Graduating Class Speaker Bao Nhia Xiong will receive a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology and a double minor in Psychology and Chemistry. Nominated by Prof. Denise Bartell, director of Student Success and Engagement and associate professor of Human Development and Psychology, and by Mai Lo Lee, diversity director in Multi-ethnic Student Affairs (MESA), Xiong stands out among her peers for her work to make UW-Green Bay more inclusive and equitable for all students.
As the University’s student population evolves to reflect that of Northeast Wisconsin and the world, Xiong has worked throughout her college career at UW-Green Bay as a passionate advocate and leader in helping the University better serve its increasingly diverse community.
Xiong is the third oldest of 10 children of Hmong immigrant parents who came to the U.S. as refugees in 1995. She is the first member of her family to attend and graduate from a four-year college and is a role model to her younger brothers and sisters.
As president of the Women of Color student group, as well as in multiple leadership roles in other multicultural student groups, she is a leader on campus in working toward improving the cultural competence and equity in student outcomes. Xiong has also served as a research assistant in the UW-Green Bay College Success Project; been the program lead for a multicultural visit program with the MESA office; served as a community advisor and resident assistant for the Office of Residence Life and is a recipient this year of a University Leadership Award.
Xiong has volunteered repeatedly to assist faculty in creating awareness about diversity and inclusion. In addition to serving as a student facilitator in the Equity Gap Fellows program where she worked closely with faculty fellows to find ways to make their courses more equity-minded, she also served on several student panels at new faculty orientation and student recruitment events.
Although the Hmong culture values docility and obedience in women, Xiong has become an outspoken advocate for higher education for first-generation college students, realizing many of those students will become the agent of change in their communities, and inspire others in their community to pursue higher education.
Xiong says her ascension into a leadership role was not something she expected. “If you told me in high school that I would someday be a student of the week at a university, or be nominated for awards by 10 people from different disciplines, I would have laughed and walked away,” she wrote in her application for the Chancellor’s Leadership Medallion. “I have grown so much through my years here at UW-Green Bay. I went from a quiet girl to someone who stands up for what they believe in everywhere and anywhere. I have built up my ability to walk the talk, communicate effectively, manage and lead, as well as follow, with the help of the positions and the roles I have played on this campus. My overall experiences have made me a well-rounded individual who will only continue to lead and express herself.”
Xiong has also worked with other students to help them be successful at UW-Green Bay. A mentor for nearly 25 students in UW-Green Bay’s GPS Program, Xiong also helped students from the Jump Start Program find their place and find their voice as a student of color on the campus. Additionally, she helped them to get involved in campus organizations like Inclusive Excellence to help them create awareness of campus issues as well as to learn how to stand up to make change when change is needed.
After graduation, Xiong plans to earn a Master of Public Health degree, and ultimately either attend medical school or earn a Ph.D. in Health and Biological Sciences.