MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A group of Hmong American undergraduates is pushing administrators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to hire more faculty who study the ethnic group and to launch a program through which students can earn a certificate in Hmong American studies.
Sophomore Myxee Thao and several other students of Southeast Asian descent formed the Hmong American Studies Committee, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The group envisions a program focusing on “Hmong Americans in America today” and seeks courses on culture, educational policy, history and social welfare.
The committee also wants the university to open a Hmong cultural center on campus, similar to a hub for black students that is opening this semester.
Students at the university can currently earn a certificate in Asian-American studies, and the university’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies offers six semesters of Hmong language courses. Other classes include Hmong American experiences among other topics.
“As a student who’s been taking these courses, it’s simply not enough,” Thao said.
University officials say it’ll be hard to make the students’ idea a reality as state budget cuts have led some of the university’s departments to slash jobs.
Greg Downey, associate dean for social sciences at the university’s College of Letters and Science, said the university has kept funding for its broader Asian-American studies program stable amid cuts in other departments. But he said there aren’t any plans to hire new faculty “in any particular specialty area.”
“These are tough choices in what are tough budget times for the university, but (the College of Letters & Science) is committed to helping (the Asian American studies) program succeed in its current scope,” Downey said.
University spokeswoman Meredith McGlone said campus officials are “gathering more information” but haven’t made any decisions as to the request for a Hmong American student center.