In July, APIA Scholars hosts our annual Elevating Leaders Summit (ELS) where first and second-year scholars engage in conversation about leading with authenticity and building leadership skills informed by identity, culture, and values. ELS offers a unique opportunity for scholars to reflect on their understanding of leadership while developing a sense of unity by learning from community leaders, alumni, and professionals in the AANHPI community. Learning from the experiences of different leaders in our dynamic and multi-faceted community can shape the ways in which we define what leadership looks like. This month, I’d like to highlight several AANHPI individuals making an impact across industries and on both a local and global scale who embody valuable leadership characteristics.
Michelle Wu exemplifies a solutions-oriented mindset, which has made her an effective and groundbreaking leader in public service. Wu is the first Asian American, first person of color, and first woman to serve as mayor of Boston. In her campaign for mayor, she drew on youth organizing and coalition-building with Black and Latinx voters to collectively envision a positive future for the city and explore policy solutions that would serve all Bostonians. Using federal COVID-19 relief funds, which she refers to as “once-in-a-generation funding,” Wu has focused on policies related to housing accessibility, climate-resilience, and free public transit to offer solutions to the city’s pressing issues.
Impactful leaders must be decisive, especially in times of crisis. Manjusha P. Kulkarni, Cynthia Choi, and Russell Jeung demonstrated decisive leadership when they co-founded Stop AAPI Hate in March 2020 after identifying the alarming and increasing trend of hate crimes against Asian Americans. Amidst the rise in incidences of hate, they identified a gap in data reporting on race-based hate and inefficiencies in California’s reporting system. Concrete data would help the media and the general public understand that anti-Asian hate crimes were not isolated incidences, but rather a quickly growing trend. These three leaders met the urgency of the moment by taking it upon themselves to publish a multilingual system for reporting hate crimes. Their decisiveness allowed for more immediate and comprehensive data collection to better understand the realities of violence against Asian Americans and advocate for resources and solutions.
Shyama Kuver is a self-taught, interdisciplinary artist based in D.C. who examines her queer and Indo-Fijian identities to consider how her art can address concepts such as power, freedom, belonging, transcendence, and futurity. Her art compels viewers to reflect on their own identities and question accepted ways of thinking, illustrating how a reflective and self-aware leader can encourage others to think from new perspectives.
Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code and the Marshall Plan for Moms, continuously advocates for women and girls’ economic empowerment and fair treatment. Her work addresses closing the gender gap in the tech industry and pushes for policy reform to combat bias and gender-based inequalities in the workplace.
Leading with courage may be challenging, but Amanda Nguyen does it well. She is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and the founder of Rise, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting for the rights of survivors of sexual violence. Nguyen approaches her advocacy work with courage and vulnerability as a survivor of rape herself. Her very personal understanding of the issue of sexual violence has propelled her activism, which includes drafting the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights that passed unanimously in Congress in 2016. Nguyen’s bravery and willingness to be vocal about the issue of sexual violence ensures that other survivors will be treated with dignity going forward.
These individuals illustrate the breadth of experiences that can illustrate unique ways of approaching leadership. They represent a small selection of the many change-makers who are defining what leadership looks like in the AANHPI community. As we continue forward, I’m encouraged by the examples of existing leaders as well as the many emerging leaders who champion for change and work every day to improve their communities.
President & Chief of Staff Intern
July 13, 2022