Your Fox Cities Performing Arts Center continues to work toward ensuring that it is a multicultural gathering place for our community, offering staff opportunities to connect and share in meaningful conversations all in to help every Center visitor feel like they are welcome, and they belong. The CEO and owner of 4Chi Business Solutions, LLC, Dr. Pam (Pafoua) Her, has been incredibly instrumental in engaging the staff and board of directors through the work it takes to fulfill its Commitment to Inclusion and Belonging.
Dr. Her started her own cultural competency journey at a very young age, coming to the U.S. as a Hmong refugee from the highlands of Laos at the age of 4 during the Vietnam war. Settling in with her family was a challenge as it meant starting over with no sense of identity after leaving their home and Hmong community. After seeing so many people help her parents while they experienced adversity, Dr. Her saw how even the best intentions don’t necessarily translate into the desired impact. “There were a lot of people with great hearts and intentions, but they saw things through their own lenses,” she commented. This led Dr. Her to later help people understand that we all have our own lenses that impact how we move through the world and often create separation between out intentions and the impact of our actions.
Having given more than 300 presentations, trainings and keynote speeches, Dr. Pam Her has worked as a consultant/trainer/leader with a variety of organizations, corporations, nonprofits and government agencies. Her focus has been on cultural competency, mediation and conflict resolution. “I love what I do; it’s my passion and it’s in my blood,” Dr. Her reflected. As an invaluable voice in the Fox Cities for many years, Dr. Her has helped our community hear and understand different perspectives.
Before the Center even opened its doors in November 2002, Dr. Her helped ensure that the Fox Cities P.A.C. would be the multicultural gathering place for all that was dreamt of by the community. Later, Dr. Pam Her was invited to offer a perspective on difficult and sensitive conversations about cultural programming at the Center. “Staff at the Fox Cities P.A.C. were open to sitting down and having conversations about how we can use shows as educational opportunities,” Dr. Her commented. “It was about acknowledging the potentially harmful depictions in the performances and sharing education pieces to better understand the cultural struggles and beauty.”
Shortly after being invited for cultural conversations, Dr. Pam Her was asked to sit on the Center’s board of directors. She also sits on the Center’s Community Impact Committee as committee co-chair. Various leaders within our community are focusing on making a difference through the Community Impact Committee. As Dr. Pam Her mentioned, the committee engages with different communities and invites them to help co-create safe spaces within the Center. “It’s important to consider how we’re inviting people and ensuring we are prepared to welcome them. We’re hearing from different voices throughout the community.”
Since April 2023, Center staff have been on a Cultural Competency Journey with Dr. Pam Her, learning how to deeply understand what is consciously or unconsciously in their lenses. Focusing on privileges, biases, microaggressions, conflict resolution and more, the journey is not one of agreement, disagreement or judgement, it’s to deeply understand where these perceptions come from and how they impact our behaviors, often creating a disconnect between our intentions and our impact. “This is a journey, not a series of trainings because it’s continuous and causes examination of what our truth is,” Dr. Pam Her commented. With this journey, staff will be able to better serve patrons with an even more informed, intentional and considerate approach.
This cultural journey ties into the curatorial vision of the 2023-24 Season, identity, and its various meanings and interpretations. Patrons can see the vision weaved throughout the season of programming including performances and community engagement opportunities. As Dr. Her points out, identity is unique to everyone as it is also embedded in our lenses. “How we react to those lenses and the decisions we make because of them define who we are as a person and how we want others to see us,” Dr. Her shares. “But identity starts much deeper, in a journey of knowing who we are and what is deeply embedded in our lenses, especially those things that we don’t know that we don’t know. How do you be your best self? Identity is about giving yourself permission to be vulnerable through a lens of deeper understanding that allows others to be vulnerable because we are all human.”
Written by Philomena Dorobek, Brand Storyteller
Fox Cities Performing Arts Center