A history-making alumna shared some sage advice as Lakeland formally celebrated the start of the academic year with its annual Opening Convocation on Thursday.
A packed Bradley Theatre heard from Judge Kashoua Kristy Yang, a circuit court judge in Milwaukee County who received her bachelor's degree in computer science from Lakeland in 2003.
She was elected to a six-year term on bench on April 4, 2017, becoming the first Asian American judge to be elected in Wisconsin without appointment, and the first elected judge of Hmong ethnicity (without appointment) in the United States.
Born in a refugee camp in Thailand and one of 11 children who immigrated to the United States as a child with her family, Yang said she's lived her life by intentions rather than expectations, and was blessed to have parents who realized they needed to allow their children to push boundaries to achieve their dreams.
She encouraged students to understand and respond to the needs of those around them, and think about the intentions of their actions as a way to deliver meaningful outcomes.
"All of you are here because you have the capacity to fulfill your dreams," Yang said. "You are exactly where you are supposed to be."
Yang, also a graduate of Sheboygan South High School and Lakeshore Technical College, recalled her time at Lakeland fondly. She especially recalled a religion class that required students to keep a journal which was graded.
"That was really was eye opening because it caused me to stop and think about the material he was teaching and apply it to my own life," Yang said. "It had a bigger impact on me than I thought at that time."
Prior to ascending to the bench, Yang was a private practice attorney representing individuals in family law, worker's compensation and social security disability matters. Yang has spent significant time on various pro bono and community efforts, such as the volunteer legal clinic and the Legal Options for Trafficked and Underserved Survivors.
Lakeland President David Black delivered to students the traditional annual charge – take care of yourself, take care of each other and take care of this place.
"Lakeland is a community, a collective, in which a group of individuals put self aside and make room for vulnerable individuals," Black said. "We each own a piece of this place. Take care of it; it's sacred."