“I came from a disadvantaged community where many families lived below the poverty line,” says Master of Biological Sciences alum Kong Vang. “At a young age, I knew that to break the cycle of poverty, I needed to pursue higher education.”
He continues, “It was disheartening to see so much of my extended family living in impoverished conditions. Seeing how much they struggled day-to-day to make ends meet made me realize that higher education was the only way to securing a better job and life for me and my family.”
After earning his bachelor’s degree in 2013, Vang got a job as a chemist at Ecolab in their health care department developing new detergents for surgical equipment. But to fulfill his dream of becoming a pharmacist and helping his family, he needed to go back to school.
With a strong chemistry background and an interest in medicine, Vang thought the MBS program was an ideal fit. He liked the flexibility the program offered, with many courses held outside traditional work hours.
“The program allowed me to explore different fields within the biological sciences and to create a unique curriculum that was tailored specifically to my interests.”
Vang began his degree while still at Ecolab, often leaving his office to go to class, then returning afterward to complete his day.
In his second year, Vang decided to devote his time fully to his studies. “I had to resign from my position during the second year of my graduate program, because I wanted to graduate sooner and start pharmacy school in the following year.” Which he did.
“I want to be a clinical pharmacist who can help patients, conduct research, and be a lecturer.”
Vang was the first member of his family to obtain a graduate degree and, now, to pursue an advanced professional degree. “I will complete my PharmD (doctorate in pharmacy) in 2020 with the intention of applying for residency in an oncology department,” he says. “I want to be a clinical pharmacist who can help patients, conduct research, and be a lecturer.
“I also hope to give back to my community by creating a mentoring program for underrepresented students pursuing careers in STEM disciplines. As the late Senator Paul Wellstone once said, “ ‘We all do better when we all do better.’ ”
“My favorite class was Intro to Pharmacology. The class was very interesting because it gave me a glimpse into the different drugs used for varying disease states and how the mechanisms of those drugs worked.”
Advice for Future Students
“Always try! I know that I am not the brightest student in the classroom, but that never stopped me from going after the opportunity I want. So remember, it is better to have tried than to not have tried at all.”
Vang is a recipient of a College of Continuing and Professional Studies Graduate Tuition Scholarship.