Montagnard / Asian Community Disparities Research Network


10:00 –10:55 AM Welcome

11:00 –12:00 PM Demystifying Asian Community Research

12:00 – 1:00 PM Q+A: Community advisory councils and higher ed collaboration

1:00 – 2:00 PM Community-Engaged Pipeline: Academia as Empowering Agent

2:00 – 3:00 PM Social Justice Foundations: Projects in Development

3:00 – 4:00 PM The Virtual Coffee Hour: Future Projects, Directions and Themes

Thursday, Jun 3, 2021              10 AM – 4 PM

A zoom event





The Montagnard / Southeast Asian Community Disparities Network will present research, works in progress, and discussions about new directions.


About this event

Our first ever symposium takes place during a time of Covid and national crisis but despite varying signs of progress, we are well aware that Montagnard and other systemically under-resourced refugee and immigrant communities remain vulnerable. Death and suffering has marked the past year, capped with acts of anti-Asian hate and violence. In such a climate we are compelled to respond in a manner true to our original purpose. In this symposium we have asked our presenters to give brief overviews of work that reflects hundreds of hours. At each session their presentations are followed by comments and observations by invited discussants. We hope contributors and audience members will be left wanting more time and more space to meaningfully converse and exchange ideas after the symposium is over, because despite the limitations of zoom and Covid, we want our contributors to hear from you. As Aristotle said, the goal of contemplation is action.

The Montagnard / Southeast Asian Community Disparities Research Network operates under the direction of the Community Advisory Council, part of the Montagnard Dega Association and its youth branch, the Montagnard American Organization. Formerly known as the Montagnard Health Disparities Research Network housed at the Center for New North Carolinians at University of North Carolina Greensboro, we are members of the Montagnard and other Asian communities, community activists and academics working together towards community empowerment and social justice.


Who should attend?

Come to the 10 AM Welcome if you have never heard of us. 

Listen at 11 if you want to understand the state of our network’s research.

Talk at 12 to understand how the network transitioned from programs to relationships to systemic change.

Check in at 1 to hear how Asian refugee/ immigrant youth navigated service learning and community research.

Find us at 2 to learn how our network drives systemic change.

Join us at 3 for a let-our-hair-down casual back-and-forth about problems, projects and upcoming activities.



10:00 – 10:15  0 CHECK IN

Please use zoom Chat to check in, test your connection, and catch up with friends. On the screen we’ll list a few updates about what you can expect for the rest of the day. In the Chat section we have also posted today’s full schedule and details and bios.

Host: Andrew Young 

10:15 – 10:55  0 WELCOME

We’re live! We’re recording all sessions unless otherwise noted.  

Hosts: Sharon Morrison, Phun Bujri 

Dev Bhandari Greetings from the Bhutanese community

Liana Adrong We Need a Health Clinic: How research can strengthen our cause

Close: Andrew Young


10:55 – 11:00  0 5-MINUTE BREAK


We’ll listen to three research briefs by network presenters followed by remarks and comments by a panel of discussants. Please feel free to use Chat to provide your own observations. Because of Covid, our main purpose in this session and others is to give scholars a forum for presentation and to give our audience a sample of the kinds of community/academic endeavors the network has promoted for nine years. Contact information for all contributors can be found at the end of this schedule (see below).

Host/Intro: Sudha Shreeniwas  


Catherine Bush The Ethnobotany of the Montagnard Immigrant Community 

Melina Ksor, H’Thu Nie Oral History of Older Montagnard Refugees: Navigating U.S Health & Social System

John McGinley Mental Health and Access to Care in the Montagnard Community 

 Discussants: Michele Malotky, Sandra Echeverria

 Close: Sharon Morrison


Bring your lunch and join us for this informal talk about how our network and its community advisory council (CAC) operates to ensure scholarly excellence, solidarity with community and socially just and equitable research partnerships. We will also hear from the academic/higher ed discussants about approaches and strategies that are directly aligned with and/or are adjustable to fit these same goals and principles. This is a nuts and bolts session about a topic our network has been working on for ten years.

Hosts: Sharon Morrison, Xuem Siu, Siera Nie, Liana Adrong and Ha Tong

Discussants: Kathleen Edwards, Melissa Beck 

Close: Sudha Shreeniwas


12:55 – 1:00  0 5-MINUTE BREAK


Central to our network has been the mentorship of Asian refugee and immigrant youth through a deliberate approach to service learning and research directed towards the empowerment of their communities. Based on our experiences, we advocate for developmental programs, service learning/community engagement and community-based research projects which mutually sustain one another and extend for months and years according to community time and priorities, not academic calendars. 

Host/Intro: Andrew Young 

In the Pipeline: Hsar Ree Ree Wei, Risuin Ksor, Tee Reh, Jenny Lee 

Discussants: James Shields, Bevelyn Ukah, H’ Rina DeTroy

Close: Andrew Young 



These are hard projects that reflect hard realities when they are put into motion. By almost every measure, community engaged outreach, whether in the form of service work, course or research, is extremely difficult and demanding, especially when compared to easier alternatives. 

Host/Intro: Sharon Morrison 


Ben James, Intention, Impact and Intimidation: How whiteness impacts community service

Zhihong Chen, Andrew Young, Bridging Asian community experiences with historical studies: A pedagogical exploration

Kunga Denzongpa Bhutanese refugee women's maternal care process in the U.S.

Discussants: Jeremy Rinker, Mark Justad, Maura Nsonwu

Close: Andrew Young


 3:00 – 4:00    0 VIRTUAL COFFEE HOUR: Future Projects, Directions and Themes

Where do the best conversations take place during conferences and symposia? Why, in the hallways between sessions, at the end of the day at the hotel bar or coffee shop, or even in the elevator. Here, with all the limitations of zoom, we hope to create a similar creative space.

What did we miss? What else should we include?

Burning questions from our guests, presenters and discussants?

How else can Asian refugee and immigrant youth pipelines to higher ed be improved? What

opportunities are higher ed institutions missing?

And so on. Our end of day debrief and decompression.

  Host: Andrew Young

Close: Sharon Morrison






Sharon Morrison, UNCG  Professor of Public Health Education, recently  received new funding from the Black Child Development Institute of Greensboro, Inc., for the project “Covid-19 Community Health Outreach and Education.” BCDI-G has been working in collaboration with Dr. Morrison whose community-based participatory action research for decades has focused on minority and immigrant/refugee health disparities. Through this collaboration, both groups will provide small community health engagement sessions and outreach that are geared specifically towards minority families served through the BCDI-G programs, as well as the families from the immigrant and refugee population served through the UNCG Department of Public Health Education community engagement program. sdmorri2@uncg.edu


Sudha Shreeniwas, UNCG Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, examines how familial and societal contexts influence health and well being over the life course. She uses an interdisciplinary approach based on community engaged participatory action research methodology. One such example is ARTmail for Alzheimer’s is a partnership project between The Creative Aging Network (CANNC) and the Department of Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS). The ARTmail project, implemented and evaluated by Lia Miller and Dr. Shreeniwas, is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts Research. s_shreen@uncg.edu


Andrew Young acts as a trusted adviser, mediator, organizer and negotiator between underserved communities and entities like higher education, nonprofits and local government. He helps each navigate the other’s world and implement joint projects and programs that can involve health, youth development, cultural training, community organization, community-based research, and formal partnerships. With Drs Morrison and Shreeniwas, he is one of the founders of the network. youngandrewjesse@gmail.com




Catherine Bush is a Lecturer in the Biology Department at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). Although trained as a plant molecular phylogeneticist working on the world-wide evolutionary relationships of the "wintergreen group" of plants, she now engages in community-based participatory research (CBPR) with Montagnard community members originally from the Central Highlands of Vietnam that settled in Greensboro, NC beginning in the mid-1980's. Her projects with the Montagnard community include ethnobotany, oral histories, toxicology of plants, and mental health. cmbush@uncg.edu


Melina Ksor is a first generation and multi-tribal indigenous (Bunong, Jarai, Bahnar) person from the Montagnard community. She is studying her Masters of Population Health Sciences at Duke University Graduate School for the Fall of 2021 and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a B.S in Public Health Education with a concentration in Community Health. She is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) and has focused her research and outreach primarily towards the geriatric population within her community--which has been presented at the 2021 Southern Gerontology Annual Symposium, the 2020 NCA&T Health Disparities Symposium, and the 14th Annual Thomas Undergraduate Research and Creativity Expo at UNCG. melina.ksor@duke.edu


H’Thu Nie is the Civic Engagement Coordinator at Montagnard Dega Association (MDA) and a recent graduate of UNC-Greensboro who majored in Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in Child, Youth and Family Development. She came from an immigrant background, and her ethnicity can be identified as Montagnard,  the indigenous people of Central Highland in Vietnam. hthu@mda-greensboro.org


Dev Bhandari is currently pursuing a Masters in Business Administration at UNCG while employed at Wells Fargo. During the height of the pandemic he was instrumental in contacting partners, mobilizing community volunteers, delivering supplies to isolated families and informing, educating and advocating for his Bhutanese community in the area. devb162@gmail.com


H’Yua (Liana) Adrong is the Administrative Coordinator at Montagnard Dega Association (MDA), one of the oldest refuge community-based organizations in the Triad. She is also the founder of the Montagnard American Organization, now the youth branch of MDA. She recently completed her degree in Masters of Social Work at UNCG. Among her many achievements have been the organization of a showcase event for the Smithsonian’s National Folk Festival held in Greensboro featuring the Montagnard community, partnerships with area academic institutions which resulted in our research network moving to MDA, receipt of the 2019 Community Outreach and Impacts Award given by the International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement, and numerous events, activities and projects in collaboration with local and state entities as well as MDA spearheaded efforts to protect the Montagnard and other refugee communities from COVID-19. liana@mda-greensboro.org


Jenny Lee is working with the Homebound Vaccination Program at Mecklenburg County Public Health to help ensure equitable and effective access to the COVID-19 vaccine, especially for those who have health disparities. Being a first-gen daughter to immigrants, she believes in fighting for health equity for our underserved communities by helping community members navigate our complex healthcare systems. She plans on pursuing her Masters of Public Health at Michigan State University this fall with a focus on Global and Cultural Health to continue to help communities access the healthcare resources they need to improve their health and well-being. jennyblee96@gmail.com


John McGinley is a recent public health graduate of Elon University who will pursue a Master of Public Health degree in epidemiology and biostatistics at University of California, Berkeley. My research interests include global health, infectious diseases, access to care, and community-based research. jmcginley2@elon.edu


Hsar Ree Ree Wei is the Business Development Coordinator at Transplanting Traditions. Ree Ree was born in a refugee camp in Thailand and is a 2021 graduate from Guilford College. Ree Ree was a Bonner Scholar and Community and Justice Studies Major with a minor in Forced Migration and Resettlement Studies. She has been involved with TTCF since 2012, starting off as a youth intern, then becoming the Youth Program Coordinator after graduating from high school, and now serving as TTCF's Business Development Coordinator. Ree Ree says she tried to escape working with her parents (farmers Zar Ree and Lion Wei) at the farm by going to college in Greensboro, but here she is, back at home at TTCF. She is passionate about immigration justice, cultural food access, uplifting community voice, and community service. In her free time, Ree Ree takes naps, binge watches Hulu and Netflix, browses online shops, and makes art. hrwei@transplantingtraditions.org


Risuin Ksor was born in Vietnam and raised in Cambodia and America. He was a Bonner Scholar who graduated from Guilford College with a degree in Community and Justice Policy. Currently he is a contracted interpreter and rental property landlord. 


Tee Reh recently obtained his Masters degree in Public Health from Tufts University with a specialization in  epidemiology and biostatistics. When he was two years old he became a refugee due to the intensified conflict between the Burmese army and Karenni (Kayah) people, an ethnic minority in Burma (Myanmar)  as villages were burned down and lives endangered. Many were displaced, including his family. teerehklaw@gmail.com


Ben James is an Economics major and rising senior at Guilford College. He is an award recipient of the four-year Bonner Scholarship based on a candidate’s track record of community engagement and service. jamesbg@guilford.edu


Zhihong Chen is an associate professor of history at Guilford College. She recently gave an invited lecture on “Muslims in China: History, Indigenization, and Challenges” for the World Muslim Communities Council (an NGO headquartered in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates). Zhihong reviewed the history of the Muslim minority in the Chinese context and discussed the current challenges they face. She is a recipient of Guilford College’s 2020 Bruce B. Stewart ’61 Teaching Award. chenz@guilford.edu


Kunga Denzongpa is a PhD candidate in Public Health Education at UNCG specializing in maternal care, health and wellness in local refugee communities such as the Bhutanese. She was an international student from Sikkim, India, while attending Guilford College as a Bonner Scholar where she received her undergraduate degree in Biology. kldenzon@uncg.edu


Siera Nie graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a Bachelor of Social Work and is now pursuing a Master of Social Work part-time degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She speaks Rhade and English. Outside of work, I am a full-time mother to an intelligent and beautiful 10-year old girl, Aveana Nie. I enjoy cooking Southeast Asian foods, especially ones from the homeland, and outdoor adventures like hiking, canoeing and nature walks. snie92@gmail.com


Xuem Siu is a graduate of the undergraduate and masters programs in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG). He was one of the leaders of the Montagnard Population Count Project and was instrumental in working alongside peers, faculty and advocates to launch the first meeting of the Montagnard/Southeast Asian Community Disparities Research Network. He is the first Montagnard to have a presentation accepted for the Asian American Studies Association. He is a father, husband and believes in helping his people progress towards holistic health despite systemic barriers. He will pursue graduate training in the MPH program at UNCG in the coming Fall semester. x_siu@uncg.edu


Ha Tong community liaison at MDA and a trained interpreter and translator. She has been working on various projects and events to advocate and improve community health for Montagnards and refugee and immigrant communities, especially on COVID-related issues. I have more than 10 years of experience working with the Montagnard community on family relations and child development at churches in the states and overseas. halaylatong@gmail.com




Michele Malotky Guilford College Associate Professor of Biology Michele Malotky is a co-principal investigator on a multi-institutional project entitled, “Collaborative Research: Developing Service-Learning Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences to Increase Student Interest in Research by Targeting Communal Goals.” mmalotky@guilford.edu


Sandra Echeverria is an Associate Professor of Public Health EDucation at UNCG. She is a 1st generation college graduate, with her and her parents being immigrants from Ecuador. She is a trained social epidemiologist working to understand the complex processes by which socioeconomic determinants impact Latinx communities, and how the built environment influences health behaviors. She is an activist at heart, having organized and participated in community, cultural and political events. She enjoys the mentoring and helping to light the way for college "1st geners" like herself.


James Shields is the former director of the Guilford College Bonner Center for Service Learning and Community Service and a pioneer in social justice and anti-racism. Under his guidance the Bonner Center’s programs and scholarships became an important pipeline for systemically underserved and marginalized youth to enter and succeed in higher education. He awarded five local Montagnard students with Bonner Scholarships and through his center provided academics’ connections to numerous Asian and other refugee and immigrant communities. jamesshieldsjr13@gmail.com


Bevelyn Afor Ukah works as a consultant to train youth and adults in building skills that encourage equity, organizational efficiency, cultural connection, and collaboration. She has traveled around the world and has lived in three countries. She is a self-taught artist, developing her practice as a form of inner resilience, hoping that her work inspires others to build their own self and community-love practices.  She is a part of the Black Women’s Art Collective of Public Art Practice. Bevelyn is the founding consultant of ​AFI Oak Consulting​, co-founding consultant of the Auralite Collective and the co-founder of Mekafi​, a social enterprise that supports Black farmers through moringa oleifera. https://www.afioak.com/about


H’ Rina DeTroy was selected for the Cafe Royal Cultural Foundation Winter 2020 Grant in Literature, and the 2019 Emerging Writer Fellowship at Aspen Word in Memoir. Roxane Gay selected her essay entitled The Vengeance of Elephants for the 2017 Curt Johnson Prose in Creative Nonfiction by the literary journal, December Magazine. Her personal essay, Knot, was published in the anthology Borderlands and Crossroads: Writing the Motherland by feminist publisher Demeter Press. hjdetroy@gmail.com


Mark Justad is the Director of the Center for Principled Problem Solving and Excellence in Teaching (CPPSET) which supports initiatives that apply the knowledge and skills gained through hands-on education and innovative research to solving real-world problems through the lens of Guilford’s Core Values. Professor of Religious Studies Mark Justad shares his 20 years of experience studying and teaching male social identities, interdependence, and selfhood in his course on Men, Masculinity, and Religion. Mark started offering the course at Guilford in 2014, examining basic questions regarding the drive for gender equality, the nature and history of gender, religious thought on gender, and the influence that accepted ways of being and behaving male or masculine have shaped aspects of religious thought. justadmj@guilford.edu


Maura Nsonwu is a Professor of Social Work at North Carolina State University, with 30 years of

practice as a clinician, educator, and researcher.  She has recently co-authored the textbook “Human Trafficking: Applying Research, Theory and Case” released in 2018. She has partnered closely with resettlement agencies as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and is the current president of the Association for Immigration and Refugee Service Professionals (ARSP), a national organization to support professionals who work in immigration and refugee-related fields and those they serve. Maura specializes in qualitative research often conducting community-based participatory research (CBPR) with refugee and immigrant communities. mbnsonwu@ncsu.edu


Kathleen Edwards is the Associate Director of the Institute for Community and 

Economic Engagement (ICEE). Kathleen’s focus is on “reciprocal relationship-building with individuals, informal organizations, and grassroots groups, working mostly with low-income communities of color and making connections to initiatives at UNCG. keedwar2@uncg.edu


Melissa Beck is the Associate Director of the Office of Research Integrityat UNCG. In her role, she

helps to clarify research integrity policies and procedures that promote honesty, accountability, professional courtesy, fairness and good stewardship in research. Her office provides educational resources and training in the protection of rights and privileges of individuals and communities involved as participants in research and other creative endeavors. mdbeck@uncg.edu


Jeremy Rinker is an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina Greensboro’s Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, where he is currently engaged in research that explores the intersections between peacebuilding, collective trauma, and systems of oppression. Jeremy graduated with a Ph.D. from George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution in 2009. His Masters is in Asian Religion from the University of Hawaii (2001). His Bachelor’s degree is from the University of Pittsburgh in Philosophy and Political Science (dual major, 1995). Jeremy’s research and writings have long focused on South Asian communities, untouchability, human rights, and narrative meaning making in social justice movements. His past work emphasizes the skills and practices of nonviolent conflict transformation in decision making, justice advocacy, and identity formation. jarinker@uncg.edu