~ By Lisa Maria Boyles

For the first time, students at Fresno State can earn a minor in Hmong language studies through the Linguistics Department in the College of Arts and Humanities. Over 100 students are enrolled in Hmong minor courses for fall 2016.

Fresno has the second-largest Hmong population in the United States. More than 1,500 Hmong students attend Fresno State — making up about 6 percent of total enrollment.

The Hmong minor at Fresno State is the first in the western United States and fifth in the nation. The Fresno State Hmong minor is the only one in the nation with a focus on language. Six courses will be offered, consisting of 20 units.

Hmong program coordinator Dr. Kao-Ly Yang said the minor is designed to connect or reconnect students to 4,000 years of Hmong heritage.

“For Hmong people all over the world,” Yang said, “having a Hmong minor means their language and culture will be preserved, transmitted and adapted to the countries where they live. The Hmong community will see a new generation of leaders equipped to understand and appreciate their culture, to adapt it to their modern lives and to communicate its challenges but also its beauty and humanistic values to mainstream society.”

Phong Yang, director for undergraduate student recruitment at Fresno State, worked with Dr. Yang on developing the Hmong minor.

“Hmong refugees have been in the U.S. for 40 years now,” Phong Yang said.“Fresno State has always been the university of choice for many Hmong students due to its location. Currently, we have close to 1,400 Hmong students on campus. Many of them are not literate in their own language. … It’s hard to believe that there is a risk of Hmong losing their language after just two generations. It is important the we offer Hmong as a way to preserve the language and culture, but also in order to help professionals better serve the Hmong in our community.”

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities said “the Hmong minor is a testament to the dynamic energy that characterizes our disciplines”:

“A connection to one’s language and culture are the key to a harmonious society. The Hmong minor will open doors to a past, allow students to envision a present full of promise and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of our Valley and nation.”

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