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McNair Scholar 2010Ker Thao

Ker Thao is a senior at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, majoring in family social science with minors in both family violence prevention and applied psychology in educational and community settings. She has five years of experience working in community settings that support minority populations’ positive educational outcomes. Her research interests are in educational disparities and social and cultural issues pertaining to the Hmong population. Ms. Thao plans to pursue a graduate degree in school counseling and get her license in K–12 school counseling.

Ker Thao photo
My dream is to be the first in my family to receive a post graduate degree and be a role model for youth from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Research project

Parental School Choice in the Hmong Community

Abstract: In this study, we use the lens of rational choice theory to explore Hmong mothers’ decision-making processes for choosing a kindergarten. Through individual interviews and a short survey with five mothers, we probe the factors and resources they used to make this decision. Themes that emerge from these data — including primary factors for choosing one school over another and the resources used to make school choice – illuminate the importance of educational opportunity in the Hmong community and highlight opportunities for schools to improve parent engagement before the kindergarten year. Comparisons between our population and non-Hmong parent populations are discussed. Our study contributes to the growing body of research on early childhood education and school-parent engagement within the Hmong population. Download poster. [PDF]

Faculty profile

Dr. Karen Cadigan is the policy director at the University of Minnesota’s Children, Youth and Family Consortium (CYFC). Cadigan is also research fellow at the Center for Early Education and Development (CEED) where she leads the development of Wonder Years: Understanding the Science of Early Development, a National Science Foundation-funded collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota. The exhibit opens in February 2011. Cadigan’s research interests include early language and literacy development, early childhood assessment, and examination of how the public and public leaders access and apply social science. This is Karen’s first year as a McNair mentor.