2001 Student-Faculty Fellows: St. Olaf College
Thailand: Individual Projects
Mentor: Robert Eric Entenmann, History
Students: Dannia Lor Vang ’01; Tong Xiong ’02
Abstracts of Reflections and/or Research
My experience supervising the research projects of Tong Xiong and Dannia Vang contributed to my professional development in several ways, even though it did not contribute directly to my own research agenda (which focuses on eighteenth-century Chinese Catholics). Nevertheless, on several occasions over the past few years I have supervised Hmong students carrying out independent research projects on Hmong history, society, and culture, and my experience in Thailand enriched my understanding of Hmong in Southeast Asia as well as America. The experience of the Hmong minority in Thailand, which is attempting to maintain its identity while finding a place in Thai society, provides insights on the experience of Hmong in American society as well. This will contribute to my work as faculty advisor to the Hmong Awareness Group, a Hmong student organization at St. Olaf. Moreover, this project helped me to examine issues of ethnicity, nationalism, and national identity that are relevant to my teaching. Finally, this project gave me an opportunity to carry out field research with two talented and highly motivated students.
Dannia Lor Vang
Assessing the Extent of Assimilation of the Hmong Minority in Thailand
Upon reflecting on my experience, I realized that a better description and title for my research would be something relating to the “experience” of the Hmong in Thailand and not necessarily assimilation. My research gave me a greater understanding of what life is like in Thailand. Assimilation is only a part of that life. So I feel that by saying I am researching the “extent of assimilation” of the Hmong in Thailand describes only a part of my research experience. Rather if I said that I was researching the “experience of the Hmong living in Thai society” would be a more accurate description of my research. Also, this research allowed me to find my own identity by being able to contrast my life with other Hmong. Growing up in America as an immigrant raised a lot of questions about who I am and what my identity is in America. I believe that many of the Hmong youth gangs result from that identity crisis from the clash of American and Hmong culture. Today I am beginning to be able to synthesize the American and Hmong side of me into a single identity. I hope that I can help other Hmong and non-Hmong who are struggling with their identities to realize that they can be who they are without fear of criticism from their parents and society. To sum it all up, this experience has been a very positive one to my life. I thank you all for the chance of a lifetime.
Assessing Hmong Assimilation in Thai Society: Focusing on Health
Two years ago when I came back from Thailand on my study-abroad program, I had considered doing nursing care in an Asian country. This summer research really impacted my life because of the experiences that I had in the Hmong villages and in the Thai hospitals. Now, I am pretty much convinced that after two years of working as a registered nurse here in the United States, I want to go practice in a place where I can really be useful and I am considering Thailand. I can speak basic Thai, and I am fluent in Hmong and English. I am very sure that after a year in Thailand I can pick up the language quite well. Due to limited government funding to healthcare units, the hospitals and clinics lack many quality medical equipment and supplies. The people of Thailand, the Thais and the six main hilltribe minority groups who live there are friendly, and they have such a rich culture and knowledge to offer. I believe that by mixing Western medicine with Eastern values, we can improve healthcare around the world. I sympathize for the minority groups around the world who live within another people’s land. Not just any minority group, but ones who lack a voice in politics in that nation in which they reside. For example, the Tibetans in China and the Hmong who live around the world. Respect for all humankind should not be too much to ask.
Venues for Sharing
- Power Point presentation in the St. Olaf auditorium.
- Write an article for Hmong Times newspaper in the Twin Cities and for the St. Olaf newspaper.
- Write articles for the Asian studies, Student Support Services, and Multicultural Affair and Community Outreach newsletters.
- Create a brochure about Hmong patients’ health beliefs, and donate them to the hospitals in Minneapolis and St. Paul as a way to inform the medical staff about their Hmong patients.