The first of nine siblings to pursue a four-year college degree, Mai Vue recalls that college had many surprises in store for her. Early on, Mai was pleased to learn that the University of Minnesota offered Hmong language courses which helped her strengthen her language skills and learn about her culture and history of Hmong people. “Going to college helped define my own identity as a Hmong person”, Mai states.
Mai was also surprised at the difficulty of the first few semesters. She felt that she was not well prepared for college success and she noticed inequities among her peers. Some students had access to many networks and resources, and received much support from their families, while others were navigating college on their own. Mai recalls that being a Wallin EP scholar was so helpful because she had people she could rely on and people who ‘knew what they were talking about!’ when it came to a college experience for first-generation students. Mai built a strong connection to her Wallin EP advisor who helped her learn to advocate for herself both within her family and out in the world.
During college Mai learned about inequities people of color faced in all parts of life, including access to education and quality health care. She states: “I decided to pursue a graduate degree in public health because I want to close the gaps in healthcare that my parents experienced and continue to experience today.” Mai graduated from University of Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in Biology, Society and Environments, and this month she completed her master’s degree in Public Health, while working for the Minnesota Department of Health, helping with the COVID-19 response. One of Mai’s tasks is helping address the many concerns of people in our community. She helps ease fears related to COVID-19, answers questions about how to stay safe, and connects people to resources they need.
Mai had the opportunity to meet Chuck at our Scholar Reception where he recognized her as a Chuck Denny Scholar. Her parents were there to celebrate and were so pleased to have a chance to spend some time with Chuck. Mai recalls this meeting: “I remember that even though he had never met me before, I could tell that Mr. Denny was proud of how much I had achieved, and he was confident that I could conquer my next goal. And he was right, as this month I finally graduated with master’s degree! Mr. Denny was genuinely happy to be able to award me the Chuck Denny scholarship and to be able to celebrate with me and my parents. “
“Wallin EP helped me get to where I am today. I was a student who very much struggled in college, with not many in my network that I could rely on for help, other than Wallin EP. And now here I am, graduating with my master’s degree, working with the State Health Department, doing my part to respond to something that affects everyone. I am so grateful”.
Congratulations Class of 2020!