Wisconsin’s 38 Most Influential Asian American Leaders for 2024, Part 1


    Just months after we published our first news stories in August 2015, we tried something new: we listed and published brief biographies of the state’s 28 Most Influential Black Leaders. People really liked it, shared it on social media, told us who else should have been on that list. Many asked me if we’d do another list the next year; I said yes, we probably would.

    We did more than that. That next year, we published another list of the state’s most influential Black leaders, as well as a list of the state’s most influential Latino leaders. Almost immediately, we started hearing an important and very reasonable question: what about the state’s Asian American and Indigenous leaders?

    We wanted to do those lists, but we wanted to do them right. It took us some time to build the authentic relationships within those communities, and to gain their trust. I’m glad and proud that we took that time and did that work; it resulted in us publishing those lists for the first time in 2020.

    This week we are proud to present the fifth annual edition of Wisconsin’s Most Influential Asian American leaders.

    Every year, with every list, 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 people of color to achieve great things here.

    This week we shine a statewide spotlight on the dedicated leaders of Wisconsin’s Asian American communities. 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. It’s obvious just from the number of nominations that there are far more than 38 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 urge 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 sure everyone here can thrive.

    Henry Sanders
    CEO, 365 Media Foundation
    Publisher, Madison365

    This is the first of a five-part series.

    Maria Ahmad Douglas

    Maria Ahmad Douglas is founder of Forward/Together Progressively, her own form where she provides consulting on diversity, equity and inclusion; nonprofit management and fundraising; and similar topics. She spent several years in politics as a local campaign manager and field organizer, including a year as a national fundraising consultant for #iVoted and a year as DEI senior specialist with the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin. She moved into politics after more than 15 years working as a school psychologist. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Gordon College and a master’s from the University of Texas at Tyler.

    Stacey J. Lee

    Stacey J. Lee is the Frederick Erickson WARF Professor of Educational Policy Studies and a faculty affiliate in Asian American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research focuses on the role of education in the incorporation of immigrants and migrants into the US. She is the author of Unraveling the Model Minority Stereotype: Listening to Asian American Youth and Up Against Whiteness: Race, School and Immigrant Youth, and Resisting Asian American Invisibility: The Politics of Race and Education. She was honored with a Distinguished Scholar award from the American Educational Research Association in 2016 and the Vilas Mid-Career Investigator award from the University of Wisconsin in 2015 and 2016. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College and a master’s degree from NYU, both in political science, and a PhD in anthropology of education from the University of Pennsylvania.

    Brian Lee

    Brian Lee is founder and president of Revelation PR, founded in 2011, and Revelation Events, launched in 2019. He is also co-founder of TryaTaste, which curates tasting boxes for small events and parties, and editor-in-chief of MadisonStartups.com, which publishes news about Madison’s entrepreneurial scene. He is also an instructor of social media and entrepreneur in residence at Madison College. He has been named to InBusiness Magazine’s “40 Under 40” list and as PRSA-Madison’s Communicator of the Year, while Revelation has earned a Dane County Small Business Award. He earned a bachelor’s degree in strategic communications from UW-Madison and an MBA from Sam Houston State.

    Boly Vang

    Boly Vang is a human resources analyst for Marathon County and CEO/Owner of Paint Party B, LLC, where she organizes “paint and sip” parties around the Wausau area. She joined the staff at Marathon County to support its more than 750 employees after several years in HR at Capstone Logistics and Crystal Finishing Systems. She currently serves on the executive board of Central Wisconsin Hmong Professionals, served four years on the Women United Council of the United Way of Marathon County, and volunteered for four years as a classroom facilitator of the education nonprofit LENA Start Marathon County. She earned her degree in human resources management at UW-Oshkosh.

    Yee Lee Vue

    Yee Lee Vue is Adult Services & Engagement Librarian at the Appleton Public Library and co-owner of restaurants Little Siam and Bowl Ninety-One with husband Thong Vue. She serves on the Rhythms of the World event committee, Dragon Boat Festival event committee and WWBIC Ambassadorial Committee. She was named the Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce Young Professional of the Year in 2022. She earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at the UW-Madison.

    Kevin Wong

    Kevin Wong is program coordinator for the Asian Pacific Islander and Desi American (AAPIDA) Student Center at the UW-Madison, which hosts academic, professional, and social programs throughout the year to enhance the student experience, support student success, and foster a sense of belonging for students from a wide variety of backgrounds. He took on this role after working more than 10 years in progressively responsible roles at the UW Survey Center. He is president of the Wisconsin Alumni Association’s APIDA Affinity Group and volunteered for three years on the Summit Credit Union Member Experience Advisory Committee. He earned his degree in political science at UW-Madison in 2015.

    Thong Xiong

    Thong Xiong is Scholars for Success Coordinator at Fox Valley Technical College, where he focuses on the retention and persistence of at-risk, low-income, multicultural students as well as other students who are part of marginalized populations. A Marine veteran, he started his academic career at FVTC before going on to earn a bachelor’s degree at UW-Green Bay and a master’s degree in from Lakeland University, both in organizational leadership.

    Ze Yang

    Ze Yang is the Hmong Bilingual Community Connector in the City of Madison Department of Civil Rights, Social Justice and Equity Division. She is a small business owner and also a member of the Summer News Collaborative Program at WORT Madison. She served on the Wisconsin Women Council for four years as the Governor’s Designee.  She earned a degree in education from Edgewood College.

    Part Two coming tomorrow!