“Being Hmong, you don’t really have a place”: Hmong American Alumni at UW–Madison

Hmong American students began matriculating into colleges and universities across Wisconsin in the mid-1980s, with their numbers slowly increasing into the 1990s. Within the UW system, over 3,132 Hmong American students have attended UW–Madison from 2008–2018 (second to UW–Milwaukee, 6,494), with the majority of them coming from Wisconsin. Chong Moua set out to document their stories through oral history interviews and to “claim institutional space” for Hmong American students, past, present, and future. Shared for the first time here are their experiences at UW–Madison in their own words.

Japanese American Badgers

In the 1940s, Japanese American students — together with Asian international students and a few other Asian American students — formed the small Asian population on UW’s majority white campus. This could be lonely and isolating at times, but many also found ways to flourish and enjoy their years at UW, developing deep friendships with classmates and advisors. These are some of their stories.

The University of Wisconsin and Japanese American Students, 1941–44

When Japanese bombers attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, they did more than provoke the United States to enter WWII. They also triggered an era of uncertainty and hardship for Japanese in the U.S., including college-aged Japanese Americans across the country. A nation-wide, anti-Japanese atmosphere quickly took hold as Japanese Americans were forced into internment campus. Universities across the country, including The University of Wisconsin, responded to WWII by retooling to meet wartime needs for education. As one of the nation’s large Midwestern institutions, UW played a role in relocating Nisei college students from the West Coast and internment camps and disbursing them to other campuses across the country. Only a handful of Nisei students attended UW prior to WWII, preferring to attend West Coast institutions closer to their families, but by the end of WWII UW’s Japanese American population had greatly expanded. Japanese American UW stories reveal both the value and the limits of UW’s liberal racial values and policies at the time.