Tuesday, May 4, 2010
A recent column by Brendan Cotter, "Hmong culture is our culture," stated that the University of Wisconsin Marathon County did nothing to "encourage diversity and multiculturalism" during Hmong History Month. That claim is not true. I am the student director of the campus Multicultural Resource Center. During the past two years, I have worked with students, faculty and staff members to promote diversity on campus and in the local community.
I don't know why Cotter says there were no signs on campus to promote diversity during April. UWMC advertised campus and local events for Asian Awareness month, including Hmong author Kao Kalia Yang's recent visit to Wausau. Had he done his research well enough, Cotter would know about campus events and the work of the MRC to promote diversity and an awareness of Hmong culture.
The MRC is an academic place where students gather to study, socialize with friends and work on activities that promote diversity while developing leadership skills. For example, we invite a variety of speakers to talk with students about ethnicity, barriers between cultures, and college life. We also hold an egg roll sale and other fundraisers that support projects and events that raise an awareness of multiculturalism. In the past, we have also sponsored discussions of books about Hmong culture and history. The MRC is open to everyone in the campus community, but it is an important resource for Hmong students and provides them with academic and social support as they work on their college degrees.
Although April was Hmong History Month in Wausau, it was also Asian Awareness Month in the United States. To promote an awareness of both Hmong and Asian culture, the MRC and the campus Diversity Club hosted a multicultural talent show that was open to the public. We had 22 different college and high school student acts in the show, about half of the participants were Hmong and many of the acts focused on Hmong culture. The audience came from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.
In addition to this, the MRC recently sponsored a trip to Chinatown in Chicago, which permitted Hmong student participants to learn about another Asian-American culture.
I spoke with other Hmong students who also feel that Cotter's article was not a fair description of UWMC. Dao Yang, president of the campus Diversity Club said, "If Cotter would know more about the Hmong culture, he wouldn't say such things. To promote diversity, one must know about the historical background of that certain group first and not just go ahead and judge things from what they see. April is Asian Awareness Month, not just focusing on the Hmong." Another student added that saying the UWMC did not support Asian Awareness month is a false claim.
UWMC and the Multicultural Resource Center encourage diversity and multiculturalism throughout the entire year, not just during a single month.
Choua Xiong is the director of the Multicultural Resource Center at the University of Wisconsin Marathon County.