Mao S. Lee

English learner (EL) students are often viewed as having a learning disability. Equating multilingualism with cognitive impairment costs EL students opportunities to advance academically as they are excluded from rigorous, college prep classes. Hence, their future is determined by their curriculum. Additionally, EL students who are refugee adolescents come from unique backgrounds, and both secondary and higher education are unprepared to serve them. Yet, it is critical that refugee adolescents are prepared for and succeed in college, because their educational success can be the change agent that transforms their family’s welfare within a single generation. Hence, Mao is interested in studying the relationship between educational attainment and the general health and well-being of refugees. She wants to advocate for a social justice education where EL students have access to curricula that best prepare them for their future after secondary school, whether that be work or higher education.

Mao Lee, a child of a Hmong couple who survived the secret war, resettled in the U.S. as a refugee from Wat Tham Krabok, Thailand. Her commitment to study and advocate for marginalized students is influenced by her personal background. As an Indigenous researcher, she is uniquely positioned to address issues facing refugee communities and students.


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