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Madison Magazine speaks with UW’s Aroonsavath about ‘Hmong life in Madison’

May 04, 2015

Madison Magazine recently posted an article headlined, “Hmong life in Madison,” and among those highlighted in the article is UW-Madison’s Linda Kou Aroonsavath.

Aroonsavath holds a master’s degree from the School of Education’s Department of Counseling Psychology, and currently is finishing up her work on a Ph.D. with that same department.

The article begins by noting: “Forty years ago, the first group of Hmong immigrants left their homes and families in Southeast Asia for an uncertain future in the United States. Desperate to escape persecution in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, refugees from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam were granted asylum, with the largest numbers settling in California, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Hmong who now call the Madison area home may face discrimination, barriers to education and employment and the monumental task of bridging two distinct cultures. Yet within this difficult framework, the Hmong have fostered a vibrant community and impacted the broader region.”

Aroonsavath tells Madison Magazine that her father was the first Hmong to graduate from UW-Madison.

The article notes: “While many Hmong families today place a strong emphasis on formal education, that hasn’t always been the case — and that presents some challenges, says Aroonsavath.”

“We don’t come from a culture that practiced education,” she tells Madison Magazine. “We are expected to perform academically like other Asian groups that are high academic achievers, but that is not our culture. We were a people with no formal education. Hmong families highly value education; they just don’t know how to do it. Even today the achievement gap for Hmong students is higher. There are a lot of things pushing against Hmong educational success.”

But make sure and check out the entire in-depth article, which takes an interesting look at a range of topics.  It can be viewed for free on the website.

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