About the Pennsylvania Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs
Established by Executive Order 2015-10, the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs is dedicated to ensuring that state government is accessible and accountable to the diverse Asian Pacific American communities in Pennsylvania.
The commission is composed of up to thirty volunteer members appointed by the governor for a term of two years.
Governor Wolf’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs to Host Town Hall
Governor Wolf’s Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs Statement
Governor Wolf Names Three New Members to Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs
Governor Wolf’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs Support Second All for All Summit Addressing Immigrant Integration in Pittsburgh
Governor Wolf’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs Host Town Hall in Erie
Mira Nakashima Lifetime Achievement Award
Governor Wolf’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs Hosts Community Symposium
Governor’s Advisory Commissions Urge Reunification of Immigrant Families
First Lady Frances Wolf Joins Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs to Honor Pennsylvanians
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, 2018
Governor Wolf’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs Releases AAPI Language Education Schools (AAPLES) Initiative
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Governor Wolf Names New Members to the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs
- Mohan Seshadri – Executive Director
- Wasiullah Mohamed– Commission Chair
- Dr. Helene K. Lee – Vice Chair & Chair | Schools that Teach Committee
- Sheela Jane Menon – Chair | Schools That Teach Committee
- Alka A. Patel, Esq. – Chair | Jobs That Pay Committee
- Thomas S. Lee, Esq. – Vice Chair & Chair | Government that Works Committee
- Kay Kyungsun Yu – Chair | Government That Works Committee
- Albert ‘Randy’ Duque – Chair | Civil Rights Task Force
- Dr. Fariha I. Khan – Chair | Civil Rights Taskforce
- Lanica Angpak – AAPI Arts Collective
- Niken Astari Carpenter
- Paresh Birla
- Bishwanath Chhetri
- K. Naroen Chhin
- Mohammad Anam Chowdhury
- Betsy Lee-Fong
- Donald Hahn
- Michelle Hong
- Dr. anupama jain
- Tsering Jurme
- Lynn Emi Kawaratani
- Joseph Khan
- State Representative Patty Kim
- Nalini Krishnankutty
- Marian Lien
- Samia Malik
- Leilani Mears
- Fernando Chang-Muy
- Daniel Peou
- Thanh Quach
- Ernest Rajakone
- Dr. Anjali Sahay
- Vasu Singh
- Sarorng Sorn
- Stephanie Sun
- Richard Tsai Ting, Esq.
- Dr. Arpan Yagnik
Mohan Seshadri – Executive Director
Born in Wisconsin, Mohan attended Fordham University in New York, studying political science and classical civilizations. While in college, he organized on campuses, in the Bronx (NY), and in Milwaukee (WI) in support of reproductive health and rights, racial justice, and union rights.
He returned to Wisconsin for the 2016 election, organizing for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin in the suburbs and rural communities surrounding Milwaukee. Following the 2016 election, he moved to Pennsylvania to work for Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, the statewide organizing and advocacy arm of Planned Parenthood in the commonwealth, and operated across Central PA, Northeast PA, and the Lehigh Valley. While with Planned Parenthood, he organized and managed staff across the region through two election cycles and multiple legislative fights at the local, state, and federal level, as well as working to build solidarity with other movements and expand outreach to impacted communities, particularly in Latinx communities in the Lehigh Valley. Through years of organizing, particularly in marginalized communities, Mohan has seen what happens when communities lack a seat at the table and the organizational capacity to make change, and is committed to building that within and for AAPI communities across the commonwealth. This passion for community organizing is why he’s so excited to be the Executive Director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs, serving the people of the commonwealth by working with the commission to advocate for our diverse Asian and Pacific American communities across Pennsylvania.
Wasiullah Mohamed – Commission Chair
Wasiullah (Wasi) Mohamed is a life-long Pennsylvania resident. He was born in Harrisburg, raised in Enola, and moved to Pittsburgh in 2011 to attend the University of Pittsburgh.
During his time at the University of Pittsburgh, Wasi served in the leadership of many campus-wide organizations and initiatives, most notably he spent his four years helping to build the Office of PittServes, an arm of the Division of Student Affairs meant to ensure Pitt has a lasting positive impact on the local community while students grow from relationships and experiences with our neighbors.
After serving as the Director of Islamic Center of Pittsburgh Food Pantry for two years, Wasi was selected to be ICP’s next Executive Director in 2015. In this position, Wasi works to empower, educate, and unite the diverse community in Western PA through social services and outreach programs. In 2016, he was appointed by Mayor Bill Peduto to the Commission on Human Relations and Welcoming Pittsburgh Commission, he was elected chair of the latter. He also sits on the All for All steering committee and works with other partners toward immigrant and refugee inclusion in the region. Also in 2016, Wasi was named the Executive Director of Emgage PA, a Muslim political education and empowerment organization.
Sheela Jane Menon – Chair | Schools That Teach Committee
Sheela Jane is Assistant Professor of English at Dickinson College where she teaches Asian American, Postcolonial, and World Literature.
She joined the faculty in 2016, after completing her M.A. and Ph.D in English at The University of Texas at Austin; she earned her B.A. in Religion and English (Highest Honors) from The University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Her research—informed by her upbringing in Malaysia, Singapore, and Honolulu, as well as her family’s roots in Kerala—focuses on questions of race and national identity in Malaysian literature and public culture. Her current book project, Malaysian Multiculturalism: Reading Race in Contemporary Literature & Culture, analyzes a new cultural archive from Malaysia consisting of Indigenous (Orang Asal) oral histories and multimedia texts, as well as novels, films, and public performances by Malay, Chinese, and Indian artists. This project examines how cultural producers are reimagining multicultural citizenship across a diverse range of genres and contexts. Her work has been published in / is forthcoming from ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, Verge: Studies in Global Asias, The Conversation, and The Malaysian Insider.
Sheela Jane was appointed to Governor Tom Wolf’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs in December 2019.
Alka A. Patel, Esq. – Chair | Jobs That Pay Committee
Alka Patel is the inaugural Deputy Director of the Risk and Regulatory Services Innovation Center at Carnegie Mellon University with the Heinz College. In her position, she is responsible for developing and executing the daily and long-term strategic mission of the Center, which is sponsored by PwC and focuses on data analytics, cybersecurity/privacy, artificial intelligence, and safe cities.
Alka has been recognized for her professional achievements as well as for her contributions to the community, with recognitions such as: the “Outstanding Achievement” award from Duquesne University Law School Alumni Association, the “Innovator Award” from Heinz College, CMU; “High Impact Leader Award” from ASCEND; “Business Women First Awards” from the Pittsburgh Business Times; “Tribute to Women, Young Leader” by the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh; “Rising Star” by the Pennsylvania Super Lawyers; a “Fast Tracker” by The Legal Intelligencer & PA Law Weekly; “Community Builder/Social Engineer” by the Pennsylvania Bar Association Minority Attorney Committee; 40 Under 40 recipient by Pittsburgh Magazine; and Distinguished Young Alumni from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering.
Alka holds a Juris Doctorate and Masters in Business Administration from Duquesne University and a Bachelor of Science in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh.
Alka, a native of Pittsburgh, lives in Collier Township with her husband and three children.
Albert ‘Randy’ Duque – Chair | Civil Rights Task Force
Randy Duque is the Deputy Director for the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) in which he oversees the operations of the Community Relations Division.
As Deputy Director, he works on various collaborative issues and initiatives with groups, organizations, and agencies from the grass root to federal levels. His responsibilities cover a wide range of areas including civil rights and race relations; immigrant and refugee issues; victim services; anti-violence initiatives; police-community relations; conflict intervention; and issues relating to changing neighborhoods.
Duque leads the City’s interagency civil rights taskforce and has led the effort to create and chair the Philadelphia Civil Rights Rapid Response Team– an interdisciplinary group of civil rights focused individuals from city, state, and federal agencies, the school district, and advocacy groups—that focus on responding to hate crime and bias incidents; as well as, to educate stakeholders about various related topics. Through Duque’s work and leadership, PCHR was presented the 2016 FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award; and in 2018; he received the GACAPAA “Outstanding Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders” recognition; the Mastery Charter School, Thomas Elementary “Community Partner of the Year” award; and was bestowed a knighthood by the Knights of Rizal – a prestigious organization officially recognized by the Philippine government.
Prominent members include the presidents in the Philippines’ history and foreign recipients including King Juan Carlos I of Spain and Henry Kissinger.
Randy Duque’s education and experience covers a full spectrum of conflict theory and practice. As an expert in conflict resolution and management, Duque has mediated cases in family and neighborhood disputes, workplace issues, intergroup conflicts, and international military affairs. He has designed and conducts trainings locally, nationally, and internationally to a variety of audiences, such as, law enforcers, international government officials, religious leaders, and community stakeholders in a multitude of conflict subject matters including mediation, conflict resolution, restorative justice, critical incident response and de-escalation; intractable conflict, intercultural communication and conflict; implicit bias and cultural competency; and conflict coaching. He has also guest lectured at various universities and colleges nationally and internationally and was an adjunct professor for the Psychological Studies in Education Program at Temple University.
Duque received his Master’s Degree in “Applied Communication and Conflict Processes” through the School of Allied Health Professions and Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology at Temple University; is a practitioner and instructor in a traditional style of Kung Fu and student of Filipino martial arts; is a past president and current board member for the Association for Conflict Resolution – Greater Philadelphia Chapter; and served ten years in the infantry with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.
In his spare time, he plays bass and other instruments for “Sinnerz N Saints” (a blues-based jam band), the “24th Street Band” (a classic rock trio), and the Philippine Folk Arts Society, Inc. Rondalla Ensemble.
As a Philadelphia native and resident, Randy Duque is motivated to apply his experience in conflict management, civil rights, and community relations to his work throughout the Commonwealth as a Commissioner and Chairperson for the Civil Rights Task Force of the GACAPAA. He also hopes to play some music along the way!
Lanica Angpak – AAPI Arts Collective
Lanica Angpak is a second generation Khmer American woman living in Philadelphia.
She currently works for the City of Philadelphia as a Program Liaison for Out-of-School Time Programs and teaches Khmer dance classes in South Philadelphia.
Lanica is an artist, activist, and youth development professional. Her career has focused on providing opportunities for young people to create, explore, and succeed. She is dedicated to ensuring the best future for young people in Philadelphia and beyond. Additionally, Lanica is dedicated to her artistic journey. She is a formally trained Khmer classical dancer and aspiring archivist and photographer.
Lanica began dancing at the age of 7 years old, following her family’s legacy of artists and makers. Her grandmother was a textile artist, grandfather a farmer, mother a dancer, father a jeweler, and sister a writer.
Over the years, Lanica has been an advocate for the arts as a form of activism. The power art lends to individuals and communities unique forms of storytelling, advocacy, and healing. Lanica’s experience in artmarking has provided her with unique opportunities to build partnerships with other communities and individuals. She has also been able to strengthen her understanding of social justice, undoing racism, diversity, and much more through her art practices. Lanica strives towards making the world a better and more sustainable place for all.
Following her career and personal passions for justice, Lanica founded Cambodian American Girls Empowering (CAGE). CAGE is a nonprofit organization that uses Khmer arts and culture as a tool for activism, education, and changemaking. Through CAGE, Lanica and other volunteers work towards making Khmer arts and culture accessible for all, celebrating heritage and history, and advocating for the rights of Khmer Americans. Additionally, Lanica recently started a community archive project called “Khmer, Again,” in which she is working with Khmer American communities across the country to preserve the broader community’s journey and history in the United States. The project focuses on both archiving and recreating archived donations.
Niken Astari Carpenter
Niken Astari Carpenter is originally from Indonesia. She works at the Office of the Mayor of the City of Erie, where she serves as the mayor’s executive assistant and liaison to the city’s refugee and immigrant communities.
Niken also serves as a member of Governor Tom Wolf’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs. She received her law degree from the University of Indonesia in 2003, and served as a judge in Indonesia for 12 years. Carpenter has been an active member of American Association of University Women – Erie Branch since 2011, an organization for which she’s the President-elect. In 2014, she received the career Development Grant from the American Association of University Women National to study Project Management at Pennsylvania State University. Carpenter also taught Asian culture, part of the World Languages and Cultures Department, at Mercyhurst University. From 2012 up to the present time, Carpenter has served as an advisory board member of Mentari – Human Survivor Empowerment Program, Inc. Beginning in 2013, she has been involved in the organization One Table, Erie’s Multicultural and Interfaith Bridge Builders.
Paresh Birla is a Cybersecurity expert and tech entrepreneur. He works as a tech advisor for a Big 4 consulting firm, originally from India and worked in various parts and industries in the USA. Paresh moved to Pennsylvania in 2004 and since then it has been his home.
He volunteers his hours in various non-profit organizations and trying to collaborate with various ethnic groups and bring them together and learn from each other. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel we can learn and grow faster as one community.
Paresh currently is president in an Indian organization which is an umbrella organization in the Greater Philadelphia area, which serves 5 counties (Bucks/Montgomery/Chester/Philadelphia/Delaware). He works very closely with various government organizations to bridge gaps and build strong relationships (Indian embassy/State of Pennsylvania/U.S. capitol).
Paresh holds an Executive Management in leadership degree from MIT Sloan. His specialties are problem-solving using innovative and critical thinking processes.
Born in Bhutan, Bishwanath attended Sherubtse College, Delhi University studying Commerce & Accounting.
Since 1988 as a student leader and Human Rights activist, Bishwanath was at the forefront of the fight against discrimination and persecution perpetrated by the then King’s government. He was one of the founding members of the Students Union of Bhutan (SUB) and People’s Forum For Human Rights-Bhutan (PFHRB). He was incarcerated, tortured and held in solitary confinement in military prison for over two years for his role as a student leader and Human Rights activist. Amnesty International named him Prisoner of Conscience for his non-violent expression for freedom, justice and equality. Exiled from his country of origin in 1992, Bishwanath continued his fight for Human Rights and repatriation of thousands of his countrymen who had become refugees in Nepal and India. In 1999 he came to the US where he was granted political asylum and in 2010 he became a US Citizen.
Responding to the needs of the growing newly resettled Bhutanese refugee population in the USA, Bishwanath together with his fellow Bhutanese in the USA formed Association of Bhutanese in America (ABA) and served as its president. Bishwanath worked for the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles in different capacities until his early retirement as a CSC manager in May of 2018. Bishwanath continues to be involved in the community in a significant way and currently serves as a member of the Advisory Committee of Bhutanese Community of Harrisburg (BCH), an organization that represents one of the largest Bhutanese Communities in the USA. Bishwanath also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Bhutan Research and Information Network (The BRAIN), a US-based non-profit organization working for the collection and preservation of the history of the Bhutanese community.
By profession, he is a real estate agent serving the Central PA region. Bishwanath lives with his wife and daughter in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Mohammad Anam Chowdhury
Mohammad Anam Chowdhury is a native of Bangladesh.
He received a master’s degree in Management from a university in Bangladesh.
At the age of twenty-eight, he moved to the United States of America in 2001 and now settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Since his arrival in Philadelphia, he is actively engaged in cultural, social, and community activities. Currently, he is the honorable advisor of the Bangladesh Community of Pennsylvania. He also works with the newly arrived local immigrants to settle their lives by sharing his personal experiences with them.
Since 2006, he got involved with the local politics, became a registered Democrat, involved in a voter’s registration to GOTV effort-voter persuasion to come out to vote for the candidate of his choice. Mohammad’s service to the Democratic Party allowed him to become a committee person representing the Democratic Party in West Philadelphia.
Betsy Lee-Fong, Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia, Director of Programs and Operation. Advocating, championing and supporting Asian American Businesses, Leaders and Entrepreneurs.
Prior to joining the chamber, Betsy was the Special Projects Manager for PCDC (Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation). Project Managing and Producing the first Ye-Shi Chinatown Night Market which brought in over 20,000 attendees, 65 vendors and 15 performers in one night to Chinatown. It has now become a yearly event.
Betsy had a wonderfully successful career as a Producer at MTV ASIA (MTV Networks) and as a Production Executive at Disney Channels Worldwide before moving back to Philadelphia in 2015 to be closer to her family and pursue a passion to give back to her community.
Betsy is a Temple University Communications Radio, Television, and Film alum.
Michelle Hong is co-head and founding partner of the Philadelphia office of Northern Trust, one of the largest banks in the United States. A seasoned private banking executive, she advises corporate executives, private business owners, and high-net worth investors on wealth management, tax and estate planning, business succession, family governance, and philanthropy.
Michelle began her career in private legal practice at large law firms in New York City and Philadelphia. She earned her law degree from Harvard Law School and her B.A. from Duke University. In addition, she studied British Literature at Oxford University as a Lord Rothermere Scholar.
Michelle is deeply committed to civic engagement and nonprofit board service. She currently serves on the board of Main Line Health, a health system that is one of the largest employers in the Philadelphia region, as well as the Committee of Seventy, a 115-year old nonpartisan civic leadership organization that advocates for voter engagement and effective government. She is also a member of the Vision 2020 team that is planning the national celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. Michelle is a former board chair of Philabundance, the Philadelphia region’s largest hunger-relief organization, and she has served on numerous other boards and committees.
Michelle lives in the historic Queen Village neighborhood of Philadelphia with her husband and three young daughters.
Dr. anupama jain
anupama (anu) jain, PhD, is the owner of a small consulting business called Inclusant, which focuses on building capacity in Pittsburgh for diversity, equity, and inclusion by connecting individuals, organizations, and even sectors.
Previously, anu spent more than a decade as a professor of interdisciplinary studies, conducting original research, teaching varied topics, and supporting diversity initiatives in higher education. Her scholarly affiliations have included Union College in upstate New York, Colby College in Maine, and the University of Pittsburgh. Her major publication is the book How to Be South Asian in America: Narratives of Ambivalence and Belonging (Temple University Press 2011), which investigates Asian immigration, storytelling and politics, the American Dream, gender, and racial economics.
Recently, anu has taken on more collaborative community organizing and public humanities initiatives, partnering with diverse local groups and designing original programming such as Color Me Pgh, Scholars at Large, and 12×12: Connecting Pittsburgh to the World. In Fall 2017, she also became the inaugural Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Gender Equity Commission in the Mayor’s Office.
Tsering Jurme is a Tibetan refugee born and raised in South India.
He went to school and college in India and earned a Bachelor of Science. He served two terms as both Vice President(2006-2008) and President(2012-2014) of the Tibetan Association of Philadelphia (TAP).
Tsering also taught traditional dance to the young Tibetan children at the Tibetan School, to preserve the Tibetan rich culture.
He was also an active member of the working group advocating for the National Constitution Center to award His Holiness the Dalai Lama the Liberty medal in 2015.
He currently serves as a member of the Tibetan Association Philadelphia’s Housing Committee, working to raise funds to acquire a building to serve as a cultural center for the Association’s gatherings and activities. He works as a contractor by profession and owns TJ Handyman business.
Lynn Kawaratani is a third-generation Japanese American living in Pittsburgh. She is currently serving as the Assistant Director for Partnerships and Programming with the Asian Studies Center as well as the Engagement Manager for the University Center for International Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.
One of her primary roles is outreach to K-16 schools and the broader public. Over the past 5 years, she has cultivated strong relationships with many of the local Asian American communities. Recognizing that Pitt had limited offerings on Asian American studies, she successfully advocated for the inclusion of the Asian diaspora (including Asians in America) as part of the Center’s strategic plan.
Prior to working at the University, Lynn was the Chief of Design and Editing at the Smithsonian Institution Exhibits Central. In this capacity, she collaborated closely with the Asian Pacific American Center at the Smithsonian including serving as the lead designer on two landmark exhibitions—Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation and Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon: Vietnamese America Since 1975. She is deeply committed to sharing the stories of Asian Americans and other minority groups that are deeply rooted in American history through the medium of exhibitions.
She serves as the faculty advisor to the Japanese Student Association at Pitt, is an active member of the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia advisory board, and is taking the lead on developing a new Asian and Asian American film/media programming initiative called Screenshot: Asia which will host an annual film festival with the goal of bringing the Asian American communities together. She has earned a Bachelors and a Masters degree in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley.
Joseph ‘Joe’ Khan
Joe Khan is a nationally recognized attorney known for mission-driven collaborations across public, private, public, political, and nonprofit sectors. He currently serves as the Solicitor for Bucks County, Pennsylvania and on the adjunct faculty at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
As Bucks County Solicitor, Joe leads the office responsible for initiating all lawsuits brought by, and defending all litigation brought against, the fourth largest county in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He was the first Solicitor to take a constitutional oath of office upon his bi-partisan appointment in Bucks County and the first Pakistani-American to serve as a County Solicitor.
Joe previously served for a decade as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where he prosecuted cases across southeastern Pennsylvania and led the historic City Hall corruption probes in Allentown and Reading. He began his career prosecuting sexual assault, child abuse and domestic violence in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.
Joe also built an award winning public interest law practice and has led several nonprofit and political boards, including Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse, where he serves as Board President. In 2017, he received widespread acclaim as the runner-up in the Philadelphia Democratic primary election for District Attorney. He then co-founded and chaired Second Generation, a political action committee that empowers marginalized immigrant communities through political engagement. Joe is a graduate of Swarthmore College and the University of Chicago Law School.
State Representative Patty Kim
State Representative Patty Kim, a former news anchor and reporter and Harrisburg City Councilwoman, was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2012 and has been a leader in government reform and transparency.
She returned her cost of living increase (COLA) and introduced a bill to eliminate the yearly pay increases. She is also one of the only members of the House to post all of her expenses on her legislative website for public review.
Kim’s priorities in the General Assembly include taking a solution-based approach to statewide issues, working in cooperation and collaboration with colleagues, and utilizing her record of service to support initiatives that stand to better the lives of the citizens she represents.
Leading her caucus’s charge to provide a livable wage for all Pennsylvanians, Kim twice introduced bills to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. She continues her fight for a minimum wage increase to restore the middle class by lifting thousands of Pennsylvanians out of poverty.
Kim serves on the Appropriations, Education, Local Government, Transportation and Urban Affairs committees. She is Vice Co-Chair of the Southeast Delegation. During her second term, she served as Treasurer for the Legislative Black Caucus.
Prior to her work in the legislature, Kim was elected to Harrisburg’s City Council where she served two terms. She was elected as council Vice President by her colleagues during her second term.
A 1995 graduate of Boston College, Kim is married to John Sider and together they have two children, Brielle and Ryan.
Dr. Nalini Krishnankutty
Dr. Nalini Krishnankutty is an engineer turned educator, writer, and speaker, who focuses on shaping narratives about immigrants. She believes deeply in the power of migration to open minds and create new possibilities for immigrants, their new homeland and the world.
She is actively countering current anti-immigrant sentiments by highlighting the complex history of US immigration and the experiences and contributions of immigrants in her classes, workshops and talks at conferences, community and workplace programs, and in schools and libraries. The 16-minute video of her 2018 TEDxPSU talk on “How Immigrants Shape(d) the United States” is being used in public school and university classrooms, and for training sessions across the country.
Nalini has written for over a decade about diversity and the common threads that connect us, including in the Centre Daily Times and the Christian Science Monitor. She is an alum of the Voices of our Nation’s Arts (VONA/Voices) Fiction Workshop, the premier workshop for writers-of-color, and of the Op/Ed Project which supports diverse voices in editorial pages. She is currently writing children’s books focused on the immigrant experience.
Nalini was born in Kerala, India and grew up in Mumbai. A National Talent Search Scholar, she got her BS degree in Chemical Engineering as one of three girls in a class of 60 students, from the Bombay University Department of Chemical Technology (UDCT, now ICT). She came to Penn State as a graduate student and received her MS and PhD degrees in Chemical Engineering, and took and later taught classes in Women’s Studies.
Nalini lives in State College, PA and is actively involved in the community. She is a Board Member of the Mid-State Literacy Council, a member of her precinct election board, and of the State College Area School District Inclusion Excellence committee. She teaches classes at Penn State’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), and volunteers at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts and at Asian Indian cultural celebrations and fund-raising events. She is looking forward to using her diverse three-decades-plus experience in Centre County as a graduate student, professional, parent, and community member to inform her work on GACAPAA.
Forty year resident of Mechanicsburg, Pa. hails from Chennai S. India.
Attended a catholic school and University.
Served leadership role from High school as sports captain, school captain and president of Girls scouts.
Active as a Community organizer and life-long volunteer. A Racial and Social Justice Activist. Developed and conducted a series of lectures on Islam, for the Many organizations, libraries and Universities. Developed and conducted sensitivity training for Law enforcement.
Board member of Hamden civic Ass., ACLU Pa, Pa. Immigrant and refugee women’s network, YWCA, Muslims helping neighbors, Institute for Cultural Partnership, Pluralism Project, Harvard University, MLK day of service, board chair of Muslim Women’s Council.
Co-Founder of Community Responders network. Advisory board member of Racial Justice committee, Diversity Forum, Criminal Justice Committee, PHRC Task Force member.
Received several awards from the local Masjids for interfaith and bridge-building work. A Church and World affairs council awarded her Peacemaker award. The YWCA’s Ella Fitzgerald award, President’s award for the work with Law enforcement. SAGE award winner.
Graduate of the MLK leadership institute.
Marian Mei-Ling Lien
Marian Mei-Ling Lien is the Executive Director of the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition. For over 20 years, her interests and desires to create a more socially just society has led her down a professional path creating safer environments for patients in rural health care; teaching diversity in higher education; and building a more sustainable community.
She holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy Management from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, and strives to understand how people’s lives can be enhanced through public and governmental systems.
Born in Taiwan and raised in California, Marian straddles the two worlds of Chinese Eastern and American Western ways; she is fluent in three Asian languages but dreams in English. Marian currently serves on the board of the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, on the Diversity, Inclusion and Global Centers of Excellence Committee for the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh city’s Commission on Human Relations, and the board of OCA-Asian and Pacific American Advocates, Pittsburgh Chapter.
Leilani (Lani) Mears is an advocate for inclusion through tech, with an over 20 year career in IT.
She works as a Sr. Manager of Digital Quality Engineering group at PNC, overseeing 6 portfolios supporting digital technologies. In her role, she manages a global workforce of over 300 quality engineers, with resources from Asia, South America, and Europe.
Lani is passionate about increasing women’s representation in tech. She is an active member\volunteer of organizations such as RedChair Pgh, Women Techmaker and TechConnect – Women in Tech, which are advancing programs and initiatives to recruit and retain women in IT. She was recently chosen to be in a 9-month cohort for Women in Tech Leadership Development program, established to train the next IT women leaders.
Lani was the former president of the Asian American Employee Resource Group at PNC. During her tenure, the membership grew three-folds, and the programming increased from quarterly to monthly events. The group’s effort resulted in a greater emphasis on Diversity and Inclusion within PNC; and receiving multiple awards, including “Most Exemplar ERG” by Vibrant Pittsburgh. She is a Board Member & Chair of Audit, Finance & Fundraising Committee of PULSE (Pittsburgh Urban Leadership & Service Engagement: www.pulsepgh.org).
She is the Information Systems Officer and President-Elect of the FAAP (Filipino American Association of Pittsburgh: www.thefaap.org). She is a Business Advisor to “BeamData”, a data gathering and visualization startup with a mission to provide equity in data representation.
Lani immigrated from the Philippines to Pittsburgh over 30 years ago.
As a commissioner, she hopes to help advance programs and initiatives on AAPI workforce development and increased representation within the corporate boardrooms and C-Suites. She is also interested in the efforts to unite AAPI ethnic groups and leaders in Pittsburgh to work together in providing a more vibrant and diverse city, in order to attract and retain AAPI talents. Her immediate goal is to educate and encourage immigrants & minorities to participate in the 2020 Census.
Fernando Chang-Muy is the Thomas O’Boyle Lecturer in Law at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law.
He also teaches courses at the Fels Institute, and the Graduate School of Social Policy and Practice on topics such as US Immigration Law, International Human Rights and Refugee Law, and Non Profit Leadership.
He served as Legal Officer with both the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN World Health Organization (WHO), AIDS Program. He also served as the first director of Swarthmore College’s Intercultural Center, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, advisor to the Provost on Equal Opportunity, and lecturer on International Human Rights in the Peace and Conflict Studies.
He began his legal career as a Reginald Heber Smith Fellow at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia serving as Director of the Southeast Asian Refugee Project, providing free legal aid to low-income immigrants and refugees in Philadelphia. He is also past founding director of the Liberty Center for Survivors of Torture, a project of Lutheran Children and Family Services, established to serve newcomers fleeing human rights violations.
In addition to teaching, he combines his experience in academia and operations, as principal and founder of Solutions International, providing independent management consulting, facilitation and training to philanthropic institutions, non profit organizations and government agencies. His areas of expertise include designing and facilitating large group, action-focused strategic planning processes, board governance retreats, staff internal communications systems, and resource development plans and individual donor campaigns.
In 2008, former Philadelphia Mayor Nutter appointed him as a Commissioner to the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations. He is former Board member of Philanthropy Network, The Philadelphia Award, The Merchants Fund, the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation and the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Coalition. He is author of numerous articles on diverse topics dealing with immigration & refugees, public health and management, and is co-editor of the text Social Work with Immigrants and Refugees (2nd ed. NY: Springer Publication, 2016).
He is a graduate of Loyola, Georgetown, Antioch and Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation. He is a recipient of both the 2011 and 2018 Penn Law Public Interest Supervisor/Advisor of the Year Award honoring outstanding project supervisors and advisors; and the 2016 recipient of the Law School Beacon Award, recognizing exemplary commitment to pro bono work by a Penn Law faculty member.
Daniel Peou is the first school principal of Cambodian descent in the state of Pennsylvania.
He is the proud principal and alumnus of Horace H. Furness High School, a neighborhood school in the School District of Philadelphia serving more than 700 students in South Philadelphia. Horace H. Furness High School is known for its diverse student population from 33 different countries speaking 23 languages.
He is a survivor of the Khmer Rouge Era Cambodian Genocide that took place from 1975 – 1979. He then came to the United States of America as a child refugee in 1981 with his family and attended Horace H. Furness Junior High School.
He began his career with the School District of Philadelphia over 24 years ago as a Bilingual Counseling Assistant while pursuing his post-secondary education. He was promoted to the position of classroom teacher after earning his undergraduate degree. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Eastern University in Organizational Management and a Master of Education Degree from Cheyney University of Pennsylvania in Elementary Education and School Leadership.
He has since held leadership positions including Small Learning Community Coordinator, School Climate Manager, Elementary School Principal, High School Assistant Principal and Principal.
He is a tireless advocate on behalf of Philadelphia’s diverse Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. His dedicated efforts have expanded language, educational and cultural access to often marginalized groups across Philadelphia.
Thanh is graduate of Millersville University of Pennsylvania. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with concentrations in accounting, finance, and management. She is currently employed as a staff accountant in the Small Business Services Group at RKL LLP, one of the top public accounting firms in the nation.
She enjoys helping clients gain a better understanding of their financial position through reviews, compilations, and the preparation of necessary financial statements and tax returns. She is working towards becoming a certified public accountant. She enjoys volunteering with Junior Achievement, a program that educates young youth on financial literacy and work readiness.
She was born and raised in Vietnam and immigrated to the U.S. with her parents when she was eight years old. She considers herself blessed to have experienced both cultures. Since 2016, Thanh has been serving as the secretary of the Vietnam Mutual Assistance Association of Central PA (VMAA of Central PA). In addition to this role, she also enjoys collaborating with other association members to organize events that unite the Vietnamese community, especially the annual Tet Festival. On top of serving the Vietnamese community in Lancaster, PA, she is a supporter of the Phuc Dai Charity, a non-profit based in California that aids rural families and community development. She has given monetary assistance and her own time to help the charity’s mission to provide better lives for rural families. Some projects include constructing bridges and temples, as well as providing scholarships and medical assistance in remote villages.
Dr. Anjali Sahay
Dr. Anjali Sahay is an Associate Professor of International Relations and Political Science at Gannon University, Erie, PA since 2008 and received tenure in 2014.
She serves as the Program Director of the International Studies Program (undergraduate) from Fall 2009 as well as the Director of Gannon’s Model UN Program that hosts the high school conference every Fall. Prior to being at Gannon, she was appointed as Visiting Assistant Professor of International Relations at East Carolina University, Greenville, NC from 2006 – 2008. She has received her PhD. in International Studies from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA in 2006. A recent article in Gannon Magazine on their Focused Faculty Feature also discusses her passion for Model UN that has stayed in her career throughout.
Her current research focuses on topics relating to International Relations and International Migration. Her dissertation on international migration and international relations was released in April 2009 titled: Indian Diaspora in the United States: Brain Drain or Gain? and republished for the South Asian market in 2011. She has also received several awards and grants most notably the ‘Excellence in Teaching Award” and was awarded first prize for Gannon President’s Award for ‘Teaching with Technology’ in 2012 and was awarded the second prize for Gannon President’s Award for “Teaching with Technology’ in 2015.
Dr. Sahay is also a performing artist of Indian classical dance Kathak. She has performed in various cities in India and internationally in Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA during her time there. Recently, she has given various performances in Erie, PA and at the Ethnic Dance Festival auditions in California in 2014.
Sarorng ‘Rorng’ Sorn
Rorng Sorn is the Director of Immigrant Affairs and Language Access Services at the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral and Intellectual Disability Services, where she helps ensure that services for immigrant/refugee communities are culturally and linguistically appropriate.
She works to reduce health disparities and improve health outcomes among the refugee and immigrant communities through strategic partnerships, policy and procedure development, and targeted outreach and education.
Rorng has over 30 years of combined experience in public, private, and nonprofit sectors working with various communities, leaders, policy makers, with small grassroots organizations, large institutions and systems. She is specialized in strategic plan, strategic partnership, community and stakeholder engagement, assessment, resource and program development and management.
She is highly motivated, dedicated, and strives for excellence. She served as Executive Director of the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia, Field Coordinator for the Southeast Asia Resource Center, and a member of Mayor Nutter’s Commission on Asian American Affairs.
She volunteers with locally and internationally organizations helping them with their program, resource and organizational development needs. She received multiple awards include the Special Achievement Award for Dedicated Service in Support of Human Rights of the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service, and 6ABC’s Outstanding Community Service Award, just to name a few. In 2019 she received an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, from Gwynedd Mercy University. She was a refugee from Cambodia, and the first in her family to earn a college degree. She holds a Master’s degree in Nonprofit/NGO Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania.
Stephanie Sun works on corporate philanthropy in a global corporation, facilitating the support from the for-profit to the non-profit sector, both internationally and domestically. She has been working with the non-profit organization Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians as the project manager of the business development department, specializing in supporting the immigrant community with entrepreneurship cultivation, community integration, and youth empowerment.
In addition, Sun serves at the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia, as an advisory board member. Born and raised in China, Stephanie received her master’s degree in journalism and communication and was a college senior lecturer in China. Before moving to the United States, she studied in a doctoral program in international relations and worked in international corporate and diplomatic agencies in South Korea for five and half years.
Sun is also a journalist, and served as the senior director of the main local Chinese language newspaper based in Philadelphia.
Richard Tsai Ting, Esq.
Rich is an attorney whose practice has focused on intellectual property. Rich has counseled and represented clients in a wide variety of intellectual property matters, including patent infringement and validity assessments, freedom-to-operate analyses, intellectual property litigation, and patent and trademark prosecution.
Rich is active with the American Civil Liberties Union, serving as a volunteer attorney and previously on the board of the Greater Pittsburgh Chapter.
Rich also is President-Elect of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania, and is a former chair of the Asian Attorneys Committee of the Allegheny County Bar Association.
Rich is a Pittsburgh-area native, has a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Brown University, a master’s degree in toxicology from the Massachusetts institute of Technology, and a law degree from Harvard Law School.
Dr. Arpan Yagnik
Dr. Yagnik’s motto is “Action inspired by Creativity”. Dr. Yagnik is a Creativity expert and a TEDx speaker, author, and a researcher in the areas of creativity and creativity enhancement, he has shown people a way to liberate their true potential by defeating fear, chasing significance, and letting creativity inspire them. He plans to inject creativity into the social fabric of the great state of Pennsylvania by starting with the Asian Pacific American community.
Dr. Arpan Yagnik is a critical thinker and a philosopher who believes life is a manifestation of our dreams. A world where you have your own truth and live your own truth. He has traveled extensively and has rich multinational experience in guiding and mentoring students, educators, and corporations and business professionals to break down the question through which we derive our meaning, “What do I want in life?” He is dismayed by the self-limiting beliefs that individuals, and societies thrust upon themselves that rob them of joy, creating needless suffering, hindering them from pursuing rapid transformation. Solving complex problems to achieve desired goals and to remove obstructions in discovering new frontiers to further meaningful altruism is his number one priority.
Creativity is one such phenomenon that Arpan Yagnik feels will liberate oneself from the learned shackles of fear and ego. One can rapidly transform their lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness and love. True freedom, therefore, he believes, has to do with the human spirit- to be who we really are. Fear mitigation, at the same time, is key to free and liberate the true potential of humans.
For his efforts and actions he has received numerous awards and recognitions. Dr. Yagnik firmly believes that a creative mindset, free of fear is an asset for an effective altruist. His dynamic and energetic presence along with his high-impact ideas and moving delivery has uplifted and enabled individuals and groups he has shared his teachings with to use the newly learned creativity in directed individual and social change, and the pursuit of positive transformation.
Dr. Arpan Yagnik is an assistant professor of Advertising at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College where he researches and teaches creativity and creativity enhancement. He is a graduate of the Bowling Green State University where he completed his Doctorate degree in the area of Health and Development Communication under the able guidance of Dr. Srinivas Melkote. Prior to his doctorate, he has a business administration background specializing in retail and an undergraduate degree in Economics. He has played competitive sports representing his university, and was also the captain of his college team for two years. He loves flying kites.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Celebration
- AAPI Community Symposium Official Program
- Assessing the Asian American and Pacific Islander Population In Pennsylvania
Connect with Us
For more information about the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs, please follow us on Facebook or contact:
Mohan Seshadri – Executive Director
508E, 5th Floor, Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120