Home Most Influential Wisconsin’s 48 Most Influential Asian American Leaders

Wisconsin’s 48 Most Influential Asian American Leaders


Every year since our founding five years ago, we have recognized Wisconsin’s most influential Black and Latino leaders. It’s become the most anticipated thing we do. Every year, I’ve intended these lists to highlight the beauty of the diversity across our state. I want kids here in Wisconsin to see role models of people who are succeeding, to know that it’s possible for African Americans and Latinos to achieve great things here.

Each year, after we publish every list, we hear from the community. We hear genuine excitement and gratitude for the recognition. We hear new names to include in future lists.

And, invariably, we hear, “When will you honor leaders from other communities of color?”

The truth is that we have wanted to. For several years, we have wanted and intended to honor our Native American and Asian American brothers and sisters. But the fact is we can only do so with the help, trust and engagement of those communities. We have spent the last few years building that trust, building those relationships, learning about those communities.

And now, finally, I am confident — we are ready.

In March, we published our first-ever list of the most influential Native Americans in Wisconsin, and today, we’re proud to present our first-ever list of the most influential Asian American leaders in our state.

This list represents something that’s never been done. This week we shine a statewide spotlight on the dedicated leaders of Wisconsin’s Hmong, Chinese-American, Japanese-American, Pacific Islander, South Asian, and other communities. These are richly diverse communities with roots that represent a massive geographic area. The people we highlight this week are elected leaders, business leaders and community leaders, doing difficult, important work, often in the face of discrimination and literally generations of oppression.

We are also aware that this list, like every other, is not comprehensive. There are, without a doubt, more than 48 influential Asian American leaders doing good work in Wisconsin. We hope you will let us know about people in your community who we can include on future lists. For now, though, we just want to introduce you to a few of the people doing the work, often behind the scenes and without the accolades, across Wisconsin.

You might know a few of these names, but there’s a good chance that most of them will be new to you. I commend you to get to know them. Reach out to those living and working in your communities. Learn from them, network, create partnerships. And spread the word — let others in your network know that we have people of all ethnicities living and working across Wisconsin to make this state a good and prosperous place for all.

Henry Sanders, Jr
CEO, 365 Media Foundation
Publisher, Madison365 and FoxValley365

Mai J Lo Lee is director of the Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs (MESA) at UW–Green Bay. She’s a proud product of the UW system — she earned her bachelor’s degree in English and mass communications from UW-Eau Claire and master’s degree in education at UW-La Crosse.  Her research interests include leadership, cultural competency, women’s studies and student development. Mai was awarded the 2018 University Award for Excellence in Collaborative Achievement for her work in the Brown County MLK Jr. Day Celebration, the 2016 Institution Staff Member of the Year, the 2009 UW System Woman of Color in Education award and was recently nominated for the 2017 Future 15 Young Professional of the Year award. She has also been a panelist and moderator on topics in higher education at the Wisconsin Leadership Summit.

Shary Tran serves as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Health Systems. In her role, she prioritizes initiatives that ensure quality healthcare for Froedtert clients. Outside of that, Tran is also an active member of her Milwaukee community. She co-founded ELEVAsian, an organization launched in 2017 to highlight and elevate Asian Americans in the Milwaukee area. She was the President of the Young Professionals of Milwaukee, now known as FUEL Milwaukee. In 2015, Tran was recognized as a “40 under 40” leader by the Milwaukee Business Journal. She also holds other leadership positions, including being a board member of Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee. Tran graduated from the University of Whitewater and went on to earn her MBA from Cardinal Stritch University.

Kabzuag Vaj, the founder and co-executive director of Freedom Inc., has dedicated the majority of her life to ending gender-based violence, starting from the young age of 16. Vaj was born in Laos and came to the U.S. as a refugee child with her mother and siblings and has spent her career building collective power in the Southeast Asian and Black communities. Along with co-founding Freedom Inc, Vaj also co-founded Building Our Future, a global campaign that targets traditional practices and beliefs that contribute to gender-based violence in Hmong communities. She was recognized as a Champion of Change at the White House during Domestic Violence Awareness month in 2011 and was recently named one of the 20 Women of Color in Politics to Watch in 2020 by She the People.

Charles Huang is the Pastor of Blackhawk Chinese Ministry at Blackhawk Church, the largest church in Madison.  Born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan, he attended college in Tokyo, grad school in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Regent College in Vancouver, Canada for his Master of Divinity. Before his theological education, Charles worked in IT for five years and a fast-food chain for nine years. Charles joined the Blackhawk staff in 2017. Charles and his wife Anita have a daughter and a son. They enjoy playing board games and traveling to Taiwan to visit family and friends. 

Mike Moh is owner of Moh’s Martial Arts in Madison. He grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota and was inspired by one of his heroes, Jackie Chan, while working as a stuntman in Hong Kong on the film “Robin-B-Hood,” to pursue a career in acting. Mike relocated to Los Angeles and landed roles in numerous commercials, TV shows, and films like “Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist,” widely considered the best film adaptation of a video game. After nearly a decade in Los Angeles, Moh relocated his family back to the Midwest in 2013 to open Moh’s Martial Arts. While juggling a growing family and one of the most successful martial arts schools in the midwest, he has been able to book roles on primetime shows like FOX’s “Empire,” ABC’s “Marvel’s Inhumans,” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” in which he played Bruce Lee. Mike continues his martial arts training daily and holds the rank of 5th-degree black belt in Taekwondo.

Dr. Ashok Rai has served as Prevea Health’s President and CEO since 2009 and currently sits on UW-Green Bay’s Council of Trustees. While Prevea has been a partner with Green Bay Athletics since 1985, Dr. Rai led the charge starting in 2012 what was then a unique model with an exclusive healthcare provider with a Division I program but is now quickly becoming the recommended NCAA best practice public-private relationship. Dr. Rai and his team of physicians, athletic trainers and other specialists provide full medical coverage for UW-Green Bay student-athletes both at the Kress Center and on the road. The public-private partnership allows for a separation of medical decisions from the University and places the student-athlete first in all decisions and care.

Bekki Yang is the Vice President of Sales at iHeartMedia-Milwaukee and co-president of the Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce. She currently manages a staff of over 20 marketing professionals, who develop integrated advertising solutions for both local and national brands. With over 20 years of experience, Yang specializes in engaging audiences using traditional and new-media with relevant marketing strategies to grow business. Her campaigns have landed nominations and awards such as the Radio Mercury Awards, and her PR experience has garnered coverage in multiple news and media outlets throughout her career.  In addition, Bekki is passionate about giving back to her community. Bekki has held seats on many planning committees in Detroit (Council of Asian Pacific Americans) and Milwaukee (Milwaukee Public Schools, American Cancer Society and Hmong American Friendship). Bekki holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Bryan Chan founded SupraNet in 1994 to provide the Madison business community with Internet access. Chan has since co-founded and organized a number of other events, including the annual Forward Festival. Chan serves on multiple boards such as the United Way of Dane County, Overture Center for the Arts and Madison Museum of Contemporary Arts. Additionally, Chan was the “Small Business Executive of the Year” award winner by InBusiness Magazine in 2015 and the “Brian D Howell Excellence in Innovation” and “Isthmus Independent Business” awards in 2014. Chan earned his bachelor of arts degree in English language and literature from the UW-Madison.

Ka Lo currently serves on the Marathon County Board as District 5 Supervisor. She is the oldest of six children born to refugee parents who escaped war-torn Southeast Asia decades ago. She received an Associate of Arts and Sciences in Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities from the University of Wisconsin-Marathon County (recently renamed University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point at Wausau) in 2011. Then, she earned a  Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)in American History from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2014. She intends to make things fair for everyone with each policy put forward. Ka also serves on the County’s Extension, Education, and Economic Development Committee.

Kashoua (Kristy) Yang is a Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge.  She was elected to a six-year term in 2017, becoming the first Asian American in Wisconsin elected to the judiciary without an appointment, and the first woman of Hmong ethnicity elected to the judiciary in the United States. Prior to ascending to the bench, she was in private practice in the areas of family law, worker’s compensation, and social security disability.  Some of Judge Yang’s community service and involvement have included: Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic, legal clinic for Hmong speakers, mentoring high school students, and Legal Options for Trafficked and Underserved Survivors.

Dr. Pafoua (Pam) Her is currently president and owner of 4Chi Business Solutions and an Adjunct Professor with Rasmussen College in the School of Business.  She has taught marketing, professional communication, principles of management, entrepreneurship, sales, finance, and ethics. Dr. Her currently serves as an adviser to the NEW Hmong Professionals Group and Central Wisconsin Hmong Professionals group, vice president of Vue National Association, and a member of the board of directors for CAP Services, Inc.  Previously, she served as an adviser to the Hmong Wisconsin 18 Clan Council and has been on numerous boards such as United Way Fox Cities, American Red Cross-Outagamie County, Fox Valley Literacy Council, and the Fox Cities Community Foundation.  She has advised the Wisconsin State Supreme Court on interpreters in judicial proceedings as well as NEW North on recruiting and retaining diverse talent. Dr. Her has received numerous recognition such as recipient of the Fox Valley Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award, WISCAP Exceptional Advocate of the Year Award, and the Rasmussen College Exceptional Educator Recognition.

Renee Moe is President and CEO of United Way of Dane County, a leader in the worldwide United Way network and across the nonprofit sector. Charity Navigator recently recognized United Way of Dane County in the top three percent of U.S. nonprofits. A military kid who grew up on the three continents, Renee has a JBA in Journalism and Mandarin Chinese, and an MBA from UW-Madison. She has been recognized with the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, Wisconsin Women of Color Network Power of Unity Award, Brava Woman 2 Watch, UW Business School 8 Under 40, and served as President of Downtown Rotary.

Fanfu Li, the current president of the Wisconsin Chinese Chamber of Commerce, has for many years had a hand in promoting business development for the Chinese community in Wisconsin. As president, Li works to service its members, specifically on functionality and the advantages of non-profit organizations. Outside of the Wisconsin Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Li is the International Business Development Director at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. There, he works to promote economic growth in Wisconsin. Li earned his MBA in international business from the University of South Carolina, a Master’s in packaging from Michigan State University and his Bachelor’s degree in engineering from Hefei University of Technology in China.

Gabe Javier, originally from St. Louis, Missouri, and the son of immigrants from the Philippines, was appointed as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in December 2019. Gabe oversees the Multicultural Student Center, Gender and Sexuality Campus Center, International Student Services, McBurney Disability Resource Center, and University Veteran Services, all of which were previously under the Division of Student Life. Prior to this position, Gabe served as the Assistant Dean and Director for the University of Wisconsin Multicultural Student Center. Before joining UW-Madison’s faculty as an Assistant Dean of Students and Director of the LGBT Campus Center, Gabe served as Interim Assistant to the Dean of Students in the Office of the Dean of Students at the University of Michigan which is where he received his Masters in Higher Education Administration in 2006. 

May Yer Thao is assistant deputy director of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA), where she utilizes her business development experience and strategic relationships to expand WHEDA’s mission in underserved communities. She also represents WHEDA on the Governor’s Council on Mental Health. Before being appointed to this role by Gov. Tony Evers in 2019, she was the executive director of the Wisconsin Hmong Chamber of Commerce, where she deployed the highest number of business microloans statewide in the organization’s history, leveraging over $10 million in total loan funds and expanding the organization’s statewide footprint. She has served in leadership of Ascension Lutheran Church and on the boards of the Milwaukee County Parks Foundation, MKE United, Havenwoods Economic Development Corporation, and more.

Erik Kennedy is senior community relations coordinator at Advocate Aurora Health and co-founder of ELEVAsian, an organization launched in 2017 to highlight and elevate Asian Americans in the Milwaukee area. Previously, he worked as a volunteer and Leadership Development Coordinator for the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee. In that role, he worked directly with students and local organizations to create volunteer and job opportunities. Kennedy is also an advisory committee member for FUEL Milwaukee, a professional networking organization. Kennedy graduated from Bowling Green State University.

Pat Wongkit brings enthusiasm and perspective to all that she does as program director of the Northport and Packer Learning Centers on Madison’s north side where she has worked passionately for the last 25 years to deliver quality programming focused on education and employment. The centers serve over 400 youth and families who qualify for rental assistance through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Renewal’s Section 8 Housing Program. Wongkit has built and sustained relationships with important community partners such as the Madison Metropolitan School District, Dane County Human Services, City of Madison, The River Food Pantry, Extended Hands Pantry, Northside Partners and other community organizations to benefit neighborhood residents. In addition, each semester, she supervises service-learning students from Madison College, UW-Madison Department of Afro-American Studies as well as summer practicum students from the UW-Madison School of Education. Wongkit was twice awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award from President Obama.

Arvind Gopalratnam is the Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility for the Milwaukee Bucks. He is a native of the Milwaukee area, a proud graduate of UW-Madison and George Washington University and a lifetime Wisconsin sports fan. As a member of the Bucks community team, Arvind helps lead the organization’s mission to make the place in which we work and play a better place for all families to live. Arvind is currently in his third season with the Bucks after spending 11 years in corporate communications for NBC Universal and General Electric’s Healthcare business. With GE, Arvind developed extensive experience in the Sports and Healthcare industries as a corporate spokesperson, manager of crisis communications globally, coaching senior-level executives on communications tactics and developing internal and external communications strategies.

Christine Liu McLaughlin of Milwaukee is a shareholder and chair of Godfrey & Kahn’s Labor & Employment Law Practice Group. She provides counsel to business management on a wide variety of employment and labor issues ranging from interpretation and application of federal and state employment laws to specialized employee transition matters in complex business transactions, including management of day-to-day employment matters, drafting and enforcing restrictive covenant agreements, advising on and defending state and federal discrimination claims, and advising and conducting internal investigations. Christine also has extensive experience in evaluating and drafting federal and Wisconsin state affirmative action plans, as well as advising on compliance reviews. Christine has conducted workshops and seminars on various employment law topics in Wisconsin, as well as nationally. Christine has been recognized in Chambers USA, Best Lawyers and Wisconsin Super Lawyers. Further, Christine was named to the Women of Influence list by The Milwaukee Business Journal and to the Women in the Law list by the Wisconsin Law Journal. 

Dr. Maysee Herr is the newly-appointed executive director of the Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce. As executive director, Dr. Herr leads her team in providing economic and developmental assistance in business planning to communities in Wisconsin, focusing on Hmong and Southeast Asian communities. Prior to her role at HWCC, Dr. Herr was an assistant professor of education at UW-Stevens Point. She has also held extensive leadership positions, serving as a member of board of directors for multiple nonprofits, including Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin and Marathon County Diversity Affairs Commission. Dr. Herr earned her Master’s and Ph.D. in education at Indiana University-Bloomington and received her Bachelor’s at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Peng Her is the Community Relations Coordinator for UW Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty, and the director of the Hmong Institute. Prior to this position, he was the Associate Director for Center for Resilient Cities and VP of Promise Zone and Partnerships at Urban League of Greater Madison before that. Peng has worked with officials, residents, and service providers to remove barriers to success for 15 years. He helped establish Hmong American studies at UW–Madison and Edgewood College and was associate director of the Center for Resilient Cities. He is on the Morgridge Center Advisory board, Badger Rock Middle School board, and several other boards in the community.

Yee Leng Xiong is a Marathon County board supervisor, a trustee in the Village of Weston, the clerk for the D.C. Everest Area school board and executive director at the Hmong American Center, Inc. (HAC) in Wausau. The non-profit HAC was established in 1984 to assist in community integration as well as economic and social advancement of Southeast Asian refugees in the Wausau-Marathon County area, according to HAC’s website. He is recognized as a statewide leader of the Hmong community, and dedicates himself to bringing Hmong voices into local government.

Abha Thakkar of Madison is the Executive Director of the Northside Planning Council and Editor of the Northside News. She is also a co-founder of the East Attendance Area PTO Coalition, the Dane County TimeBank, the Grassroots Leadership College and the Northside Farmers market. She is a consultant, trainer and lecturer in the areas of relational community organizing, leadership development, capacity-building and international development. She founded and has managed a national nonprofit service-learning program that connected US students with children living in orphanages and refugee camps and as part of that work traveled to 40 countries between 2007 and 2011. She is also a programmer, technology trainer, web developer and writer. Abha received the 2006 Visionary Award from the Madison Social Justice Center. Born in India, she moved to Wisconsin with her family when she was a child. She earned a bachelor’s degree from UW–Madison in political science, international relations, global cultures and integrated liberal studies.

Jessica Boling was recently the director of community engagement for the Asian American and Pacific Islander Milwaukee 2020 host committee. In her role, Boling has an opportunity to bring various Asian communities in Milwaukee together for the Democratic National Convention, which is happening mostly online due to the pandemic. Boling has also held other community engagement roles at firms like P3 Development Group and Silicon Pastures, and has said that her background is central to who she is personally and professionally. Boling graduated from Seattle University with a Bachelor’s in international development and went on to earn her Master’s in social work from Boston College.

Nkauj Nou Vang-Vue has been the principal of Lake View Elementary School since July 2018. She is the Madison Metropolitan School District’s first Hmong American principal and oversees the district’s only bilingual Hmong-English immersion program. Before serving as principal of Lake View, Nkauj Nou was the Assistant Principal at Glenn Stephens Elementary School for three years. She also has a background in social work, working as a School Social Worker for Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools for almost five years. Nkauj Nou received a Bachelor’s in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2007,  a Master’s in Social Work in the School Setting from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2008, and another degree in Educational Leadership from Viterbo University in 2014. 

Alex Tran is a Brown County Supervisor, becoming the first woman of color voted to the Brown County Board in 2018. When Tran was elected she had no political experience and was a manager at Duke Marine Engineering Consultants, Inc. Since taking office she stood against Christian prayers before board meetings, guided an advisory referendum on legalizing marijuana and kept the promise of not becoming a career politician. The Green Bay Press-Gazette reports that Tran is not seeking reelection. Tran came to Ashwaubenon in 1983 as a 10-year-old refugee who fled Vietnam after she and her father escaped from a prisoner of war camp. 

Houa Xiong is associate dean of students at UW-Oshkosh. In this role, she aims to help guide students with the questions or concerns and connect students with appropriate campus resources, according to UW-Oshkosh’s website. She has been working in academic services at UW-La Crosse and UW-Fond du Lac since 2000.

Pa Lee Moua is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer for the Appleton Area School District. serving more than 16,000 students. She became the first person to hold that position when it was created in 2018. Pa Lee has more than 15 years of professional experience in education, community engagement, and diversity and inclusion, including as Associate Dean of Students for Diversity Affairs at Lawrence University. She was born in a refugee camp in Thailand.  In 1984, at the age of 5, she along with her family arrived in Fresno, CA.  They later relocated to Wisconsin to be closer to family. 

Chimeng Yang is the recently-appointed market manager for Old National Bank in Milwaukee. He is also the Vice President of the Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce. Throughout his career, Yang has held many positions in finance and banking and used his knowledge to support HWCC in their goal of providing financial resources to technical assistance to business and community development activities. Yang is also a member on the Board of Directors for the Special Olympics Wisconsin. Yang graduated from the University of Minnesota.

Zong Sae Vang won the November 2018 election to serve as the president of the Hmong 18 Council of Wisconsin until 2022. The three candidates that ran for the president of Hmong 18 Council of Wisconsin were Zong Tze Vang from Milwaukee, Nao Vai Yang from Milwaukee, and Nao Nhia Thao from Madison. Wisconsin Hmong community is the first Hmong community in the United States to allow Hmong individuals who live in Wisconsin to vote for presidential candidates running for Hmong 18 Council of Wisconsin. 

Francesca Hong is co-owner of Morris Ramen and is poised to become the first Asian-American in the Wisconsin legislature. The daughter of immigrants, she started in the restaurant business as a dishwasher, slowly working her way down the line as a line cook, sous chef, and eventually one of the youngest and first female executive chefs at 43 North Restaurant. A labor activist and community leader, she announced a run for the 76th Assembly District, representing downtown Madison, in May. Earlier this month, she won a crowded primary for the Democratic nomination and is virtually assured a victory in the deep blue district to become the first person of Asian descent to serve as an elected representative in the state capitol. 

Kou Vang is President of the Hmong American Partnership (HAP) in the Fox Valley. He also serves as a board member for WUCMAA, an ethnic non-profit coalition that builds capacity and advocates for the advancement of underserved communities. As Board President of The HAP, Kou works to meet the needs of the Hmong community in Appleton and surrounding areas. Originally founded as the Fox Valley Lao-Hmong Association in 1980 by settled refugees, the Hmong-American Partnership coordinates services and educational activities. Since the agency was launched it has become a vibrant hub of the Hmong community and newly arriving refugee communities including, but not limited to Somali, Iraqi, Burmese, Cuban, and Congolese. In February, Kou spoke out about the U.S. proposal to deport some Hmong immigrants and refugees living in the United States. More recently, The HAP announced they are participating in a statewide collaboration led by The Hmong Institute to address the immediate COVID-related needs of underserved immigrant communities across the state.

Alexa Alfaro is the co-owner of Meat on the Street, the first Filipino food truck in Milwaukee, and the popular ELEVEN25 food hall in the old Pabst Brewery building. Since opening the food cart in 2014, Alfaro has appeared on The Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games, been published in “The New Filipino Kitchen” cookbook and been interviewed by NBC News for their Asian American Pacific Islander month article, according to her LinkedIn profile. She has also won the Jackens award: Risk taker,  honoring women that make a difference in Milwaukee and was a speaker at the Trek Bicycle’s Innovation Summit. 

Thay Yang is the manager of creative services with Milwaukee Public Television and is the CEO of Nyob Zoo Milwaukee TV. The TV news platform, which was founded in 2017, aims to provide impactful news to enrich the lives of under-served Hmong Americans and the Asian community in southeastern Wisconsin. It is the first over-the-air Hmong news show in Milwaukee and the only such show in Wisconsin. Thay Yang has worked at MKE Public Television for more than 20 years. 

Paula Phillips, who works to empower women and promote diverse leadership at the Medical College of Wisconsin, was first elected to represent the 7th District of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors in April 2017. In her current role, Phillips is focused on expanding leadership opportunities for women in Academic Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Phillips is a first-generation college graduate and Filipina American who attended Milwaukee Area Technical College and earned a bachelor’s of science in Agricultural and Applied Economics with a certificate in Global Health from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has developed a lifelong passion for education after seeing the tremendous impact it had on her own life and the stabilizing influence it can have on those who have difficult lives at home. 

Kaleka Pardeep Singh is the author of “The Gift of Our Wounds: A Sikh and a Former White Supremacist Find Forgiveness After Hate.”  In 2012, he founded Serve 2 Unite, an organization that engages communities in local and global peacemaking by utilizing service learning, artistic response, and global engagement to address violence, conflict, and radicalization from a trauma-informed lens after his parents were killed in the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek. Singh grew up in Milwaukee and earned his bachelor of arts degree at Marquette University and masters of science at Alverno College. A former police officer and educator in the inner city of Milwaukee, Singh is a therapist who specializes in holistic trauma-informed treatment with survivors of assault, abuse and acts of violence.  

Mai Xiong is a member of the Eau Claire city council and founder of the Hmong American Leadership and Economic Development (HALED) organization in Eau Claire. She is also the regional director of development for Special Olympics. HALED aims to build leadership and increase economic prosperity for Hmong Americans by providing education, expanding networks and elevating social equity, according to its mission statement. Xiong won the council seat in April 2020 with 65% of the vote.

Masood Akhtar is an Indian-born Muslim entrepreneur and activist who now lives in MIddleton. He is the founder of the state-wide non-partisan movement “We Are Many: United Against Hate,” a movement to end hatred, racism and intolerance of others and where people who are urban and rural, spiritual and secular can unite together to build an inclusive community.  Akhtar has served on Dane County’s “Immigration and Refugee Task Force” aimed to build trust between local law enforcement officials and the immigration and refugee communities and thus reduce fear.  In 2019, Akhtar received the prestigious national FBI’s 2018 Director’s Community Leadership Award (DCLA) at the FBI headquarters in Washington, DC from FBI Director Christopher Wray.   

Long Vue is the Executive Director of Wisconsin United Coalition of Mutual Assistance Association, Inc. (WUCMAA), a statewide coalition of 12 Hmong non-profit organizations here in Wisconsin established in 1996. As an executive director, he constantly looks for ways to strengthen the organization through collaboration with one common voice to ensure the coalition can obtain the resources necessary to provide culturally responsive services to the Hmong community in the state of Wisconsin. In his previous roles at Bay-Lakes Council and WISCAP, he leveraged and collaborated with other non-profit organizations and partners on fulfilling the mission and goals of those organizations.

Kim Thao is the Operations Director for Bader Philanthropies Inc, a role she took on last September. In her role, she manages day-to-day office operations, oversees property and facilities management, and procures contracts with office and building vendors. Prior to assuming her current role, she served first as office manager and then as operations manager. Kim earned a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Human Resources Management/ Personnel Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2005. 

Jeffery W. Yabuki is the executive chairman of Fiserv, Inc, headquartered in Brookfield. The global payments and financial services technology company is a part of the Fortune 500 and has more than 44,000 employees around the world. Before serving as executive chairman, Yabuki served as chief executive officer from 2005 through June 2020 and is expected to continue as the chairman of the board of directors through December 2020.

Chungyia Thao is CEO and President of Thao Enterprises, Tongxeng Personal Home Care, and Long Cheng Marketplace, employing a total of more than 350 people. He is also an active member of the Hmong community in Appleton. Thao organizes educational workshops and business seminars for the Hmong Chamber of Commerce and the larger Hmong community. His work with the chamber of commerce also includes being the board of directors as well as the board of advisers for the organization. Additionally, in 2007, Thao was awarded the “Good Citizen Award” by the Wisconsin Department of Commerce and Wisconsin Minority Business. He has also been awarded the “2011 Most Charitable Business of the Year” by the 18 Councils of Wisconsin. Thao earned his master’s degree in organizational leadership from Marian University and an MBA from Lakeland University.

Adam Jackson is a senior culture officer at Humana in Green Bay. He is the chair for the Brown County United Way Board of Directors and is on the board of directors for Green Bay Chamber’s Partners in Education. Jackson is a graduate of Madison East High and a 1998 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he studied English and Creative Writing. Active in his Green Bay community, Jackson has been a member of the event’s planning committee of the Brown County celebration to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

LoNeng Kiatoukaysy is the Executive Director at Hmong American Friendship Association, whose mission is to improve the self-sufficiency of the Southeast Asian community and to preserve and share its culture throughout the Greater Milwaukee Area.

Ritika Singh is the senior vice president and director of diversity, inclusion and engagement at Associated Bank and has over 15 years of experience in human resources management and leading diversity and inclusion for Fortune 50, Dow 30 and Top 10 Diversity Inc. global companies such as ESPN (The Walt Disney Company), Prudential Financial and United Technologies. Singh has a unique background as a seasoned human resource and diversity and inclusion (D&I) thought leader and her professional experiences include partnering with senior leadership teams to develop overall diversity and inclusion strategy to foster inclusion, achieve business results and enhance customer value. She has been awarded the 2016 Team Innovator of the Year Award at Cable and Telecommunications Human Resources Association (CTHRA)’s Excellence in HR Awards and the 2017 Diversity in Business Award from The Daily Reporter. 

Dr. Anu Ebbe was recently selected as the new principal of Cherokee Heights Middle School in Madison. Prior to that, since 2011, she was the principal of Shorewood Hills in Madison. Under Dr. Ebbe’s leadership, the Department of Education designated Shorewood Elementary as a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School for their overall academic performance or progress in narrowing achievement gaps in targeted student subgroups. Ebbe earned her doctorate degree from Edgewood College in educational administration.

Angela Yang is a student support services advisor and SUCCEED Summer Bridge Program coordinator at UW-Platteville, where she oversees a residential summer program for 50 multicultural students to help prepare for success in college. A first-generation college graduate who earned degrees in business administration and international studies from UW-Platteville in 2017, she also volunteers to help coordinate the Hmong Thanksgiving celebration in the Southwestern Wisconsin region, and helps manage Yang Seasonal Garden, a family business providing fresh produce through co-ops and farmers markets around southern Wisconsin. As a college senior, she earned the Alliant Energy/Erroll B. Davis, Jr. Academic Achievement Award.

Dr. Chia Vang is associate vice chancellor in the Division of Global Inclusion and Engagement at UW-Milwaukee. She is also one of the nation’s only Hmong professors of history. She is an internationally known expert on Hmong history, culture and contemporary life. She founded UWM’s Hmong Diaspora Studies program in 2009 and serves as its director. Since 1999, she has provided research, evaluation, and planning consulting services to more than 40 community-based organizations, philanthropic institutions, and government entities in the human services, health, and education areas. The wide range of projects have enabled her to be knowledgeable about and sensitive to issues that affect Americans from diverse backgrounds. 

Who did we miss? Let us know who should be on next year’s list. Email us at [email protected].