The Alumni Association Award’s purpose is to reward individuals of the MPA alumni community who have embodied the MPA mission to “Dream Big. Do Right.” A nominated alum vetted by the current year’s Alumni Association Board, who has taken an initiative or has promise to take steps to impact the community and the world. This year’s award goes to Pakou Hang from the class of 1995.

Pakou Hang was born in the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp in northern Thailand and immigrated to the United States when she was 15 days old. She is a member of the Hmong American community in the Twin Cities and has dedicated her adult life to lifting up disenfranchised and marginalized communities. Pakou is especially passionate about equitable access to food and forging a robust and reflective democracy.

Previously, she served as the Chief Program Officer for Vote Run Lead, a national nonprofit she co-founded that trains women to run for public office and win. Pakou also co-founded and served as the inaugural Executive Director for the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA), a nonprofit based in Saint Paul that builds the capacity and intergenerational wealth of Hmong American farmers. Under the guidance of civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman, Pakou also served as the Deputy Vice President for the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington, D.C., where she was responsible for developing and implementing strategies and tactics to build a national grassroots movement for children. She was also mentored by Minnesota based civil rights activists and authors, Harry Boyte, Nan Skelton and Nan Kari, and active in a project they co-founded called the Jane Addams School for Democracy and its efforts to engage immigrants in local and state issues important to them. After college, Pakou spent two years in Boston as a financial analyst with KLD Research and Analytics, a firm advising socially responsible investments.

Pakou received her Master’s in Political Science from the University of Minnesota where she specialized in Political Psychology and she completed her B.A. in Political Science from Yale University where she concentrated her studies in Revolutions in Latin America. Pakou has served on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Citizen’s Board, the Minneapolis Food Council, and the Saint Paul Farmers Market Board of Directors. She is also a recipient of the Hubert H. Humphrey Public Leadership Award, the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, the Bush Leadership Fellowship, and the Marshall Memorial Fellowship, which strives to bolster trans-Atlantic relations.

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