News Release

Published on Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Western Technical College Multicultural Services Liaison Nhia Vang, of Onalaska, Wis., was recently honored with a 2011 Refugee Award from the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.

As part of World Refugee Day, Department of Children and Families Secretary Eloise Anderson recognized the achievements of 20 refugees at the Capitol in Madison. World Refugee Day celebrates the courage, strength, and determination of women, men, and children who are forced to flee their homeland under threat of persecution, conflict, and violence.

“With these awards, we honor the journey of these Americans – their struggles, successes, and hopes – and acknowledge their contributions to local communities and our state,” said Secretary Anderson.

Vang came to the United States as a teenager in 1976, landing near Champaign, Ill. He was one of the first pilot immigrant groups to leave Laos. With no English skills, his goal was to become educated. With only $500 to his family’s name, Nhia moved to Rantoul, Ill. To work as a janitor at the Air Force Base. In 1978, he found a second job at a window factory and attended English language classes part-time.

Along the way, Vang moved to Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., in order to study and learn. He earned the first of his degrees in machine tool before coming to Western Technical College to find a degree that better suited him. He earned an accounting degree from Western, then took online courses from California Coast University and earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in business administration.

Vang was hired at Western in 1984 as the minority specialist, where he continues now, working primarily with students, helping guide them in their educational journey.

One of Vang’s notable activities at Western is managing and facilitating the Next Step program. This pre-college recruitment program targets minority high school youth in our area. The goal is to give minority students a sense of direction regarding their post-high school graduation plans.

In addition to his on-campus responsibilities, Vang is or has been involved in several community volunteer services in the Greater La Crosse Area, including serving on the Salvation Army Advisory Board, the American Red Cross Board, United Way Boards, Family and Children’s Center Board, Viterbo University Board, and Election Commission Chairperson for the Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association.

“The Western Technical College community can’t imagine a more deserving nominee than Nhia,” said Chad Dull, dean of the Instructional Support Services division. “He is not only a fixture on campus, he is a well-respected and visible part of the La Crosse community. We are honored to have him as part of the Western family.”