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Campus Life Spotlight: Hmong Reading Group

Posted on Feb 8, 2011
Hmong culture clash a weekly discussion on UW-Superior campus.

About 15 UW-Superior students, faculty, and staff are gathering weekly this semester to read and discuss the Hmong culture, Western medicine, and how the culture clash affects our lives on campus.  Coordinated by Mickey Fitch from Residence Life, this reading group was born from the idea of needing to further explore underrepresented groups on our campus.  Mid fall semester, CELT announced the annual UW System Institute on Race and Ethnicity's Campus Reading Seminar grant program, which supports the purchasing of books for up to fifteen campus community members.

This year's group is reading Anne Fadiman's The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.  Written in 1998, the book is an anthropological study of Fadiman's observations of the Lee family.  At the center of the Lee family is young Lia Lee, born in 1981, who was diagnosed with epilepsy from birth.  The book chronicles the clash of a Hmong immigrant family in California attempting to seek medical care for their young child and the Western medicine trained doctors who attempt to treat Lia in an Americanized regimen of medications and hospitalizations.  The book is a very intimate portrayal of the language barriers, cultural and spiritual beliefs, concepts of illness, and coping with medical struggle that existed for this family.

The campus reading group is one of several reading groups that have formed on the UW-Superior campus over the years.  Since the grant programs inception six years ago, three other reading groups have been funded on our campus.  This year, the group meets weekly in the Yellowjacket Union to discuss a few chapters at a time and will be meeting until April.  The group, which has many cultures within itself, is a respectful, trusting, and eye-opening weekly opportunity for our campus to learn more about the Hmong people.  The group consists of several undergraduate students (domestic and international), academic staff (from Campus Life, Multicultural Student Services, Dean of Students, First Year Experience, Career Services, AmeriCORPS, GEARS, and Student Activities), and faculty (from History).

Though only a few weeks and six chapters into the book, the discussion is rich with varied perspectives across our campus community.  The real joy of this group is the informal opportunity for a variety of campus community members to get together outside of the classroom and continue the lifelong learning goals that UW-Superior aspires to within the Liberal Arts Initiative.  The casual atmosphere allows for students to engage in conversations with faculty and staff in a non-graded, non-hierarchal format where learning happens across a variety of spectrums.  Certainly this reading group also increases our campus's movement towards UW System Inclusive Excellence in all programs and services.  The conversations are deep, honest, and informative for all the the participants and truly do allow for the inclusion, equity, and appreciation of diverse cultures that UW-Superior is home to.


For more information, questions, and comments, please contact Mickey Fitch.

 
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