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Louie Gong, an education resource coordinator at Muckleshoot Tribal College in Auburn, Wash., is wellversed on issues of multiculturalism and mixed-race heritage but he isn’t an expert and has no intentions of becoming one.

In fact, he’s the “anti-expert.” As an emerging voice for mixed-race populations, Gong refuses to make sweeping generalizations about a diverse group of people in the way an expert might.

“Th ere is no one mixed-race experience. You can’t generalize what it is like to be a mixed-race person across geographical regions or socioeconomic statuses,” he says.

Gong, who has Native American, Chinese, Scottish and French heritage, is trying to assist a new generation in comprehending what it means to be multiethnic in America, and he is using technology and the nonprofit organization he leads, called MAVIN, to do it.

Founded in 2000, MAVIN, which means “one who understands” in Yiddish, aims to raise awareness about the mixed-race experience. The organization sponsors a magazine, community events and an online resource library for people of mixed race.

The mixed-race experience is larger than the Black and White relationships that are most oft en explored, says Eric Hamako, a doctoral candidate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a MAVIN board member. “Louie is really raising the profile of the mixed native, bringing socioeconomic status into the conversation and making connections between community members and the academic world.” Th e 2000 U.S. census was the first to give Americans the option to check more than one box for race. Nearly 7 million people declared themselves multiracial that year, a number that’s expected to increase in the 2010 count.

While earning his master’s degree at Western Washington University, Gong discovered there were more than 57,000 people in the U.S. with Native American, Caucasian and Chinese background. But growing up, Gong oft en felt like the only one.

Raised primarily by his grandfather, a first-generation Chinese immigrant, and his grandmother, a Native American, in Canada and in Washington state in the Nooksack tribal community, Gong spent the bulk of his adolescence straddling cultural lines and contemplating his own racial identity.

“On a daily basis, I was forced to move back and forth between multiple worlds. I’d wake up in the morning and eat a piece of bannock, a traditional (Native American) fry bread. Aft er school, I ate Chinese food. My dad, a martial arts instructor, would pick me up and take me to Kung Fu class, then bring me back to the tribal community at night,” he says.

As a result, Gong underwent a tremendous amount of “probing” from people who didn’t understand his racial mix.

Probing , says Gong, are those classic questions: What are you? Where are you from? Where are your parents from?

“On their own, those questions sound pretty (innocuous).
But when you consider the cumulative effect of hearing those questions every day year aft er year, it can cause someone to internalize the idea and think that they are peculiar,” Gong says.

Last year, Gong posted a short video clip on YouTube challenging members of the mixed-race community to define on their own terms who and what they are. Th e clip received 16,000 views and 23 response videos of mixed-race people debunking
stereotypes and embracing all of their identities.

As a first-generation college graduate, Gong is committed to engaging Native American students in education. At Muckleshoot, Gong develops educational support programs for students, such as the writing center he recently helped develop with partner institutions Bates Technical College and Grays Harbor College.

“My grandma, despite her 12 years of schooling at a Catholic boarding school, had about a second-grade education,” says Gong, who has worked as a teacher, family therapist and counseling program coordinator.

“When we would go to the grocery store, she would sign the check and I would fill out the check for her. She did not have access to a real education. I want to give Native people access to real education.” — Michelle J. Nealy


Three Bryn Mawr College professors and their mechanical assistants last month visited Washington to advise members of Congress on the use of robotics in elementary and secondary education.

The Congressional Bipartisan Robotics Caucus invited Bryn Mawr to a briefing on robots and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education. As partners of the Institute for Personal Robotics in Education (IPRE), Bryn Mawr computer scientists have developed curricula and software being used at more than 300 schools. A grant from the Microsoft Corporation started IPRE, which the National Science Foundation now supports. Microsoft recognized Bryn Mawr’s computer science department for its role in developing “the nation’s leading educational robotics platform.”

At the briefing, Bryn Mawr computer science professors Douglas Blank, Deepak Kumar and Dianna Xu demonstrated “Scribblers,” wheeled personal robots used in an introductory computer science course, and a minihumanoid robot, which is used by advanced students.

UTTC Student Elected First Native American President of Teacher Organization

United Tribes Technical College freshman Rolenthea Begay became the first Native American elected to an office in the Student North Dakota Education Association (SNDEA) when she won the presidency in September, according to the school’s Web site.

Begay, of the Navajo Nation, is a teacher education major in the Bismarck, N.D.-based institution’s Sweet Grass Program — a bachelor’s degree curriculum offered at UTTC in cooperation with Sinte Gleska University in South Dakota. She ran unopposed and was elected by acclamation at the SNDEA fall orientation meeting in Carrington, N.D.
The SNDEA is an affiliate of the North Dakota Education Association, the state’s primary teacher membership organization, and the National Education Association. More than 500 students from the 10 North Dakota colleges that offer teacher training belong to SNDEA. UTTC is the lone tribal college with a chapter.

Begay, who also serves as president of the United Tribes Teacher Education Vocational Student Organization, begins her presidency in September 2010. In the interim, she will serve as an understudy to SNDEA President Alisha Webster, who attends Minot State University in Minot, N.D.

Texas Southern Students Send Experiment on Space Shuttle Atlantis

An experiment by college students that will study how microbes grow in microgravity headed to orbit aboard the space shuttle Atlantis last month, according to NASA’s Web site.

Undergraduate and graduate students at Texas Southern University developed the experiment that flew as part of the STS- 129 mission launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Selected as a 2008 University Research Center by NASA, Texas Southern established a Center for Bio-nanotechnology and Environmental Research.

Students at the center developed the Microbial-1 experiment to evaluate the morphological and molecular changes in E. coli and B. subtilis bacteria.

TSU’s NASA-funded center project is designed to enhance the research capabilities of minority-serving institutions and increase the production of underrepresented students majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

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