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Kou Yang

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Kou Yang, Ed. D., MSW. Professor Emeritus of Ethnic Studies California State University, Stanislaus

Kou Yang (1954-) is Professor Emeritus of California State University, Stanislaus, where he taught Ethnic Studies from 1998 to 2013. A Fulbright Scholar and Sasakawa Fellow, Kou Yang is also an author, poet and folk story teller. He has written books for children and adults and has published books in China and Laos.

Early Life

Kou Yang was born into a large Hmong family of 18 people in a remote village in Northern Laos. Only one of his four uncles had one year tutoring in basic Lao literacy. His early oral education focused on Hmong religion and wisdom, folk stories, the surrounding environment and skills needed to survive in the highlands.
At the age of eight years old, he was sent to a school in a lowland Lao village about half-a-day’s walk with other Hmong children. Ranging in age from six to sixteen, all Lao and Hmong students were placed in a single-room schoolhouse and taught by a single teacher. His education progressed remarkably, after only two years he was sent to a school in town, partly due to the Secret War and partly due to his and his family’s desire for him to further pursue his education. In Sayaboury Town, he started third grade at the Sayaboury Elementary School (Group Scholaire de Sayaboury), the biggest elementary school of the town. After completion of his sixth-grade education, he was admitted to College de Sayaboury, the only junior high school of the province of Sayaboury in Northwestern Laos. He finished his junior high school in the summer of 1974, and went to Lycee de Luang Phrabang and later to Ecole Normal de Luang Phrabang, preparing to be a high school teacher or to advance his education in France. His education, career goals and dream were disrupted at the end of the Secret War in 1975. Like many thousands of people in Laos, he and his family became refugees abroad. After a one year stay in a refugee camp in Thailand, he resettled in New Orleans, Louisiana. A year later, he moved to Long Beach, California. In 1984, he accepted a job offer in Fresno, California, and he has since called Central California, his home.
The Secret War hit him and his family hard. In early 1972, his youngest uncle, who was a military officer, was killed in action and in December that year, his father and another uncle were assassinated. The family was subjected to suffering, hardship and poverty. Due to a lack of financial support, the young Kou Yang stayed in a Buddhist temple to continue his education. Later, he moved into a Christian Youth Hostel to get free room and board, so he could continue his education. As an adult, he committed his life’s work to non-violence, humanitarian work, education and peace building. His peace building work has taken him to Geneva in 2010, Washington DC in 2012, and Vietnam in 2014.[1] His tireless search for his roots and identity has partially contributed to the historic establishment of the (overseas Hmong) Roots-Searching Monument in Xingwen, Sichuan, China, which was officially opened in April 2014.
He started his life in the United States in 1976 with only a few words of English. He spoke some French and got a dishwashing job at an upscale French restaurant in New Orleans. There, he committed himself to learn one English word a day. Later, he took English as a Second Language, and attended school as his time and resources allowed.


Kou Yang received his AA in 1982 from Long Beach City College and his BA in 1987 and MSW in 1991 from California State University, Fresno. In 1995, he earned his Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from the Joint Doctoral Degree in Educational Leadership of California State University, Fresno, and the University of California at Davis. Additionally, he has completed special education programs, such as a six-month study in China, an intensive Japanese studies program as Sasakawa Fellow, and short term educational programs on Lao culture and Buddhism, and Chinese Ethnic Studies.

University Teaching and Related Activities

Kou Yang taught social work for one year at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, but did not adapt well to the extreme cold weather. He returned to California and, in 1998, he started to teach Ethnic Studies at California State University, Stanislaus. In 2005, he led California State University, Stanislaus’ Fulbright-Hay Group to do a month-long educational tour of China; and in 2009, he led a post-conference group of international scholars to tour the Hmong and Miao in Guizhou, China.
Prior to his university teaching, he was a social worker. He worked for the Los Angeles Department of Public Social Services from 1980 to 1984, and the Fresno County Department of Social services from 1984 to 1996, he also worked briefly for Tulare County-Fresno County Mental Health from 1997 to 1998.


Kou Yang has an extensive publication record on Hmong Diaspora, Hmong history and culture, the Hmong American experience, Lao culture, and the American experiences of Indochinese refugees. His essays have appeared in widely-consulted peer-reviewed journals such as the Journal of Asian American Studies; Ethnic Studies Review Journal; Asian Pacific Migration Journal; Hmong Studies Journal; Miao Research Journal, Journal of Guizhou University for Nationalities; and Journal of Hubei Institute for Nationalities. In addition, he has contributed chapters to many books, including Passage (1990); Hmong Forum (1996); The Hmong: An Voices: The Experiences of Underrepresented Asian Americans (2008); The Impact of Globalization and Trans-nationalism on the Hmong (2009); Hmong/Miao Research (2009); Hmong and American: From Refugees to Citizens (2012), and Diversity within Diaspora: Hmong Americans in the Twenty-First Century (2013).
Kou Yang is co-editor of "Diversity In Diaspora: Hmong Americans in the Twenty-First Century"(2013), and author of "Laos and Its Expatriates in the United States," and 根连万里情依依 (2015), loosely translated as "Root Connection from Ten Thousand Miles (published in China and in Chinese), and The Making of Hmong America (2017). Kou Yang has also contributed to more than 20 newspaper articles and editorial opinion pieces, such as Prof. Kou Yang: The deadly, horrible mess we made still plagues Indochina (2015), 40yrs After the Vietnam War: celebrating the contributions of Indochinese refugees to the USA (2015) [2], and President Obama’s Historic Visit to Laos comes at the Perfect Time (2016).
His early works include collections of his poems, Hmong Knowledge and Wisdom, and Hmong Folk Stories.[3]


Dr. Kou Yang

Dr. Kou Yang--Professor Emeritus of Ethnic Studies CSU Stanislaus[edit]

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