A first-generation Minneapolis resident has been selected as a fall semester Outstanding Student at Metropolitan State University. Yingfah Thao, who graduated with a master of science in technical communication, was chosen outstanding graduate student in the university's College of Liberal Arts. She was one of 1,368 students receiving bachelor's and master's degrees at Metropolitan State's 101st commencement exercise on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017 in Minneapolis.
About her accomplishment and the hard work it took to achieve it, Thao said, "My parents came to the United States as refugees of the Vietnam War in 1976. Like many Hmong families, they preached that 'education and hard work' was the only way out of poverty and that marriage and children can wait. As my parents have gotten older, a lot of my energy is dedicated towards managing their healthcare needs while finishing graduate school, working a full-time job and carving out my space in the world. I know I'm not alone. Many of my fellow graduate classmates are like me-balancing work, life and family expectations-and it's emotionally stressful."
Prior to joining Metropolitan State, Thao earned a bachelor of arts in international relations with a minor in ethnic studies from Mankato State University in 2005. Along with her master's degree, Thao also earned a certification in user experience design from Metropolitan State.
Thao, who has worked in non-profit organizations and higher education for the majority of her career, currently works as a communications and web manager. She said what she enjoys most about her work is helping create access and opportunity to higher education for everyone from the unique perspective of a user experience designer. "A lot of people in the design community are working on something that benefits the world and I want to be a part of that in any way that I can," she says. She also enjoys exploring Minneapolis on her bike, participating in local community engagement events and roller-skating.
Professor Tori Sadler from the School of Communication, Writing and Arts said, "What impresses me most about Yingfah is that she is an active, not passive, learner. That is, she doesn't just absorb new learning; she 'pokes' at the information, asks lots of questions and comes up with her own applications of the information. That, to me, is the hallmark of an excellent graduate student: she can take the new information and shape it into something meaningful for her, and then she shares it with others. Yingfah shares her learning with her colleagues at work and with professionals in her field as she improves processes, procedures and usefulness of the communications she creates and disseminates."