The year was 1975 when North Vietnamese Army tanks rolled into Saigon to topple the capital of South Vietnam. Watching them descend upon the city, Loan Phuong waited anxiously atop the United States embassy, eagerly anticipating a new life. She was about to be transported to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, to a camp set up for Vietnamese refugees. At the time, she was pregnant with Armstrong “Tony” Tran, MS Management of Secure Information Systems (MSIS) ’16. The expectant mother’s liberation from communist Vietnam instilled in Tran patriotism for the United States and a deep respect for its military. Also instilled were values that have served him well throughout his life so far—being mindful, supportive, and open-minded.
Though born in Arkansas, Armstrong Tran has spent most of his life in Northern Virginia, where the impact of George Mason University is undeniable. He has witnessed Mason evolve from primarily a commuter school to its status as an elite institution today. “Mason has attracted preeminent faculty members who are widely respected in their respective industries,” he says. “Just knowing the distinguished names who’ve worked at Mason is proof enough I made the right decision to get my education here.” During the late 90s, Tran had started taking undergraduate classes at Mason, and then decided to return nearly two decades later for the MSIS program to prepare himself for his role within product management at iDirect Government.
Armstrong Tran’s admiration for the United States Armed Forces has led him to a career supporting government and military satellite services. “For almost 20 years, I have been supporting the government and military to communicate regardless of where they are around the world,” he says. The School of Business has developed the reputation of preparing students to stay ahead of emerging technology and anticipate whatever may be on the horizon. Tran found that reputation to ring true as he learned that cybersecurity was so much more than firewalls. His time at Mason also helped hone his presentation skills, which he has utilized around the world, and now, in the virtual environment in front of hundreds of audience members.
“In hindsight, the MSIS program was ahead of its time,” says Tran, who selected the program because of its recognition by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency. The values that had guided his life continued to do so while at the School of Business and following his graduation. Tran was mindful in learning from the experiences of others, and open-minded in learning how to accomplish tasks in different and more efficient ways. He was, and continues to be, supportive— supportive of the military, his colleagues and classmates, and he goes above and beyond by supporting and mentoring children from disadvantaged backgrounds in his spare time. “I recognize my mother’s ability to start a new life in America is also thanks to the men and women of our armed forces,” he says. The support she received continues to act as a catalyst in Tran’s purpose-driven life.