Our People

The work of APIA Scholars would not be possible without the efforts and generosity of countless Scholars, advisors, institutions, and supportive companies and their dedicated employees. Learn more about the ones making a difference below:

President & Executive Director

Noël S. Harmon, PhD.

Senior Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer

Julie Ajinkya, PhD.

Chief of Staff & Vice President of Strategy

Michelle Cohenour, ED.D

Associate Vice President of Development

Stacy Lewis

Vice President, Programs

Shyam R. Gadwal

Chief Financial Officer

Michelle Kim

VP of Marketing and Communications

Wendy Wong

Research & Policy Associate

Isabelle Belleza

Scholarship Associate

Maggie Chu

Senior Director of Operations

Nicole David

Development Associate

Ray Dominguez

Senior Director of Student Success

Christina Lambert

Development Operations Manager

Danny Le

Scholarship Director

Catherine Litten

Director of Scholarships and Programs

Sierra Lloyd

Programs Associate

Cindy Luo

Director of Finance

Gulnara Mambetova

Director of Research and Policy

Florie Mendiola, Ed.D.

Director of Staff Success and Special Projects

Andrea Pouso Morales

Programs Manager

Melvin Nguyen

Digital Storytelling and Marketing, Senior Manager

Bryan Park

Director of Development

Kylie Stamm

Senior Director of Marketing and Communications

Mavish Sandhu

President & COS intern

Ellery Lea

Research & Policy Intern

Amelie Lee

Research & Policy Intern

Siyue (Lena) Wang

Programs Intern

Ryan Nguyen

Programs Intern for Gates Millennium Scholars

Michelle Khlot

President & Executive Director

Noël S. Harmon, PhD.

Noël Harmon is President and Executive Director of Asian Pacific Islander American Scholars, formerly, the Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund. She joined the organization in June 2018. Harmon comes to APIA Scholars from Say Yes to Education, where she was Senior Vice President for Strategic Partnerships. Harmon has also held positions at the Brookings Institution where she was the Associate Director of the Global Cities Initiatives, a joint project of Brookings and JPMorgan Chase, and at CEOS for Cities, where she was the Chief Program Officer and National Director of the Talent Dividend. She led the National Talent Dividend Network and Prize, a joint initiative of Living Cities and CEOs for Cities, to foster post-secondary attainment, through cross-sector collaboration among more than 60 network cities. She also served as a senior research analyst at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) where she managed several long-term national initiatives.

Harmon spent the first decade of her career in direct service to students, working in administration at post-secondary institutions including Hofstra University, University of Michigan, Western Illinois University, and four years in Athletic Student Services at the University of Iowa.

Harmon holds a PhD in Higher Education and a BA in English from the University of Iowa, and a MA in Student Affairs Administration from Ball State University.

Senior Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer

Julie Ajinkya, PhD.

Julie Ajinkya, Ph.D., joined APIA Scholars in January 2021 as its new Senior Vice President to provide strategic direction to the organization as it develops its research and policy agenda. Prior to APIA Scholars, Ajinkya was the Vice President of Applied Research at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), where her research interests included equity in postsecondary education and innovative models that improve degree completion for underserved populations, such as returning adults, justice-involved communities, and rural communities. Prior to joining IHEP, Ajinkya worked at the Center for American Progress (CAP), where she focused primarily on the impact that demographic change has on a diverse portfolio of policy issues from education and health to employment and infrastructure. Ajinkya has served as a visiting professor of Government at Cornell University’s campus in Washington, D.C., for a number of years, where she teaches courses on race, inequality and public policy. She also sits on the Advisory Council for Amherst College’s Loeb Center for Career Exploration and Planning, an initiative that creates talent pipelines for the college’s first-generation students and students from low-income households. In 2019, Diverse Issues in Higher Education named Julie one of the Top 35 Women in Higher Education. Ajinkya earned her M.A. with distinction and Ph.D. in Government from Cornell University and holds a B.A. in Political Science from Amherst College.

Chief of Staff & Vice President of Strategy

Michelle Cohenour, ED.D

Michelle Cohenour is the Chief of Staff and Vice President of Strategy at Asian Pacific Islander American Scholars. She joined the organization in August 2021. Michelle is honored to have the opportunity to lead staff success policies and internal strategy at the nation’s largest student success non-profit for AANHPI American college students. Michelle has spent the past twenty years advocating for college students through a variety of roles in higher education including retention, early-intervention, career development, academic advising, residence life. Cohenour comes to APIA Scholars from Baylor University where she was the Senior Director of the Center for Academic Success and Engagement. Cohenour also held positions at the University of Iowa where she was the Director of Retention and Early Intervention. Michelle is deeply invested in student success and believes the student experience is positively impacted when a coordinated care network is fostered for students. Michelle holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary and Early-Childhood Education from Eastern Illinois University, a Masters of College Student Development from Western Illinois University and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Tarleton State University. 

Associate Vice President of Development

Stacy Lewis

Stacy Lewis (she/her) is the Associate Vice President of Development at APIA Scholars. She originally joined the organization in January 2014 as an Administrative Assistant for the Gates Millennium Scholars Program. Over the course of nearly six years, Stacy served in progressively more senior roles supporting the team in Scholarships, Programs, Communications, and Development. She left the organization in October 2019 as the Director of Development and External Relations. After nearly three years away serving as the Senior Director of External Affairs at the Millennial Action Project, Stacy rejoined APIA Scholars in May 2022 to lead the organization’s national fundraising efforts.  

Stacy holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Art & Art History from The College of William & Mary and an Executive Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Georgetown University. Her home island is Saipan, CNMI and her maternal roots are in Bicol, Philippines. 

Vice President, Programs

Shyam R. Gadwal

Shyam R. Gadwal (he/him/his) is the Vice-President of Programs at Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) Scholars. He joined the organization in January 2020.  In his role, he leads APIA Scholars’ direct to Scholars supports, including scholarship awards and program implementation to ensure students and alumni are successful through college and into fulfilling careers. 

Gadwal comes to APIA Scholars having spent almost a decade at Teach For America (TFA) on teams leading teacher training and enterprise initiatives.  He also served on TFA National’s Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Advisory Committee supporting the leadership development of AANHPI staff and teachers.  In 2010, Gadwal co-founded MERIT Health Leadership Academy, a comprehensive program supporting Baltimore high school students aspiring to be health professionals.  He currently serves on the organization’s Board of Directors. 

Gadwal has been a speaker on topics of mentorship, DEI in education, and non-profit organizations.  In addition, he has coached non-profit leaders and consulted with organizations such as Teach For India, Urban Teachers, and Imaginable Futures. 

Gadwal graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and earned a Certificate in Non-Profit Leadership from the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship.   

Chief Financial Officer

Michelle Kim

Michelle Kim is the Chief Financial Officer at Asian Pacific Islander American Scholars and joined the organization in August 2022. While working in the nonprofit sector, Michelle saw the direct positive impact education can have on the trajectory of a student’s future. Prior to joining APIA Scholars, she held a number of roles focusing on finance, operations, and strategic planning with various nonprofits. Most recently, Michelle served as the Senior Director of Finance and Operations with The TEAK Fellowship. Prior to transitioning to the nonprofit sector, Michelle was Vice President at Deutsche Bank and also held a number of roles at Morgan Stanley and OppenheimerFunds. Michelle holds a BA in Psychology from Smith College and an MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business. She was the Founding Co-Chair for Open Hands Legal Services Young Professionals Network and also previously served on the Leadership Council for Beginning with Children Foundation. 

VP of Marketing and Communications

Wendy Wong

Wendy Wong is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications of APIA Scholars. She joined the team in July 2022. Wong has a track record of bringing her strategy- and data-driven marketing and communications expertise to nonprofit, entertainment, and tech startup organizations. Prior to joining APIA Scholars, she served as the Head of Marketing at the Singleton Foundation, the VP of Marketing at Lionsgate, and the Executive Director of Marketing at Summit Entertainment. She has worked on partnerships with Scholastic, Harper Collins, Cover Girl, Hasbro, and Chegg. Her campaigns have won the Clio Awards and Promax/BDA Awards for excellence in marketing, design and communications. After her success in the film studios, Wong combined her experience in entertainment to the Singleton Foundation for Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship where she made financial education engaging, entertaining, and relevant to the younger generations. During her tenure with the startup Tapcheck, she spearheaded the awards campaign and won recognition at the 2021 FinTech Breakthrough Award for the company in the category of Best Employee Benefits Solution. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Communications from Cornell University and an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. 

Research & Policy Associate

Isabelle Belleza

Isabelle Belleza (she/her) joined APIA Scholars in September 2021 as the Research & Policy Associate. She comes to the organization with a background in research, communications, and government affairs focused on US-Asia relations. At APIA Scholars, she has helped to launch the first Annual Survey and supported new policy and capacity-building initiatives. Motivated by her experiences as a student activist advocating for Southeast Asian area and diasporic studies, she is passionate about building visibility around AANHPI student communities and uplifting student voices. Isabelle holds a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy from Brown University. 

Scholarship Associate

Maggie Chu

Maggie Chu (she/they) joined the APIA Scholars team in June 2022 as a scholarships associate. Chu has a strong commitment to supporting the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, especial AAPI youth. Before joining APIA Scholars they worked for Asian American LEAD as a high school program coordinator, creating afterschool and summer curriculum for underserved Asian American youth in the DMV area. Chu started her work in the AAPI community at the College of William & Mary where they graduated with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Global studies with a concentration in APIA Studies and History. 

Senior Director of Operations

Nicole David

Nicole David (she/her) joined APIA Scholars in January 2020 as the Director of Development Operations, and in July of 2021 became the Senior Director of Operations. While at APIA Scholars, David has focused on strengthening relationships with partners, creating efficient internal systems to support the organization’s growth, and building the organization’s first Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool. Her career has been centered on supporting the mission of education nonprofits as they go through a turnaround or periods of growth. Prior to joining APIA Scholars, David worked for PDK International (PDK) and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). While at PDK, David led an international travel program with the purpose of providing American educators the opportunity to experience diverse cultures and methods of teaching. David holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from Roger Williams University, and a Master’s Certificate in Genocide and Holocaust Studies from Seton Hill University. 

Development Associate

Ray Dominguez

Ray Dominguez (they/them) joined APIA Scholars as the Development Associate in November 2022. Prior to joining APIA Scholars, Ray served as Communications Coordinator & Grant Writer at Bridge Disability Ministries, overseeing donor campaigns, funder outreach, and supporting grant narratives to provide fellowship, mobility equipment, and guardianship services to people with disabilities in the Puget Sound Region and beyond. They are driven to create a more accessible and inclusive community for historically marginalized groups, especially APIA students with intersectional identities. 

Ray holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from George Mason University, with involvements in Pride Alliance and the Filipino Cultural Association. As Philippine Culture Night Director, they fused romantic-comedy elements with imperative cultural analysis in a three-act playscript that was awarded Event of the Year by the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition. Ray is also published in several digital poetry anthologies. Their ancestral roots hail from Pangasinan and Cavite. 

Senior Director of Student Success

Christina Lambert

Christina Lambert (she/her) started in July 2022 as the Senior Director of Student Success at APIA Scholars. Previously, she managed Coaching Services with the Making Waves Foundation, directly managing professional staff who supported around 700 scholarship recipients each year. During that time, she led initiatives focused on community college completion and creating a student success framework. Previously, Lambert was the inaugural staff member for an AANAPISI grant at Bunker Hill Community College. She developed a culturally-responsive success coaching model for the grant, in addition to being part of a curriculum reform for the English Language Learning department, and developing more holistic student supports for the College. Prior to that, she worked for Bunker Hill CC, Northeastern University, and Colorado State University in academic advising and student activities roles. Lambert received a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Wheaton College and a Master’s degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Colorado State University. She also received a Commonwealth Citation for Outstanding Performance from the state of Massachusetts in 2017, and completed the Leadership Development Program for Higher Education (now known as LEAP Advance) through LEAP (Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics). 

Development Operations Manager

Danny Le

Danny Le (him/him) serves as Development Operations Manager for APIA Scholars and joined the organization in January 2022 as Development Associate. Danny is passionate about supporting underrepresented communities with a focus in his undergraduate and early career experiences working with Asian and Pacific Islander American communities. These experiences are rooted in student organizing roles at George Mason University and supporting non-profits in the DMV region through roles of development, research, and civic engagement. Prior to joining APIA Scholars, Danny served as the Development and Operations Coordinator at OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates at OCA National Center. Danny holds a Bachelor of Arts in Global Affairs with a concentration in Global Inequalities and Responses from George Mason University. 

Scholarship Director

Catherine Litten

Catherine Litten (she/her) started at APIA Scholars in March 2019 as Scholarships Manager, and in December 2019 became Scholarships Director. While at APIA Scholars, she has overseen the relaunch of the Emergency Fund program, administered an independent scholarship program with an APIA Scholars partner, and encouraged the transition to more dynamic application systems. Litten’s work has focused on improving education access globally with under-resourced communities. Prior to joining APIA Scholars, Litten worked for Open Society Foundations in New York in their Scholarships department, supporting international human rights and civil society activists from Southeast Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, East Africa, and Eurasia through graduate level scholarships both domestically and abroad. This included managing an annual selection process involving participants from 40+ countries traveling between 20 countries; acting as liaison between a dozen US institutions and hundreds of scholars; and organizing annual conferences around the US. Previous work includes supporting Saudi Arabian scholarship recipients in North Dakota/Minnesota and working as a teacher in Cairo, Egypt. Litten holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from American University in Washington, DC. 

Director of Scholarships and Programs

Sierra Lloyd

Sierra Lloyd (she/her) serves as Director of Scholarships and Programs and joined APIA Scholars in June of 2020. She currently co-leads the management and disbursement process of the APIA Scholarship and oversees the AANAPISI Scholarship program. In her role, Lloyd finds enjoyment in streamlining cross-department processes and cultivating working relationships with AANAPISI partner campuses, in order to minimize success barriers for first-generation and low-income college students. Prior to joining APIA Scholars, Lloyd worked for various other college access and success organizations, including the College Advising Corps, where she created targeted programming and advised hundreds of high school students on navigating the college application and financial aid process. She also comes to APIA Scholars with years’ experience in managing and overseeing college access and scholarship programming, at the city-wide and school-district level, created for students, parents, and high school counselors. Lloyd holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Gender Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Masters of Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. 

Programs Associate

Cindy Luo

Cindy Luo (she/her) joined APIA Scholars in May 2021 and works as the Programs Associate. She supports the team with different programming initiatives, including the Gates Millennium Scholars Program and academic advising services for students as they navigate their higher education journeys. In her role, she strives to help foster a stronger sense of community and belonging for students of all backgrounds while encouraging their identity exploration and leadership development. Cindy brings a global mindset to her work and is also inspired by the power of storytelling, intercultural communication, and language learning. Prior to joining APIA Scholars, she worked at the University of Pennsylvania’s Division of Student Engagement. Cindy received her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Sociolinguistics at Georgetown University.  

Director of Finance

Gulnara Mambetova

Gulnara Mambetova began her APIA Scholars journey in December 2016 as a Staff Accountant, and in February 2022, she was promoted to the Director of Finance role. While at APIA Scholars, she has overseen all internal finance, accounting, and administrative functions. She has proven to work collaboratively with external auditors and lead successful audits from year to year.  

Gulnara received her Masters in Business Administration with a focus in Finance from Bay Atlantic University in Washington, DC, and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and Business Administration from International Alatoo University in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. 

Director of Research and Policy

Florie Mendiola, Ed.D.

Florie Manglona Mendiola is Chamoru, born and raised on the land and ocean of her ancestors, Rota, CNMI, daughter of Lucas and Rosalin Mendiola, member of the Casa Mayot and Tugong family clan, and mother to Marley Mendiola Terlaje. 

Florie is the Director of Research and Policy at APIA Scholars leading the research initiative to impact the educational pipeline for Asian and Pacific Islander American students. With a passion for improving pathways that empower students, Florie has over 15 years of teaching and leadership experience in secondary and post-secondary education. Grounded in the cultural value of reciprocity and Inafa’maolek “to make better,” Florie diversified her work to include developing programs and curriculum that promote social-emotional development, leadership training and professional development for teachers, mentorship for students and new teachers, mediation and conflict resolution training for students, peer support groups and tutoring, and community building initiatives among stakeholders. Florie works at APIA Scholars as an advocate and aims to cultivate research, education, and partnership opportunities that have the potential to dismantle barriers to education, empower leadership and community, and chart new paths that uplift generations.  

Florie holds an Ed.D. from Pepperdine University, an M.Ed from the University of Portland, and a BA in Secondary Education from the University of Guam. 

Director of Staff Success and Special Projects

Andrea Pouso Morales

Andrea Pouso Morales (she/her) is the Director of Staff Success and Special Projects. She joined the APIA Scholars team in June 2022. Coming from a background in student affairs, Andrea has experience in different functional areas working with mentoring, curriculum development, campus programming, and basic needs initiatives within a college campus. Prior to APIA Scholars, Andrea served as the Program Coordinator of Engineering and Computer Science Scholars at Baylor University. In that role, she led the implementation of a National Science Foundation S-Stem grant supporting 2 cohorts of low-income, high achieving students historically underrepresented in the fields of ECS. Andrea is passionate about eliminating barriers to college access and building holistic supports for historically underserved student populations to thrive in post-secondary education.  

Andrea holds a B.S in Nutrition Sciences and a M.Ed. In Higher Education and Student Affairs from Baylor University. 

Programs Manager

Melvin Nguyen

Melvin Nguyen (he/him) joined APIA Scholars in October 2022 as the Programs Manager. Dedicated to closing the gap of achieving higher education, Nguyen has served as a College Access Mentor for Breakthrough New York, Let’s Get Ready, and Strive for College for the last four years to support first-generation low-income BIPOC high school seniors navigate the inequitable college application process. In addition to college access, Nguyen is passionate about the power of hands-on learning in kitchen environments, working in the back and the front of restaurants since his high school years. He recently served as the Program Specialist at Future Chefs where he led the recruitment and onboarding of their paid school year and summer programming, internship programs, and short-term engagements, impacting 200 participants a year. He facilitated the development of their work-based learning and coaching curriculum with a focus on post-secondary success and transferable skill attainment. Nguyen has been involved with APIA Scholars as a former scholarship recipient, Social Innovation Fellow, and Elevating Leaders Summit Group Facilitator. He graduated from New York University where he majored in Hospitality and Tourism and has a graduate certificate in Food Studies from Boston University. He is currently a Community Fellow at the Institute of Nonprofit Practice.  

Digital Storytelling and Marketing, Senior Manager

Bryan Park

Bryan Park (he/they) serves as the Senior Manager of Digital Storytelling and Marketing for APIA Scholars, and originally joined the organization in May 2018 as a Communications Associate. Bryan comes from a background in journalism, having graduated from American University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and Asian Studies. Bryan is passionate about using his storytelling skills and experience to bring rich and empowering stories of young Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholars to the forefront of popular media. During his 4 years at APIA Scholars, Bryan has led key marketing and brand building efforts for the organization including the 2018 APIA Scholars rebrand, social media management, website development, photography/videography production, event collaterals, and more. 

Director of Development

Kylie Stamm

Kylie Stamm (she/hers) serves as Director of Development for APIA Scholars and joined the organization in November 2021. Always passionate about college access and persistence for historically underrepresented students, Kylie comes to APIA Scholars from a career in diversity, equity, and inclusion work within higher education administration. She previously worked at Illinois Wesleyan University, George Mason University, and George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. In each role, she supported programming, student leadership development, curriculum development, and strategic planning to support efforts towards campus inclusive excellence. She has served as faculty advisor for 20+ student organizations including predominantly Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Native American cultural organizations and enjoyed many years of cultural heritage month planning and celebrations. Her greatest professional joy comes from any opportunity to mentor and coach students in the next generation of changemakers. Kylie holds a Masters of Arts in College Student Development, Student Affairs, from Appalachian State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from James Madison University. 

Senior Director of Marketing and Communications

Mavish Sandhu

Mavish Sandhu is the Senior Director of Marketing and Communications at APIA Scholars and joined the team in July 2022. She leads the team responsible for developing marketing campaigns and communication strategies that advance the organization’s efforts to illuminate impact – bringing equity, empowerment, and access for underserved Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) students across higher education.  

Sandhu has spent over a decade building and leading next generation marketing and communication teams ranging from Fortune 500, tech startup and non-profit organizations. Prior to joining APIA Scholars, she served as the Communications Advisor to the Senior Vice President of Nationwide Offices at AARP; serving over 38 million members across 53 state offices. During her time at Frontier Communications, she was tapped to join start-up incubator, Frontier Secure, as the Head of Marketing. While there, she and her team helped grow the product portfolio from 30M to 300M in the span of 3.5 years – establishing major media presence including Lifetime Network, Discovery Channel, and Inc. Magazine. Throughout her work, Sandhu continues to be passionate about empowering teams and developing brands that as she puts it ‘market with meaning’ by executing innovative, strategic, and creative marketing and communications that ultimately unlock change for good. She holds a BA in Psychology from the University at Buffalo. 

President & COS intern

Ellery Lea

Research & Policy Intern

Amelie Lee

Research & Policy Intern

Siyue (Lena) Wang

Programs Intern

Ryan Nguyen

Programs Intern for Gates Millennium Scholars

Michelle Khlot