Doctor of Education
Dr. Laura Wangsness Willemsen
In this dissertation, I examined the educational and life experiences of 13 first-generation Hmong women and how their lived experiences impacted their earlier education experiences as well as their post-secondary educational choices and their children’s educational pathways. Drawing from a qualitative, narrative analysis approach to explore which educational practices support young immigrant women, this study highlights the determination and resilience in first-generation Hmong women’s lives by revealing the oppression and invisibility they faced. Through utilizing a life history approach with 13 Hmong women, this dissertation focused on three first-generation Hmong women’s complete life histories to examine the role schooling, family, and culture have played in achieving academic success. This dissertation advances three main arguments: 1) the construct of intersectionality is useful for examining first-generation Hmong women's complex identities, their wellbeing, and educational trajectories; 2) the model minority myth (MMM) was experienced by these women in schools, and their gender further exacerbated the educational challenges they faced; and 3) patriarchal aspects of some Hmong cultural values and practices have created a feeling of oppression and the need to prove one’s worth for some Hmong women. As such, this study reveals the struggles these first-generation Hmong women encountered, the lack of support they received educationally and culturally, the significant educational and life achievements they created for themselves by drawing on communal and individual sources of encouragement, and the power of teachers and educational systems to either support or hinder wellbeing for young immigrant women.