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Celebration of Scholarship and Creative Activity 2023

STEM Pushout: Race, Inequality, and Exclusion for Hmong American Students in Higher Education

Cheemeng Xiong

Senior, Psychology


Progress has been made to increase enrollment numbers and graduation rates for ethnic and racial minorities in STEM with investigations and interventions to improve the educational outcomes for students of color in STEM. However, Asian American students are often excluded as they are seen as a group to have made positive gains in STEM education and career attainment, constituting 13% of the science and engineering workforce in 2017. When disaggregating the data, it is clear that some subgroups within the category of “Asian” are being overlooked and underserved. Southeast Asian Americans (i.e., Cambodian, Laotian, Vietnamese, and Hmong) have one of the lowest high school graduation and bachelor degree rates in the country, lower than African Americans and Latinxs. Yet their struggles are often erased from public view because of a “model minority stereotype,” a discourse that views Asian Americans as an entirely prosperous immigrant community. Preliminary data on Hmong American undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) identified several factors, such as advising, gatekeeping mechanisms (e.g., minimum GPAs and entrance exams), and racial climate, that affectively redirected and/or pushed-out Hmong-identified students from competitive STEM majors. This study investigates “redirection” through an innovative approach by 1) considering the specific educational needs of individual Asian American populations and their intersectional social identities, 2) adding complexity to how issues of recruitment, retention, and graduation pathways are discussed, and 3) engaging students in decision-making processes that affect their higher education experiences with our participatory action research (PAR) approach.

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1 Comment

  1. Hleeda

    Cheemeng, thank you so much for sharing your story and for presenting on this topic. I find it so valuable and so important to explore. I’d love to bounce around ideas on how we can bridge the gap between Hmong high school graduates and higher education and retention among these students as well! Would you be able to share with me your presentation and thoughts?


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