snatched up the opportunity to serve on VABA-DC’s Board of Directors and am excited to contribute my vision and efforts to an organization so dedicated to supporting the entry of Vietnamese American law students into the legal profession and promoting the growth of Vietnamese American lawyers.”



Shandon Phan

2009 Scholarship Recipient

"As a law student who aspired to serve in public service, VABA-DC scholarship provided me the financial support necessary for me to pursue unpaid internship opportunities with the United States Attorney's Office of the District of Columbia and the United States Coast Guard Judge Advocate General's Office. Both experiences, made possible by the scholarship fund, were highly educational and impactful as I had the opportunity to work on substantive legal issues and learning from the best public interest lawyers. The scholarship program and the interactions with more experienced attorneys within VABA together created a very supportive platform to further my professional growth and strengthen my sense of service to others.


After pursuing public service opportunities for two years after law school, including serving as Director of Communications and Civic Engagement of BPSOS, organizing a national initiative to bring legal, medical, and humanitarian relief to the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of BP Oil Spill, and chairing a national leadership conference for Vietnamese American leaders across three sectors, I recently opened my own law practice. My firm counsels and represents entrepreneurs, small businesses and injured individuals in the areas of business planning and disputes, disaster recovery, mass torts, personal injury, real estate, and selected immigration matters. I aspire to build my firm into a strong full-service regional firm and continue serving the community through pro bono service to the poor and under-represented, impact litigation, and sponsorship of charitable and community development projects.


A public interest-minded attorney is an instrument for justice. The VABA-DC scholarship dinner is not only a practical networking opportunity for Vietnamese American attorneys but also a great platform for us to engage in meaningful efforts to serve others, create positive changes, and inspire and plant the seeds for our future success as a community."


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