American Doctor of Science Hmong. a candidate studying neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was denied a scholarship after it was determined she was not from a “underrepresented” group because she is an Asian American.
The myth of the “exemplary minority”: In a Twitter topic, doctoral student Kao Lee Yang said she was nominated for a prestigious Gilliam Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) scholarship, but the committee told her it did not meet her “racial / ethnic underrepresentation” criteria.
“We’re not a monolithic group,” she said. “While some Asian Americans are academically successful, others like Hmong are underrepresented in STEM and academia in general.”
Yang asked the scholarship committee and others in the scientific community to name American neuroscientist Hmong: “I’d like to connect with her if she’s out there.”
“I am an example of the consequences arising from the constant practice of bringing people together with the heritage of East / Southeast / South Asia under an‘ Asian-American ’umbrella,” she added.
Yang went on to explain how the myth of the “exemplary minority” harms Asians: “But studies that claim look at pooled data and treat Asian Americans as a monolithic group.”
Underrepresentation in science: Under his eligibility criteria, the HHMI defined “excluded groups as persons identifying themselves as Black or African American, Latin or Hispanic, Native American, Hawaiian Native, Alaska Native, and from indigenous groups in the Pacific Islands in the United States.”
However, it acknowledges that under-representation varies “from setting to setting”.
Yang highlighted a few ways in which scholarships like HHMI can work better. First, “Break down Asian-American data in studies.” Second, scholarships should broaden “perspectives on what it means to be an ethnic / racial minority underrepresented in science and how to support underrepresented students.”
#AcademicTwitter: Yang has received an outpouring of support from fellow scientists and academics since she first published her topic on October 27th.
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