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By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

A new undergraduate minor program in Hmong studies at California State University, Fresno will begin in the fall of 2016, according to a university announcement on Monday. The new minor will be the fifth Hmong studies program in the nation and the first on the West Coast. The four other university programs are in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“It is important to emphasize the needs of the Hmong students who cannot bridge their culture with the academic world and the mainstream,” professor Kao-Ly Yang, the planned adviser of the program, told NBC News. “Such a minor will contribute to [enhancing the students'] learning skills, particularly their academic skills, so that they will write better in English after taking Hmong. If they have a strong foundation in their heritage language, they [will] likely learn better [in] another language.

Yang also emphasized that the Hmong minor is not only for ethnically Hmong students interested in learning more about their heritage. It is for students of all races, especially for future professionals who plan to stay in California's Central Valley, which is home to a large Hmong community. The program will require twenty units in Hmong culture, history, and language.

According to a 2013 report by the Hmong National Development that analyzed 2010 U.S. Census data, Fresno, California, has the second largest concentration of Hmong in the nation, with 31,771 people.

“The Hmong minor at Fresno State will focus more on language skills development,” Yang said. “It is a language program that will answer the needs of the Hmong population in the Central Valley of bilingual professionals and leaders in the Hmong community.”

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