“I arrived in the United States in 2005 as a refugee from Thailand. My parents do not speak English, and I’ve always went with my parents to their appointments to help translate. Being exposed to the medical field and seeing how nurses and doctors treated my parents with compassion and empathy helped me to decide to be a nurse,” said Mai Soua Her (UWM BS ’18).
As a first-generation student, Mai decided to come to UW-Milwaukee as her family had just moved to Wisconsin. She wanted to get an excellent education but have affordable tuition, and UWM was only a 20-minute drive from home. She was brand-new to Milwaukee and didn’t know anyone. After she received a welcome letter from the UWM Southeast Asian American Student Center, she met Dao Vang, Center Lead/Senior Advisor for the UWM Southeast Asian American Center.
Dao Vang, coordinator of the UWM Southeast Asian Student Center since 1998, retired from the position in February 2021, helped Mai through everything from walking her to the UWM Financial Aid Office to scheduling classes. Mai continued to work with Vang through her years at UWM and continues to stay in touch after graduating with her BS in Nursing. Mai stated, “Dao has been so helpful, not just to Hmong students, but everyone. He really is a father figure for me. He was the best person I met at UW-Milwaukee!”
Upon graduation, Mai worked as a medical-surgical nurse for 18 months and currently works at Aurora West Allis Medical Center in the Intensive Care Unit. She is currently enrolled in the BS to DNP program at UWM. Through her position at Aurora West Allis, she received the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses. The nomination letter explained her commitment to patients and their families, stating, “She made sure I knew that all the nurses took good care of my mother … and that every patient deserves equal and quality treatments.” Other comments were, “She provided useful rationale. She’s one smart and hardworking nurse. I am the most thankful for her because she passed the message well. I’m sure my mother is in good hands…Mai is one perfect example of how a nurse should be. She’s passionate, professional, and caring.”
About the UWM Southeast Asian Student Center
The UWM Southeast Asian Student Center is located in Bolton Hall 160 and serves over 800 students each year. The majority of students working with the center are first-generation college students, not always knowing what they need to do to succeed through graduation. Multicultural centers at UWM serve a critical need to help students overcome the challenges they may encounter, such as financial aid, navigating campus, and helping with academic/personal problems. The centers’ goal is to help students graduate, achieve academic success, and meet career aspirations.