The College of Education and Human Services (COEHS) at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh takes pride in the achievements of its graduates in both their chosen careers and civic activities.
Each year, through its Professor for a Day program, the college honors two of its alumni who have made significant contributions to their profession and provides a day for them to interact and share their experiences with the college’s students.
This year’s honorees, Maiyoua Thao ’01, MSE ’09 and Marjorie VandenBoogaard MSE ’90, were recognized Nov. 10 during a ceremony at the Pollock Alumni House.
From refugee to community leader
Born in Laos, Thao came to the U.S. in 1988 as a refugee. Thao, of Appleton, earned a bachelor’s degree in human services from UW Oshkosh and set a goal to help the Hmong community. She later earned a master’s degree in counseling with the same goal in mind.
Thao first started helping the Hmong community by coordinating a UW Extension cooking class that taught Hmong women how to cook “American” food and teaching nutrition and food safety. She also hosted a cable TV cooking show called the “Bridging Hmong Show.”
“Maiyoua is very good at maintaining elements of her Hmong heritage while connecting with things that are uniquely American,” said Annette Larie, director of the office of field placement, who recommended Thao for Professor for a Day. “She has a great way of balancing the two cultures and continues to seek out ways to bring the two cultures together across Hmong communities.”
Today, in collaboration with her husband Chungyia Thao ’01, she continues to help the Hmong community through their businesses in Appleton, Universal Translation, Tongxeng Personal Homecare, Thao Properties and Harmony Counseling Center. These businesses have had a significant impact not only on the Hmong community, but the communities in which they operate.
As proof, the Thaos were honored with the 2007 Wisconsin Minority Business Good Citizen award from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce and as the 2008 Business of the Year by the Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce.
Thao is also very active within the community. She helps organize the annual Hmong Educational Conference hosted by the Appleton Area School District; serves on a committee to assist new refugees settle in the Fox Cities; serves as a board member for several organizations including Kaleidoscope Academy, a charter school in Appleton; and Good Business, a program of Goodwill of northeast Wisconsin.
“Maiyoua embodies the whole idea of human services,” Larie said. “She is humility with a capital ‘H’. Her first question is always about what she can do to help.”
Compassion and caring for others
For more than 30 years, VandenBoogaard, of Oshkosh, has worked in the “trenches” of elementary education, helping transform students’ lives. She is currently an elementary counselor at Emmeline Cook and Webster Stanley elementary schools, a position she has held for 20 years, and has a master’s degree in counseling from UW Oshkosh.
During her tenure with the Oshkosh Area School District, VandenBoogaard has served on action teams to develop an anti-bullying program, incorporate restorative justice and sponsor school wellness activities. In addition, she helped Webster Stanley become a SAGE (Student Achievement Guarantee in Education) school, a program that seeks to improve student achievement by lowering teacher-student ratios in early grades while increasing community collaboration.
VandenBoogaard also helped develop a collaborative partnership with the college’s Professional Counseling Department, where its students provide weekly developmental guidance lessons in Webster Stanley’s Lighted School House after-school program. In addition, she has served as a site supervisor for the college’s practicum students for 15 years.
“We wanted to honor Margie as a Professor for a Day because of her consistent support of the counseling program and how much she contributes to our students’ learning and development,” said Kelli Saginak, associate professor of professional counseling. “We couldn’t do our job without people like her in the field who are willing to take on and host our students.”
VandenBoogaard is perhaps best known for providing a listening ear, words of advice and advocacy for her students. “I want students to know that entering the counseling profession is more than just a job. Showing up each day is not enough. They will have the power to let others know that it matters that they, too, show up each day. I want them to know that their words and actions impact someone’s life, each and every day,” VandenBoogaard said.
“Margie is a good site supervisor because she is just a really great listener and I know she cares about me,” said Kathy Schoofs, who is completing her school counseling practicum under Margie’s leadership. “She is concerned about where I am as I put what I’ve learned into practice, and she always provides great feedback. I feel very comfortable and very supported working with her.”