Alumna MayKao Hang 'Learned to Lead' at Humphrey School
When MayKao Hang (MA ’96) said “What makes an institution great is what its alumni become,” she was not referring to herself, but she could have been.
Hang, president and CEO of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, was named a “Most Admired CEO” in 2017 by Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. She also is the recipient of the Girl Scouts Women of Distinction Award, the Hubert H. Humphrey Public Leadership Award, and the Ann Bancroft Award.
Hang credits the Humphrey School with helping her learn to lead.
“If you look around the world, you’ll see that Humphrey School graduates are providing cross-sector leadership that is making a difference on some of the most important issues of our time,” said Hang. “The Humphrey School challenged me to think differently and to use all the tools in the tool kit.”
In particular, Hang said she learned to question assumptions and listen to diverse perspectives while in graduate school.
“The type of work the Humphrey School teaches you is what we are doing at Wilder. We’re looking at complex problems that require analytical, team-based approaches,” she said.
Several years ago, Hang said she had an epiphany while working on an especially challenging project. “I realized I knew what to do and how to help solve the problems, because of what I learned in those dreaded group projects from my master’s program! I may have disliked them then, but I could track success and knowledge back to them.”
Prior to working with Wilder, Hang served as director of adult services with Ramsey County Human Services and resident services director with the Saint Paul Public Housing Agency. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Brown University and, in addition to her master’s degree from the Humphrey School, she earned a PhD in public administration from Hamline University.
Hang is a trustee with the Saint Paul and Minnesota Community Foundations, chair of the national advisory board for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Interdisciplinary Research Leaders Program, a board member of the Minnesota Historical Society, and a founding member of the Coalition of Asian American Leaders in Minnesota.
Hang encourages investment in the Humphrey School wherever she goes.
“This is one of the most prestigious and well-known schools across the country. It provides an education that is rigorous, qualitative, and quantitative," she said. "Many of the most successful and talented people I’ve worked with have come through Humphrey. They understand how to identify needs, best meet those needs, and accelerate progress. The values you learn at the Humphrey School guide you long term.”