As a child of Vietnam War refugees, Dr. Soua Xiong always wanted to make his parents proud.
To do so, he sought the route of higher education in hopes of being able to financially support his family.
“[Attending college meant] that all of their sacrifices to get us here were not just for nothing,” says Xiong, assistant professor in the student affairs and college counseling program at California State University, Fresno.
Being a first-generation college student, he relied on TRIO and other federally funded programs to finish his degree.
Therefore, upon graduation, Xiong became an outreach recruiter for the College Assistance Migrant Program at Fresno State. He aimed to “pay it forward” by remaining involved in the assistance programs that had previously benefited him.
Xiong went on to serve in various academic advising and counseling positions for TRIO programs, where he worked with both high school and community college students intending to further their education.
“It has been very gratifying to see and be able to support students along their academic journey,” he says.
After 10 years in student affairs, Xiong shifted his focus to research while completing a master’s degree at Fresno State and doctorate at Claremont Graduate University joint with San Diego State University.
His ongoing research has focused on student success, engagement of male students of color and support services for underserved students and community colleges.
“My research helps to reframe and better understand the conditions that are needed in order for students to utilize the services that we claim that we have on campus,” says Xiong. “If students are not aware of it, how do we as an institution or as practitioners focus on access to information and so forth?”
Remaining close to his alma mater Fresno State, Xiong became an assistant professor in 2018. A year later, he was also named coordinator of the university’s Student Affairs and College Counseling Program.
“I love the opportunity to work directly with our students to create the change that we collectively would like to see in the program,” says Xiong.
Dr. J. Luke Wood, associate vice president for faculty diversity and inclusion and distinguished professor of education at San Diego State University, described Xiong as one of the most “hardworking, driven and passionate” people he has ever met.
“His level of impact at such an early stage in his career is really not comparable to most others in the field …,” he adds. “To see him go off to Fresno State and get a tenure-track position. And continue to do the work, even though he has an incredibly high responsibility load in terms of teaching and administrative work. Very proud of him. Very proud of the work he has done.”
Throughout his career, Xiong has participated in several fellowship programs and was the past-president of the California College Personnel Association, the California chapter of ACPA-College Student Educators International.
He has also received a number of accolades including the Hsiao-Min Wang Award at Claremont Graduate University and the Outstanding Dedication to Professional Service Award from the American College Personnel Association Coalition for Graduate Students and New Professionals.
As a Hmong faculty member, Xiong hopes to be a “role model” and “inspiration” for other underrepresented individuals or students aspiring to work at a college or university.
“Oftentimes, we do not see, especially in the academy, faculty who may look like us or share similar backgrounds to us,” he says. “But there are some that are continuing to pave the way and that it is possible, even though it might seem like a long career trajectory and pathway to get to it.”
Dr. Soua Xiong
Education: Assistant Professor, Student Affairs and College Counseling Program, California State University, Fresno.
Education: B.A., psychology, California State University, Fresno; M.S., counseling, California State University, Fresno; Ph.D., education, Claremont Graduate University joint with San Diego State University.
Career mentors: Dr. J. Luke Wood, San Diego State University; Dr. Song E. Lee, California State University, Fresno; Dr. Sarah K. Y. Lam, California State University, Fresno.
Words of wisdom/advice for new faculty members: “Be you. Be yourself and don’t lose yourself in academia. Do you. Do work that matters to you.”
This article originally appeared in the January 21, 2021 edition of Diverse and is one in a series of profiles about this year’s 2021 Emerging Scholars. Read about all of them here.