Soulinhakath Steve Arounsack came to the United States when he was only three years old along with his parents and three siblings. The family settled down in Maui, Hawaii, and lived there for six years before moving to the Central Valley area of California where they have lived for the past twenty one years. Steve talked to VOA about how difficult it was to grow up in a different land. With his parents speaking only a little English, the family had to endure a lot of hardship in order to survive, improve their living conditions, and finally reach the “American Dream.”
Steve has been a recipient of the Gates Millennium Scholarship for the past five years. He said when the scholarship started in 2001, there were about 64,000 applicants that applied for the Gates Millennium in that year. Steve was the first Laotian American who received the Gates Millennium Scholarship for higher education in pursuing his Ph. D. major in Ecology (Environmental Sciences) at University of California at Davis. He expects to receive his doctorate degree later this month(Feb.). Steve told VOA that, besides having a grade point average of 3.4 or higher, applicants must also have played some sort of a leadership role and been involved in community services.
While going to school fulltime, Steve also works as a professor, teaching Biology and Anthropology at Stanislaus, a California state university, where he earned his B.S. and Masters degrees. Steve’s volunteer works
and involvement with Laotian-American communities include serving as a member of the Laotian American National Alliance Board, 2003-2005, as the Editor of Chief of the Lao magazine Vision, 1996-2001, and as a member of the Bridge Community Center Advisory Board, 2001-2005.
Besides being a student and a professor, Steve, a man with many talents, is also an artist. He owns a media company called the Pacific Arc Media, LLC, www.pacificarc.com. As another service for the Lao communities, Steve has also tried to promote and preserve Lao culture. He has written, directed and produced a documentary about Southeast Asian traditional music called “Rhythm of Elder Treasures.” The documentary has aired on PBS several times. He also hosted the first Lao Film Festival at the First International Conference on Lao Studies (Dekalb, IL, 2005).
Steve’s future plan is to continue teaching because he believes that by teaching he is giving care, love, and passing on solid information to nurture members of the younger generations. He also would love to, some days, be able to go back to his motherland and help the country to sustain and utilize the maximum capacity of its abundant natural resources in a way that will not abuse its natural environment.