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A new Hmong minor and the establishment of a new scholarship will allow Fresno State “to connect more closely with our Hmong neighbors in this community and beyond,” President Joseph I. Castro said last night at a celebration attended by more than 200 people.

The event was held in honor of the Soul Vang Scholarship, Poetry Prize Endowment and Hmong minor. As the early evening sun cast longer shadows, guests mingled at a reception featuring Hmong-inspired appetizers at the Smittcamp Alumni House. Then several speakers paid tribute to the creation of the scholarship.

Castro called Vang a powerful role model and an inspiration to young writers.

Poet Soul Vang, the first Hmong-American to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree from Fresno State, read two of his poems during an emotional ceremony. Vang transformed one of his poems, “The Sling,” from the first-person singular to first-person plural, encompassing all those who attended this historic event:

“Now, with this heirloom,

We carry our daughters and sons

Up the volcanic slopes of Hawaii, across the rugged rocks

of the Central Coast, among the Sierra Nevada foothills,

Crossing and re-crossing the San Joaquin River

And the Kings River; in this land between

These two rivers, in this Fresno,

We carry on…”

Vang is the author of “To Live Here,” the first full-length collection of poetry published by a Hmong-American, which won the 2014 Imaginary Friend Press Poetry Prize.

Fresno has the second largest Hmong population in the United States. More than 1,500 Hmong students attend Fresno State – about 6 percent of the total student population. More than 100 students have enrolled in the 20-unit Hmong minor program, first offered this semester.

Dancers Julie Her, Pazao Lor and Payeng Thao opened the evening’s festivities, performing “Celebrating Joy.” The celebration of Hmong culture in our community came full circle when the Thao Siblings performed “Circles of Light and Sound.” 

See our Facebook page (facebook.com/FresnoStateCAH/) for more photos and live video that was shot during the event.

To consider making a donation to the Soul Vang scholarship or to the Hmong minor program, fresnostate.edu/artshum/giving/index.html or contact 559.278.1877.