Home Wisconsin Wisconsin’s 34 Most Influential Asian American Leaders, Part 3

Wisconsin’s 34 Most Influential Asian American Leaders, Part 3


This is the third of a five-part series. Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.

Dr. Pao Lor is the chair of the UW- Green Bay Department of Applied Leadership for Teaching & Learning. He is the author of the memoir “Modern Jungles: A Hmong Refugee’s Childhood Story of Survival,” published earlier this year by the Wisconsin Historical Society. He’s been a teacher and assistant principal in several schools in Northeast Wisconsin, as well as a head soccer coach at West De Pere High and UW-Fox Valley. 

Emma Daisy Gertel is a Milwaukee-based visual artist and muralist, known for her vibrant use of color to paint plants and girls. Much of Daisy’s current work is an ongoing narrative exploring the in-between spaces of identity, acceptance and belonging, influenced by her experience growing up a Korean adoptee. Her work also draws from her experience and education in fashion design, community arts, and cultural development. For over a decade, Daisy served as an arts facilitator, creative director and co-executive director for a Milwaukee youth arts nonprofit organization, Express Yourself Milwaukee. Her organizational work has received several accolades and awards. Daisy maintains a studio practice in Milwaukee as a resident at Var West Gallery and shows work locally, nationally and internationally. Her murals can be found everywhere from street art tourist destinations to schools, local businesses, shopping malls and private residences. Daisy aims to create public works that are a reflection of beauty, inspire possibility, and serve as a reminder of our connections to one another.

Abby Ngampongsai is Vice President of Technical Service and Support at Exact Sciences in Madison, a role she’s held since 2019. Abby oversees teams of dedicated technical professionals who provide service and support and who collaborate with partners in Research and Development, Manufacturing Operations, and the Exact Sciences Laboratory. Her department includes multiple functions such as Laboratory System Development and Automation, Technical Services-Automation and Application, Lab Service Engineers and Metrology. She joined the cancer screening giant in 2015 as director of service and support before being promoted to senior director of instrument services and technical support in 2017. Abby holds a master’s degree in engineering management from Walden University and an engineering degree from the University of Chicago.

Al Liu is vice president of coffee at Milwaukee-based Colectivo Coffee Roasters, overseeing the sourcing, roasting and distribution of coffee to Colectivo’s 20 cafes in the Milwaukee area, Madison and Chicago, as well as hundreds of retail outlets. Prior to joining Colectivo in 2016, Al was a trader for Atlas Coffee Importers in Seattle for eight years and director of culture and communications at Alterra Coffee Roasters in Milwaukee for seven years. He is a 1995 graduate of Georgetown University with a degree in international politics and earned his master’s in urban and environmental policy from Tufts.

Ann Vang was elected to the Stevens Point school board in 2019. A 2003 graduate of Stevens Point Area Senior High School, she serves as Hmong Family Strengthening Coordinator at CAP Services. 


Isabella Hong is Community Impact Director for Health & Education Initiatives at the United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley, a role she took on one year ago. She comes to Wisconsin from the University of Texas at Arlington, where she obtained her Masters of Social Work with a concentration in Community and Administrative Practice. During her education, she completed her field placements in administration at the University of Texas at Arlington School of Social Work and youth housing with CitySquare. Prior to this, she served as an AmeriCorps member with the CitySquare Transitional Resource Action Center (TRAC)—a foster youth transition center.

Mary Thao is a former member of both the Wausau School Board and Wausau City Council, and remains a considerable force in local politics of Central Wisconsin. She led the charge to defeat a referendum that would have consolidated two elementary schools last year. Professionally she is an IT consultant who’s held a variety of positions in information technology over the past 20 years. She holds an MBA from Hamline University.

Part 4 coming tomorrow!