Intended Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctorate in Management and Public Service (DMPS)


Dr. Kris Norman

Committee Member

Professor Ken Fox

Second Committee Member

Dr. Vanjelis Ngwa


This qualitative study explores the experiences of Hmong and Somali American candidates with the overarching goal of identifying strategies to enhance their opportunities for securing elected offices, especially in anticipation of demographic shifts in Minnesota. The state's rapid growth in its minority population and persistent racial disparities underscore the need for focused initiatives across social, economic, and political domains. However, a comprehensive understanding of political incorporation strategies for refugee groups, including Hmong and Somali Americans, remains lacking in current literature. Expanding access to leadership circles, this research aims to empower individuals from underrepresented communities to pursue public service, thereby incorporating their distinct perspectives and addressing their needs in policymaking processes.

The study focuses on existing elected officials and candidates who have run for office but were unsuccessful, aiming to gain insights into their perceived obstacles to political entry, development of party inclinations, engagement with institutions, and motivating factors for involvement in the American political system and policy-making. Understanding the motivations and barriers faced by Hmong and Somali American candidates, many of whom arrived in the United States as refugees, can help dispel misconceptions and enhance comprehension of the potential benefits of promoting more minority candidates into leadership roles.

The study sample comprised an equal distribution of Hmong and Somali Americans, with participants holding various positions such as State Representatives, State Senators, City Council members, and other elected offices. The participants had diverse professional experiences, ranging from winning multiple terms to contesting but not winning any race, with a combined experience of 49 years serving in elected offices. Most participants were second-generation immigrants, though there were also first-generation immigrants. The study employed a phenomenological approach to data analysis, resulting in the emergence of themes and sub themes aligned with the study questions.

In summary, this study offers valuable insights into the experiences of Hmong and Somali American candidates, shedding light on their motivations, challenges, and pathways to political engagement. These findings can inform strategies to enhance the representation of underrepresented communities in Minnesota's public sector and contribute to broader discussions on political incorporation and diversity in leadership.








School of Business Student Theses and Dissertations