Author Archives: jaynecoster

January 25: Hmong Community in Dane County

–submitted by Joy Cardin

G THAO was born in a refugee camp in Thailand after his family escaped Laos following the end of the Vietnam War.  The Hmong people were allies with the U.S. in fighting the Communist invasion in South East Asia and faced persecution after the fall of Saigon. Thao’s family first resettled in Texas in 1984, where they faced anti-immigrant sentiment, in part because people didn’t understand the relationship between the U.S. and Hmong people.  His family moved to Madison two years later for better economic and educational opportunities. 

Thao shared the challenges of growing up with his family of twelve in a three bedroom apartment on Northport Drive in Madison.  And he noted the different challenges faced by his children.  His children had a much easier time learning English, but now they don’t know the Hmong language, and there is a concern young people in the Hmong community are losing touch with their culture.  There are also health care and educational disparities that need to be addressed.  Still, Thao is optimistic for the future and the growing Hmong community in Madison and Dane County.  

He invited Rotarians to volunteer and participate in Hmong community events, like the Hmong New Year celebration in November. 

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/IJD2f_n5HEI.

January 18: An Education on Cryptocurrency

–submitted by Jessika Kasten


Spencer Smith, founder of AmpliPhi Digital, visited the club on January 18 to help us better understand cryptocurrency. Spencer broke down the tenants of crypto by comparing it to a batting cage token. You purchase a batting cage token, but the token technically has no value. The value is the access to the batting cage. The same is true for crypto: the money you invest gives you access to a blockchain (a super database that is so secure it cannot be altered), but has no monetary value. Smith’s best advice? Never invest more than you can lose.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/tmj6JOC2MnU

January 11: The Taiwan Straits Conflict

–submitted by Jessika Kasten

Fellow Rotarian CHRIS KOLAKOWSKI, Director of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, provided members and guests with history and context around the Taiwan Straits conflict.

The roots of the conflict go back to the Chinese Civil War in the late in 1940’s between the Nationalists and communists. These two sides are still at war today, as there was never a resolution. A delicate balance exists because both sides deeply believe in “One China.”

Kolakowski did not prognosticate the future but discussed some current pressures, (e.g. economic slowdowns, Covid and the Russo-Ukraine war) that could upset the balance. 

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/pq80XOvFhfA.

January 4 Guest Speaker Nic Mink: Seven Acre Dairy Company

–submitted by Jessika Kasten



Nic Mink, an academic and entrepreneur, was looking to open a pizza restaurant when a completely different opportunity presented itself. Nic came upon an old cheese factory on the banks of the Sugar River, and through many conversations and research, moved his focus to honoring and preserving the building’s important history. Mink is in the process of restoring the building, which he has named Seven Acre Dairy Company. The complex features a restaurant, café, boutique hotel, micro-dairy plant and outdoor space. Nic is hopeful the building will be as relevant today as it was for generations of the past.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMjqj_e3X2o&list=PLD8FIDQlj8al6JvWDHjRYyMuH637UAnM9

December 7: Ja’ Malik Talks About the Future of the Madison Ballet

–submitted by Kevin Hoffman

Before speaking to members and guests, Ja’ Malik, the Artistic Director for the Madison Ballet, treated us to a small snippet of The Nutcracker featuring three ballerinas from the Madison ballet.  He then shared with us his vision of diversity, inclusion, opportunity and exposure to the arts that he encouraged members to help facilitate as they consider their consumption and support for the arts. 

This can be a life-changing experience, just as it was for him as an 8-year-old child of color.  He was enthralled after seeing a performance of The Nutcracker with his mother and ballet ended up being his career.  It has taken him around the nation and world.  The performing arts changes lives, and his vision of accessibility to all seeks to make that a reality.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/5ekHWxRUdco.