Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Learning, Leadership and Change

First Advisor

Rod P. Githens

First Committee Member

Laura Hallberg

Third Committee Member

Fred Estes


The majority of the Lao American population arrived in the United States after the end of the “American War in Southeast Asia” in 1975 as political refugees. Nevertheless, as Asian Americans, Lao Americans are also stereotyped to be the “model minority” and therefore do not face the same educational and socioeconomical challenges like other communities of color. However, Lao Americans are not the model minority and face numerous obstacles as the community is overlooked and history is forgotten by mainstream America. The lack of scholarly literature on Lao Americans highlights not only the general misunderstanding of the community, but also the community’s struggles in social upward mobility in addition to low higher educational attainment levels. Therefore, the purpose of this research was to learn from the experiences of Lao American college graduates in order to support younger Lao Americans pursue their higher educational goals. This basic qualitative study provided participants the opportunity to interpret their experiences as Lao American college graduates and make sense out of their lives. Through one-on-one semi-structured interviews, participants reflected upon their educational journeys as Lao American students. Based upon the data analysis of the interview notes and transcripts, five major themes were identified. The first two themes highlight the Lao American students’ stories in K-12 and higher education respectively. Lao American Counternarratives provides an alternate understanding of the Asian and Lao American experience. Lao American Pathways to Degree Completion details the roadmap utilized by participants to complete their degrees. Finally, in Words of Wisdom, participants offer guidance to younger Lao Americans interested in pursuing higher education. Stemming from the findings and literature, there are four implications for action. First, Lao American Awareness, to differentiate between the experiences of Asian and Lao Americans. Secondly, the proliferation of Lao American Support Networks, to Lao American support students and family successfully pursue higher education. Thirdly, Economic Development, to provide Lao American students more equitable educational opportunities. Finally, Beyond the Model Minority Myth, to uplift all marginalized minority communities while highlighting the need to disaggregate data. By focusing on Lao Americans who have been able to successfully earn higher educational degrees, the researcher learned from their experiences to better support future Lao Americans pursue their academic and educational goals to uplift the entire Lao American community.





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