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home : community : community Saturday, April 30, 2016

12/19/2007 11:35:00 AM Email this articlePrint this article 
What's Next for the Center for Hmong Studies

Amy Doeun

On December 24 Dr. Gary Yia Lee will return to his home in Australia. His presence has helped put the Center for Hmong Studies at Concordia University on the map. Lee Pao Xiong of the Center spoke of the need to make a course of study "developed by us." Over the past year Dr. Lee has been working extensively at the Center developing courses to complete a minor. In addition Dr. Lee has been conducting his own research and traveling around the country, "he's a very generous man ... he helped introduce new knowledge for the Center."

But academic achievements do not guarantee the survival of the Center; now they must "incorporate into Concordia University curriculum ... see where the barriers are within the institution and where do we fit in?" A governing board will help bring the center to the next level and "integrate into community with a business and strategic plan." Dr. Lee shared that one barrier is that Concordia University is very conservative with an emphasis on theology. Cooperation between the departments is key to making sure that classes offered at the Center have enough students enrolled to justify the expense of the class.

Dr. Lee added that he likes to introduce the latest theories into studying the Hmong. Unfortunately some of these theories are not widely taught at Concordia even though they have been around for 10-15 years. For example Dr. Lee does not feel that anthropology is a good way to study the Hmong because it doesn't take into account the effects of surrounding cultures. Instead he may use Post Colonialism to "analyze our culture on a much deeper level."

Already the center has done some amazing things for the college. The college has never had scholars visiting from around the world (as Dr. Lee has done). Also next year the Center will host the 2nd Conference for Hmong Studies. Also next year a Hmong Fulbright Scholar from China will add to academic offerings (another first). The Center is bringing a lot of notoriety to the University. Xiong shared that students have come to Concordia just because the Center is there.

The next step is to "crack the academic nut" and get into the curriculum requirements (or at least offerings) for general education and global studies courses. One way to do this is to set up an endowed chair for the academic side of the Center for Hmong Studies. Lee Pao Xiong explained that he functions more on an administrative level. A donor has offered a $5 million endowment to the Center that Xiong feels would best be used to have an academic chair. This would be a tenure track position.

There is some talk of Dr. Lee being interested in this position, however family duties are strong in Australia but if he could, "sort out his family arrangement" it could be a possibility. For the next year Dr. Lee is writing a High School level text book, Hmong Customs and Culture, with Nicolas Topp. He has been invited to a conference in China, a first for him, and has 2 papers to write. While there he hopes to research a new book about the Hmong in China and the rebellion that forced them to leave for Laos and Vietnam, "I have been reading a lot of Kung Fu books and watching a lot of movies to prepare." He adds that "The first one was only an experiment." Xiong commented, "If Dust of Life was an experiment imagine the real one."

Dr. Lee said that he will come back if the opportunity arises, "Everyone wants the best, my greatest joy in being here is going around the country being invited to lecture ... everyone has been very kind and receptive to my talks."


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