Ethnic and Racial Studies

Expand page menu
Skip to page menu

The Ethnic and Racial Studies (ERS) minor is an interdisciplinary degree designed to provide students with a better understanding of the enormous diversity of American society and culture.  The ERS minor will enhance the educational experience in all degrees and programs across the university.  It will also provide students with a practical understanding of the changing racial and ethnic structure of the American economy and work place.  Career options and majors that can be paired with the ERS minor include:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Education (all levels)
  • History
  • Human Resources
  • Human Services
  • International Education
  • Journalism                                                    
  • Business/International Business
  • Marketing
  • Management/International Management
  • Peace Corps 
  • Philosophy                                                    
  • Social Work/Sociology                                                          
  • Psychology/School Psychology                     
  • Community Health Education                       
  • Women's Studies
  • Communication Studies
  • Political Science/Public Administration/Law       
  • College Student Development & Administration
  • Allied Science/Medical/Nursing

Ethnic and Racial Studies Department (ERS)

View in catalog

Hmong/Hmong American Studies Certificate


Hmong history reaches thousands of years into the past. Recent genetic studies have placed Hmong people in central China, along the Yangtze River valley, when Neolithic cultures (2,000-5,000 BC) were thriving. The Chinese word for Hmong is Miáo (苗), which consists of the radical for grain/grass (艹) above the character for field (田). Anthropologists, historians and archaeologists have concluded that Hmong people were one of the first rice cultivators in China.  Rice was first grown 6,000-7,000 years ago. Hmong history can thus be linked to the origin of agriculture, a pivotal moment paving the way for the subsequent rise of early civilizations. Prior to 1975, Hmong people were restricted to China and countries in mainland Southeast Asia. In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, thousands have emigrated around the globe: to Europe, North and South America, and Australia. Hmong culture has become global.

Hmong Americans are first-generation refugee immigrants from Laos and their descendants.  Since 1975, Hmong Americans have established vibrant communities across the country from Massachusetts to California and from Alaska to Florida. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the U.S. is home to 270,000 Hmong Americans—nearly half live in the upper Midwest. In Wisconsin and Minnesota, there are approximately 116,000 Hmong Americans, roughly 43% of the total population. Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Indiana host smaller Hmong American communities.

For more than four decades, Hmong culture has been a part of America’s multicultural landscape, and yet only a small number of people in mainstream America are aware of the presence of Hmong Americans. Fewer still are those who are cognizant of how the Hmong immigrant story is central to American history. In a variety of ways, Hmong Americans have been making significant contributions to American society: as community organizers, assembly workers, small business owners, police officers, teachers, computer programmers, doctors, lawyers, politicians, professors and judges. When placed within the context of the American experience, the Hmong story is no different from that of other immigrant groups.  Their story is also one of survival, struggle, determination and success.

In the U.S. and around the globe, Hmong people today face overwhelming pressures to adapt, to modernize, and to assimilate. Wherever they live, they are not insulated from the forces of change brought about by globalization, development, tourism, and identity politics. In response, Hmong people have been compelled to continually reassess how they live, to question the internal and external contours of their identities, and to contemplate ideas of homeland, citizenship and belonging. In the last three decades, scholars across academic disciplines, from history to anthropology and sociology to post-colonial studies, have systematically addressed issues related to Hmong studies. However, due a range of complicated reasons, institutions of higher learning, including the UW System, have been slow to incorporate Hmong studies into their curriculum and curriculum development.


Hmong people are part of the changing world in which we live.  Over the last half century, we have witnessed a dramatic re-shaping of the world brought about by the increasing flow of peoples, cultures, capital, and technologies across international borders. The consequences stemming from these changes are evident in our daily lives. At each and every encounter, it is not difficult to notice different histories intersecting, different cultures crisscrossing, and different value systems converging.  A citizen of the 21st century will need to develop a broad range of new sensibilities in order to stay relevant, engaged and informed. What practical steps can UWL take to give students opportunities to acquire knowledge, skills and experiences necessary to extend their intellectual breadth and depth? This certificate is one such step.

Housed in the Department of Ethnic and Racial Studies, a Hmong and Hmong American Studies certificate is one of the myriad avenues to build on the foundation of a liberal education at UWL. Through a set of carefully-structured courses, students will use a critical lens to explore topics related to Hmong studies, including but not limited to the following:

  • Human prehistory
  • History in China and Southeast Asia
  • Colonialism
  • Cold war conflicts
  • Refugee movements
  • Transnational migration
  • Tourism, globalization and development
  • Adaptation to Western societies: Enculturation and cultural renewal
  • Religion and religious change
  • Language
  • Identity development and formation
  • Global citizenship and global identity
  • Ongoing contributions of Hmong people to contemporary society

The goal of the Hmong and Hmong American Studies certificate is to prepare students to be critical thinkers, effective communicators, and constructive agents of change. Study abroad trips may provide additional opportunities for field research and experiential learning.

Requirements for Certificate (15-17 credits)

  1. Core courses (9 credits)
  2. Electives (6-8 credits)

Required Core Courses

  1. ERS 100 Ethnic and Racial Studies (3)
  2. ANT/ERS 362 Hmong Americans (3)
  3. ERS 490: ERS Seminar (with a Hmong-related project) (3)


The remaining 6-8 credits will come from elective courses shown below:

  • ANT 196 Linguistic Anthropology (3 cr)
  • ANT 215: Refugees, Displaced Persons and Transnational Communities (3 cr)
  • ANT 351: Peoples and Cultures of Southeast Asia (3 cr)
  • CST 337: Communication and Race (3 cr)
  • HIS 316: Vietnam War (3 cr)
  • HIS 382: Colonialism in Asia and the Pacific (3 cr)
  • MLG 204: Heritage Language: Intermediate I (4 cr)
  • MLG 304: Heritage Language: Advanced I (4 cr)
  • MLG 345 Intercultural Interactions (3 cr)