President Obama reestablished the office of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The office works with the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs and Interagency Working Group on issue areas including data disaggregation, language access, workforce diversity, and capacity building.
- Kiran Ahuja, Executive Director
- Jason Tengco, Deputy Director
- Diana Yu, Chief of Staff
- Courtney Chappell, Regional Director
- Christine Harley, Senior Policy Advisor
- Rebecca Lee, Communications Director
- George Mui, Senior Advisor
- Doua Thor, Director of Strategic Partnerships
- Akil Vohra, Senior Advisor
- Bessie Chan, Advisor
- Paul Chang, Regional Advisor
- Gem Daus, Advisor
- Ana Fortes, Regional Advisor
- Dave Hung, Regional Advisor
- Mary Lam, Advisor
- Ambreen Tariq, Advisor
- Alice Yao, Special Office for Civil Rights Advisor to the AAPI Bullying Prevention Task Force
Kiran Ahuja was appointed on December 14, 2009 to the position of Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), housed in the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, DC. In this capacity, she is responsible for directing the efforts of the White House Initiative and the Presidential Advisory Commission on AAPIs to advise federal agency leadership on the implementation and coordination of federal programs as they relate to AAPIs across executive departments and agencies. The White House Initiative on AAPIs works with these entities to improve the quality of life and opportunities for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders through increased access to, and participation in, federal programs in which they may be underserved.
For almost twenty years, Ms. Ahuja has dedicated herself to improving the lives of women of color in the U.S. Well-known as a leader among national and grassroots AAPI and women’s rights organizations, Ms. Ahuja served as the founding Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) from 2003-2008. Through her leadership, Ms. Ahuja built NAPAWF from an all-volunteer organization to one with a paid professional staff who continue to spearhead successful policy and education initiatives, expanded NAPAWF’s volunteer chapters and membership, and organized a strong and vibrant network of AAPI women community leaders across the country.
Ms. Ahuja grew up in Savannah, Georgia, where her understanding of race, gender and ethnicity was formed as a young Indian immigrant. She attended Spelman College, an historically black college, and the University of Georgia School of Law. Following law school, she was chosen as one of five Honors Program trial attorneys for the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, where she litigated education-related discrimination cases and filed the Department’s first peer-on-peer student racial harassment lawsuit. In addition, she participated in the Division’s National Origin Working Group as part of a core group of attorneys who organized response efforts for the Division after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Jason Tengco was appointed as Deputy Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) on May 4, 2015. Jason started at the Initiative in May 2012, first serving as the Initiative’s liaison in the White House Office of Public Engagement, then as a Senior Advisor directing the Initiative’s community engagement. In this capacity, Jason managed the first-ever White House Summit on AAPIs, launched the Initiative’s E3! Ambassadors Program for young leaders, and solicited input from the community on ways to increase participation in federal programs.
Previously, Jason was an Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) Fellow in the Office of Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA). His issue areas included AAPI affairs, homeland security, and immigration, and he also served as the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) taskforce staff lead on immigration and appropriations. Prior to his fellowship in Congress, Jason worked for the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), where he helped organize APALA’s largest national convention and launched APALA’s Young Leaders Council.
In July 2014, Jason was honored to be one of ten delegates to the Philippine Embassy’s Filipino American Youth Leadership Program (FYLPro), a weeklong immersion in the Philippines. Throughout his career, Jason has participated in fellowships with the New Leaders Council, Center for Progressive Leadership, and Public Policy and International Affairs Program. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jason graduated from UCLA with Honors with a B.A. in Political Science.
Chief of Staff
Diana Yu serves as the Chief of Staff for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In this capacity, Diana leads the Interagency Working Group, provides administrative oversight, and supports the education portfolio at the Initiative. Prior to this, Diana was an educational program specialist with the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education. She specialized in monitoring state educational agencies’ management of special education programs with an emphasis on fiscal systems. She served as an expert in the areas of discipline and fiscal systems and also completed a detail at the Initiative while at OSEP.
Previously, Diana was a special education teacher who taught students with disabilities in the areas of emotional disabilities, learning disabilities, and mental retardation K-12. She also held leadership roles including mathematics department chairperson and technology lead teacher. In these roles she helped transform the teaching practices at her school by training colleagues on ways to innovatively provide classroom accommodations and modifications to curricula. Her middle school students were the first in the school’s history to pass the Standards of Learning (statewide) assessment in Algebra. Diana also has extensive international educational experiences through short term trips to Mexico, Korea, and Kenya.
Diana received her Bachelor of Science degree cum laude in Psychology and Master of Education degree magna cum laude in Special Education from George Mason University. She is currently working on her Doctoral degree at the George Washington University in the Leaders for System Change program within the Special Education program.
Courtney Chappell serves as Senior Advisor at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In this capacity, Courtney leads and coordinates the Initiative’s interagency working group and regional interagency working group portfolios.
Prior to joining the Initiative, Courtney was the Deputy Director at the DC Employment Justice Center where she led the organization’s advocacy and organizing campaigns. She helped the District to pass comprehensive unemployment insurance legislation and a “ban the box” bill that prohibited discrimination against workers with criminal records in 2010, and launched the organization’s workers’ advocacy group. Courtney was also an associate at James & Hoffman, P.C., where she represented unions and individual employees in all matters relating to labor and employment law.
Courtney has extensive experience working in the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. As the first Policy & Programs Director at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Courtney spearheaded the organization’s reproductive justice program and developed a multi-pronged action agenda that included lobbying, grassroots organizing, and public education. Her achievements included co-coordinating a national lobby day relating to immigration reform, and co-convening a national coalition of women’s rights, immigrant rights, and reproductive rights organizations to focus on the intersection of health care and immigration.
Courtney graduated magna cum laude from the American University Washington College of Law, where she was a staff member of the American University Law Review. Courtney has also served on the boards of the Third Wave Foundation, the Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project, and the DC Chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. She is a recipient of a New Voices Fellowship and a Georgetown Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellowship.
Senior Policy Advisor
Christine Soyong Harley serves as a Senior Policy Advisor for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In this capacity, Chris leads WHIAAPI’s health policy and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community engagement efforts. Chris has extensive program and policy advocacy experience having worked in the non-profit and state government sectors on issues of health care, immigrant rights, and economic justice for over 10 years. Prior to joining the Initiative, Chris played a leadership role in the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organization’s Washington, DC office to implement administrative, legislative and political advocacy strategies to improve the quality of health for medically underserved AA&NHOPI communities. Chris was also previously the Policy and Programs Director for the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. Before entering the national advocacy arena, Chris worked at the Illinois Department of Human Services and oversaw the implementation of “Open Door” programs and other immigrant integration initiatives for AA&NHOPIs, Limited English Proficient individuals, and other low-income and underserved individuals with disabilities.
Chris received her B.A. from Oberlin College and a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Chicago. She was named a Future Leader in 2009 by the Overseas Korea Foundation and received a 2011 Unsung Hero award from Asian Pacific Americans for Progress. In 2012, Chris was a Fellow in the Center for American Progress Leadership Institute.
Rebecca Lee serves as Communications Director and Senior Advisor for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In this capacity, she oversees the Initiative’s strategic communications.
Rebecca joined the Initiative as a Presidential Management Fellow from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where she worked in the public affairs, health information technology, and public health offices. Prior to her fellowship, she was a senior consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton specializing in strategic communications for federal health clients. Rebecca has spent time at the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum and began her career at the Kaiser Family Foundation. Rebecca received her Bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and Master’s degree in health policy from Columbia University. At Cornell, she led a diverse coalition to found the Asian & Asian-American Center, a student resource center for the community on campus.
Rebecca has served as Chair of the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL), an educational nonprofit dedicated to building the pipeline of Asian Pacific American leadership in public service. Under her leadership, CAPAL awarded an unprecedented number of scholarships to students to take on public sector internships and had the largest graduating class of its annual Washington Leadership Program, a summer public policy and leadership development series on Capitol Hill.
George Mui is on a special assignment from U.S. Department of Commerce serving as the Senior Advisor to the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) focusing on economic development. George’s responsibilities include leading the WHIAAPI Doing Business in Asia initiative and supporting other economic development projects.
At U.S. Department of Commerce, George is the Market Access Team Lead for the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). As a global strategist, he provides business consulting services for minority businesses in the area of international business development and strategy with a keen focus on domestic and international partnerships that provide access to global markets. Leveraging his extensive background, George also facilitates several industry-specific networking groups and serves as the Asian American business liaison. George is responsible for the implementation of the WHIAAPI/MBDA Asian American Advocacy program. He is also serves on the President’s National Export Initiative Small Business Working Group. Outside of MBDA, he serves on the advisory committee for the Office of New Americans for the City of Chicago and the Advisory Board for the Chicago Association for Corporate Growth (ACG Chicago). He is also a member of the Alumni Board for the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT).
George is a community advocate with a special focus on Asian American business advocacy. He is an active member of the OCA Asian Pacific American Advocates, having served two successful years as the OCA-Chicago chapter president. Under his leadership, he created the OCA-Scholarship Fund, OCA-Chicago Mentoring for Asian American Professionals, and the Asian American Business Expo. He also coordinates the Asian American Executive Network – a nationwide advocacy group for Asian American professionals and entrepreneurs.
George holds Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Computer Sciences from The Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, IL. He has completed two Executive Education programs at Stanford University.
Director of Strategic Partnerships
Doua Thor serves as the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Doua also serves as a Senior Fellow with the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD). Prior to this Doua was the Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) for nearly 9 years. During that time Doua was appointed by President Obama to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. She also served on the board or in a leadership position in a number of organizations and coalitions including the National Committee to Preserve Social Security, Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF), the Red Cross National Diversity Advisory Council, and the executive committee of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans. Additionally, through her leadership, SEARAC is a core work group member of the Diverse Elders Coalition, an initiative supported through Atlantic Philanthropies to improve the lives of vulnerable elders. Doua was selected as a New Voices Fellow in 2002, a German Marshall Memorial Fellow in 2008, an Asian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Institute Fellow in 2009, and a Health and Aging Policy Fellow in 2013.
Doua Thor and her family were among the many thousands of Hmong refugees who were resettled in the United States after supporting and fighting alongside the U.S. during the Vietnam War. The Thor family was resettled in Detroit, Michigan in 1979 where Doua spent much of her youth volunteering and working with Southeast Asian American communities. Over the years, Doua has gained a wealth of experience working with national, grassroots, and refugee serving organizations.
She earned her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Michigan and her Bachelor of Arts from Wayne State University.
Akil Vohra serves as Senior Advisor at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. At the Initiative, Akil supervises the following areas: education, the bullying prevention campaign, AAPI data issues, improving efforts of AAPI representation in federal government, and works directly with the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs. Prior to the Initiative, Akil was Counsel at Muslim Advocates where he focused on anti-terrorism financing, strengthening the nonprofit sector, and civil rights and civil liberties issues. Previously, he practiced international trade and customs law in Washington D.C.
He is currently an Ariane de Rothschild Fellow, which is an Edmond de Rothschild Foundation initiative in partnership with the Columbia Business School and the University of Cambridge. Akil has previously served on the board of the South Asian Bar Association of Washington D.C., and the Bay Area Association of Muslim Lawyers.
He holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of California Irvine, and a J.D. from the George Washington University Law School where he received the Michael Dillon Cooley Award for service to the law school community. He has also completed a program in international human rights and immigration at Oxford University (U.K.).
Bessie Chan serves as an Advisor for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In her capacity, she leads community and youth engagement efforts and works directly with the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Prior to joining the Initiative, Bessie worked as a Development Associate at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC (formerly the Asian American Justice Center) managing the organization’s corporate partnerships and the planning of their signature American Courage Awards celebration.
Bessie graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University with a major in Government, a minor in Chinese and an Asian Studies certificate. She served as president of the Asian American Student Association and was the recipient of Georgetown University’s 2012 Commitment to Diversity Award for Outstanding Senior.
Paul Chang serves as a Regional Advisor for the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders. In this capacity, Paul coordinates with regional interagency working groups and other federal agencies to strengthen strategic community engagement partnerships. Paul will also focus on Hmong Farmers, vulnerable workers, and economic development projects for small and underserved businesses.
Paul comes to the Initiative from the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) at the US Department of Labor (DOL) where he is an Assistant District Director. In that capacity he enforced comprehensive laws that protect the nation’s workforce. Paul has nearly 20 years of enforcement experience with the WHD and has worked on cases involving wage theft, child labor, human trafficking, family medical leave, and many forms of exploitation of vulnerable low-wage workers. At the WHD, Paul worked on many strategic initiatives, including the fight against sweatshop conditions. Focusing on the root causes of the violations in a fissured industry, he helped develop a certificate training program for small businesses at the East Los Angeles College to go along with WHD’s comprehensive enforcement strategy. As a team member on the Capacity Building team for the WHIAAPI and Federal Asian Pacific American Council challenge program, Paul helped recommend solutions to build, strengthen, and sustain strategic partnerships between government and the AAPI community. Paul received his B.A. in Political Science and M.S. in Public Administration from California State University, Los Angeles.
Gem P. Daus is on detail from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), serving as an Advisor for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In this capacity, Gem supports WHIAAPI’s health, capacity building and data collection efforts.
At HHS, Gem is a Public Health Analyst in the Health Resources and Services Administration, Office of Health Equity. Gem serves as the lead analyst and advisor on the health needs of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander populations as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations. He represents HRSA on interagency initiatives such as Healthy People 2020, language access, and health literacy. Prior to working for the federal government, Gem was the executive director of the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care and policy director of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum. He is also an adjunct professor in Asian American Studies at University of Maryland at College Park where he was honored by students as a faculty member whose excellence in teaching changed their lives.
Gem received his Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Virginia and Master of Arts in Organization Development from Marymount University. Gem has studied hula and Hawaiian culture since 2008 and is currently a member of Halau Nohona Hawaii.
Ana Victoria Fortes serves as a Regional Advisor for the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders. In this capacity, Ana Victoria leads the interagency work group to strengthen community engagement among stakeholder groups and federal agencies located in Northern California. She is a member of the AAPI Bullying Prevention Task Force and will work on economic development efforts targeting Hmong Farmers.
Ana Victoria comes to the Initiative from the Women’s Bureau (WB) at the US Department of Labor where she is a Program Analyst in the Region IX office. In that capacity, she serves as the liaison between federal, state, and local officials and stakeholder groups working on issues focused on increasing women’s participation in in-demand and non-traditional occupations, promoting fair treatment of women in the workplace, and promoting workplace policies that support working women and their families. She is actively engaged in promoting the priorities of the WB by providing technical assistance and planning outreach events that amplify the Administration’s focus on equal pay, promoting fair treatment of women in workplace, educating worker of workplace rights, and issues affecting women veterans to a range of audiences.
Ana Victoria received a B.A. in Business Management Economics at the University of California, Santa Cruz and a Master’s in Public Policy with a focus on Social Welfare at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
Dave Hung serves as a Regional Advisor for the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders. In this capacity, Dave coordinates with regional interagency working groups and other federal agencies to strengthen strategic community engagement partnerships.
Dave comes to the Initiative from the Center for Disability Programs at the Social Security Administration (SSA) where he is a Disability Program Expert. In that capacity he provided technical guidance on rules and regulations related to the Social Security Act. Dave has over 10 years of experience of working directly with the public at SSA. In 2015, Dave received a Commissioner’s Citation, SSA’s highest honor award.
Prior to joining the initiative staff, Dave served as the lead of the Region VII Regional Interagency Working Group. Dave worked with the AAPI community to build, strengthen, and utilize strategic partnerships between government and the AAPI community. Dave received his BSBA in Accounting from Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, MO.
Mary Lam is on detail from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System serving as an advisor for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In this capacity, Mary supports strategic communications, public and media outreach, and economic development.
At the Federal Reserve Board’s U.S. Currency Education Program (CEP), Mary serves as a Senior Analyst and Project Manager for public outreach programs that educate businesses and consumers around the world about the security and design features in U.S. currency. Her work focuses on strategic communications, including the program’s web outreach and international press engagement. Mary’s work at the CEP involves building and maintaining relationships with the program’s interagency partners at the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and the United States Secret Service, as well as other federal agencies.
Mary received a Master of Science in Public Policy and Management from Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Barnard College at Columbia University. She also holds a professional certificate in project management from Georgetown University.
Ambreen Tariq is on detail from the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, serving as an Advisor for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In this capacity, Ambreen supports communications, media strategies and special policy efforts.
At the Wage and Hour Division, Ambreen is a Specialist in the Communications Division. Her work focuses on strategic messaging and media planning to elaborate on the agency’s priorities and accomplishments as they relate to protecting vulnerable low-wage workers and ensuring a level playing field for businesses. She advises on AAPI outreach and education efforts and helps strengthen AAPI language access to agency resources. Ambreen also works on building and maintaining strategic stakeholder relationships with state and federal agency partners. Her federal career previously included work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Ambreen holds a J.D. from the Catholic University of America and a B.A. in Politics and South Asian Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Special Office for Civil Rights Advisor to the
Alice Yao serves as the Special Office for Civil Rights Advisor to the AAPI Bullying Prevention Task Force at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. At the Initiative, Alice leads the AAPI Bullying Prevention Task Force, an interagency working group comprised of experts from across the federal government committed to addressing bullying of AAPI students. Alice is also an attorney with the Program Legal Group in the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, where she primarily works on policy issues related to sex discrimination. Prior to joining OCR and the Initiative, Alice was an attorney at a law firm specializing in litigation and clerked for the Honorable James B. Loken on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Alice earned her J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School and graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she studied Economics and Political Science.