Chao Vang '09 (Social Science), MA '13 (Education)

Vang paves the way for minority students

Sherilyn Adams

  I'm the only one of my high school friends who went to college, and many wish they had followed my example. 

Sacramento State graduate student Chao Vang jokes about getting a Made at Sac State tattoo on his shoulder once he completes his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in 2016, having already earned his bachelor's degree, teaching credential, and master's degree from the University.

But the 27-year-old concedes that his parents, who emigrated from Thailand in 1979, would not approve.

Neither of Vang's parents attended high school or college, yet they value the importance of education. He's the fourth of 10 children who graduated from Sac State. Factor in numerous cousins who are Hornet alumni, and one can see why he considers this campus and the friends he has made as his second family.

Vang says Sacramento State provided the education and opportunities for him to grow both personally and professionally, and those opportunities were the reason he chose Sac State over other schools to pursue his doctoral degree. Today, having spent the past 10 years at the University, Vang is a champion for first-generation, low-income students – like he was when he first came to Sacramento in 2005.

He is a lecturer in the Ethnic Studies Department and works with the Full Circle Project to increase graduation rates among Asian American and Pacific Islander students. He recently worked for Admissions and Outreach as the event coordinator assistant and was the on-site supervisor for the Migrant Student Leadership Institute. He also is assisting Professors Greg Yee Mark and James Sobredo in compiling an archive to honor the late Professor Wayne Maeda, who taught at Sac State for 40 years and was one of the founders of the Ethnic Studies Program.

Community involvement has been his hallmark since coming to Sacramento. He was instrumental in the inaugural Community Health and Wellness Fair, sponsored by the Hmong Health Alliance, and Hmong Heritage Week, sponsored by the Hmong University Student Association.

"I believe in connecting with the community," says Vang, who chaired both events. He takes seriously Sacramento State's commitment to expand the University's regional imprint. That resolve is evident through his tireless work ethic and dedication to Asian community institutions.

Vang currently serves on the board of directors for the Hmong Woman's Heritage Association, the Council of Asian-Pacific Islanders Together for Advocacy and Leadership, and the Organization of Chinese Americans Sacramento, and is an adviser to the Hmong Intercollegiate Student Association. He has tutored students, worked with young autistic children and completed his student teaching at Hiram Johnson High School as part of the 65th Street Corridor project, a project where Sacramento State serves the economically disadvantaged and diverse community.

Because an EOP Summer Bridge program helped Vang make the successful transition to Sac State, he wants to serve as a role model in the same way as the countless faculty and staff who mentored Vang from his freshman year through his doctoral candidacy. He says Hmong students and members of broader Southeast Asian communities seldom go to college, let alone obtain advanced degrees.

Chao Vang was accepted by several competing doctoral programs but chose Sacramento State's because he believes in the University's core mission of teaching, learning, and service. His work continues to embody that mission today.

Article written by Alan Miller and John Blomster, Sacramento State's Office of Public Affairs