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home : education : education Friday, November 24, 2017

8/10/2016 10:19:00 AM Email this articlePrint this article 
New Hmong Studies Program At Fresno State

By Macy Yang

Fresno State professor Dr. Kao-Ly Yang, right, shows off a photo of her father at the HmongStory 40 art exhibit to Vila Xiong, a mass communication major at the university.
The new Hmong studies program at California State University, in Fresno is the first of its kind on the west coast. Dr. Kao-Ly Yang was approached by the linguistics chair, in 2012, about developing a minor program in Hmong studies. Dr. Yang agreed to take on the task knowing that it was important to the students at Fresno State, the community, parents and her colleagues of professional educators. It took four, long years to develop the curriculum, a final approval was obtained in April and the program will kick off its first semester in the fall. The program is 20 units and already gained the interest of more than 50 students according to Dr. Yang. The curriculum will focus on Hmong history, language and culture. This program is one of five similar programs across the U.S. taught at higher education institutions.

Dr. Yang is currently the coordinator of the Hmong program, and has been teaching at Fresno State since 2004. She received her doctorate in Sociocultural Anthropology from the University of Aix-Marseille in France. For the past 20 years, she studied Hmong language, culture and literature, focusing on the changing Hmong culture and beliefs in high Hmong concentration countries such as France, Laos, Thailand, China and the U.S.

When asked about the significance and timing of this program, Dr. Yang says, "A Hmong minor provides qualified and trained bilingual professionals with enough cultural responsiveness to serve in areas where there are still Hmong Americans with Limited English Proficiency. In the Fresno area, there is an important Hmong community of about 40,000 Hmong Americans. An important number have been in the U.S. for less than 12 years." Adding that the elderly who don't speak English are still in need of bilingual workers at all levels. The number of U.S. born children, according to Dr. Yang, have a "hunger for knowledge of their cultural heritage [that] is quite different from the previous generation" and have questions about "their identity, social life, and cultural practices."

The program is designed to help anyone learn about Hmong culture and language, including U.S. born Hmong students with no proficiency in Hmong culture or language, those that speak the language but need to develop proficiency in reading or writing, and those with no Hmong experience, including second language learners. Mai Xiong Yang, a second year student at Fresno State, is considering a minor in Hmong studies this fall. There are many benefits that can be gained from the program such as "enhancing reading and writing skills," Yang adds. Yang hopes to become a teacher while maintaining the Hmong language.

When asked what parents can do to instill learning Hmong in their children, Dr. Yang recommends that parents continue speaking to their children in Hmong regardless of their attitude. This will keep children interested in their heritage and will give them a "strong sense of pride and identity."

Dr. Yang's aspiration is to build the program into an opportunity for all learners to gain Hmong language abilities in order to enhance professional skills and job qualifications, understand Hmong culture and appreciate the Hmong heritage.

For more information about the Hmong studies program, Dr. Yang can be reached at 559-278-6437 or kayang@csufresno.edu.

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