Inside Iowa State
April 30, 1999
Yang fights through adversity to graduate with his peers
Hixson Scholar Bruce Yang's journey to graduation ceremonies on May 8 began in the late 1970s when his family fled war- torn Laos.
Yang's mother and brother were killed during the escape and his father seriously injured. With the help of church sponsorship, Yang's family made it to the United States and eventually settled in Pella.
Yang, who will marry this spring, will leave Iowa State with a degree in graphic design and a better understanding of himself.
"I've learned who I am. Before I came to Iowa State, I was confused about my background -- my roots," he said. "I've been told many times by people about my culture and that I shouldn't forget where I came from.
"The diversity at Iowa State, despite what some would say, has exposed me to different cultures," he added. "It has made me realize that I am more than an Asian man or an American. I can never really fit into either of those worlds. I am, however, an Asian American. I have the best of two cultures and I now understand my place in this world."
Yang's greatest trial at Iowa State came not from the classroom but from personal tragedy -- the death of his father.
"I felt like my whole world had collapsed," he said. "After my father's death, I was pressured to quit college and work so that I could help my family. However, I know that my father would not have approved of that idea. It was through his teachings and the support of my family that I stayed in school. I know that with a higher education, I can better help my family."
And when he receives that diploma, Yang said, he will be thinking, "Thanks, Dad."
The numbers on the Hixsons
In the fall of 1995, 100 students enrolled at Iowa State as the first "Hixsons." Today, that number stands at 341 -- the total number of students pursuing a college degree at Iowa State because of Hixson scholarships.
Other numbers illustrate the success of this one-of-a-kind scholarship program:
- Retention rates for each class are above the university and national averages: 74 percent for the 1995 class (3- year); 85 percent for the 1996 class (2-year); 98 percent for the 1997 class (1-year).
- Cumulative GPAs for each class are above the university averages: 2.94 for the 1995 class; 2.78 for the 1996 class; 2.70 for the 1997 class; and 2.48 for the 1998 class.
- A four-year graduation rate of 30 percent for the first Hixson class, which outpaces the ISU average of 21.3 percent.
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