Minnesota State University, Mankato
Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Anticipated Graduation: 2021
Degree/Major: Social Work
As a first-generation college student, Bla Yang felt alone facing those first challenges at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Her parents, who are originally from Laos, didn’t know how to support her as she choose a career, faced academic challenges and tried to find confidence as a woman of color in rural Minnesota. She briefly considered leaving school.
“What made me stay was the experience I had with other students here, because the diversity was very inviting,” Yang said. “Being a student of color at a diverse school, it helped me fit in and feel supported and that I mattered.”
That experience led Yang to pursue a career in social work, with special interests in the foster care system and child protection.
Her passion for inclusion and community service led to Yang’s appointment to the Young Women’s Cabinet, a state taskforce dealing with young women’s issues.
“I was so excited to be accepted,” she said. “With a career in social work, it’s important to understand policies and politics and to learn to be a good advocate.”
Yang is one of 32 diverse women from across Minnesota who will focus on improving gender equity. “It’s very empowering,” she said. “I see a lot of other women who are so different from me, and we, as a whole, reflect the larger community.”