ST PAUL, Minn. — The class of 2021 is more than 530 students strong, the second largest class in Hamline's 163-year history.

Sitting on 54 acres in the state's capitol city, a pristine campus welcomes one of the most diverse classes in Hamline University's history. 

Mai Nhia Xiong-Chan, the Vice President of Enrollment Management at Hamline, knows this year’s enrollment stats like the back of her hand.

“Our students come from 25 different states and seven countries. And 45-percent of students self-identify as students of color or indigenous students,” she said. 

A big piece of the admissions application includes an essay. Many of the students wrote about tackling challenges.  That's where Xiong-Chan saw herself in some of the student stories.

She said 47-percent of the 530 students are first generation.

“My parents emigrated to the United States in 1978 as refuges. They were sponsored by a church in Illinois and eventually moved to a church in Wisconsin,” she said.  “Neither of my parents went to college. My mom still reads at a fourth-grade level.”

Xiong-Chan was one of nine children and her parents barely spoke English.

“It wasn't easy. The idea of going to college back then really didn't seem possible, especially because young Hmong women were getting married to start their life as young as 17 or younger,” she said. “It was a particular thing to have my parents push, especially us girls, so hard. They said, 'You don’t have to get married. If you want to go to college, you can go. We might not be able to pay for it, but we can love and support you.' The love and support was there.” 

Indeed, her parents opened doors for her and now she is doing her part to help open the door for others from diverse communities around the state and country.

“That was enough for me at that time to push through the challenges I faced being a low-income student of color,” she said. “One of the things that is really practiced here at Hamline in our culture is not being a gate keeper, but being someone who opens the gates.”

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