President Obama reestablished the office of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The office works with the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs and Interagency Working Group on issue areas including data disaggregation, language access, workforce diversity, and capacity building.
- Doua Thor, Executive Director
- Jason Tengco, Deputy Director
- Diana Yu, Chief of Staff
- Courtney Chappell, Regional Director
- Christine Harley, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs
- Rebecca Lee, Communications Director
- Bonnie Kwon, Deputy Regional Director
- Bessie Chan, Senior Advisor
- Akil Vohra, Senior Advisor
- Melody Caprio, Advisor
- Paul Chang, Regional Advisor
- Ana Fortes, Regional Advisor
- Dave Hung, Regional Advisor
- Priscilla Huang, Policy Advisor
- Ambreen Tariq, Advisor
- Jill Yu, Advisor
Doua Thor serves as the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Previously, she served as the Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Initiative. Doua also serves as a Senior Fellow with the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD). Prior to this Doua was the Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) for nearly 9 years. During that time Doua was appointed by President Obama to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. She also served on the board or in a leadership position in a number of organizations and coalitions including the National Committee to Preserve Social Security, Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF), the Red Cross National Diversity Advisory Council, and the executive committee of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans. Additionally, through her leadership, SEARAC is a core work group member of the Diverse Elders Coalition, an initiative supported through Atlantic Philanthropies to improve the lives of vulnerable elders. Doua was selected as a New Voices Fellow in 2002, a German Marshall Memorial Fellow in 2008, an Asian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Institute Fellow in 2009, and a Health and Aging Policy Fellow in 2013.
Doua Thor and her family were among the many thousands of Hmong refugees who were resettled in the United States after supporting and fighting alongside the U.S. during the Vietnam War. The Thor family was resettled in Detroit, Michigan in 1979 where Doua spent much of her youth volunteering and working with Southeast Asian American communities. Over the years, Doua has gained a wealth of experience working with national, grassroots, and refugee serving organizations.
She earned her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Michigan and her Bachelor of Arts from Wayne State University.
Jason Tengco was appointed as Deputy Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) on May 4, 2015. Jason started at the Initiative in May 2012, first serving as the Initiative’s liaison in the White House Office of Public Engagement, then as a Senior Advisor directing the Initiative’s community engagement. In this capacity, Jason managed the first-ever White House Summit on AAPIs, launched the Initiative’s E3! Ambassadors Program for young leaders, and solicited input from the community on ways to increase participation in federal programs.
Previously, Jason was an Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) Fellow in the Office of Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA). His issue areas included AAPI affairs, homeland security, and immigration, and he also served as the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) taskforce staff lead on immigration and appropriations. Prior to his fellowship in Congress, Jason worked for the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), where he helped organize APALA’s largest national convention and launched APALA’s Young Leaders Council.
In July 2014, Jason was honored to be one of ten delegates to the Philippine Embassy’s Filipino American Youth Leadership Program (FYLPro), a weeklong immersion in the Philippines. Throughout his career, Jason has participated in fellowships with the New Leaders Council, Center for Progressive Leadership, and Public Policy and International Affairs Program. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jason graduated from UCLA with Honors with a B.A. in Political Science.
Chief of Staff
Diana Yu serves as the Chief of Staff for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In this capacity, Diana leads the Interagency Working Group, provides administrative oversight, and supports the education portfolio at the Initiative. Prior to this, Diana was an educational program specialist with the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education. She specialized in monitoring state educational agencies’ management of special education programs with an emphasis on fiscal systems. She served as an expert in the areas of discipline and fiscal systems and also completed a detail at the Initiative while at OSEP.
Previously, Diana was a special education teacher who taught students with disabilities in the areas of emotional disabilities, learning disabilities, and mental retardation K-12. She also held leadership roles including mathematics department chairperson and technology lead teacher. In these roles she helped transform the teaching practices at her school by training colleagues on ways to innovatively provide classroom accommodations and modifications to curricula. Her middle school students were the first in the school’s history to pass the Standards of Learning (statewide) assessment in Algebra. Diana also has extensive international educational experiences through short term trips to Mexico, Korea, and Kenya.
Diana received her Bachelor of Science degree cum laude in Psychology and Master of Education degree magna cum laude in Special Education from George Mason University. She is currently working on her Doctoral degree at the George Washington University in the Leaders for System Change program within the Special Education program.
Courtney Chappell serves as Senior Advisor at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In this capacity, Courtney leads and coordinates the Initiative’s interagency working group and regional interagency working group portfolios.
Prior to joining the Initiative, Courtney was the Deputy Director at the DC Employment Justice Center where she led the organization’s advocacy and organizing campaigns. She helped the District to pass comprehensive unemployment insurance legislation and a “ban the box” bill that prohibited discrimination against workers with criminal records in 2010, and launched the organization’s workers’ advocacy group. Courtney was also an associate at James & Hoffman, P.C., where she represented unions and individual employees in all matters relating to labor and employment law.
Courtney has extensive experience working in the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. As the first Policy & Programs Director at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Courtney spearheaded the organization’s reproductive justice program and developed a multi-pronged action agenda that included lobbying, grassroots organizing, and public education. Her achievements included co-coordinating a national lobby day relating to immigration reform, and co-convening a national coalition of women’s rights, immigrant rights, and reproductive rights organizations to focus on the intersection of health care and immigration.
Courtney graduated magna cum laude from the American University Washington College of Law, where she was a staff member of the American University Law Review. Courtney has also served on the boards of the Third Wave Foundation, the Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project, and the DC Chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. She is a recipient of a New Voices Fellowship and a Georgetown Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellowship.
Director of Intergovernmental Affairs
Christine Soyong Harley serves as the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In this role, Chris oversees the Intergovernmental Affairs team’s policy efforts on issues of health care, immigration, education, housing, economic development, data disaggregation, and language access. Chris formerly led the Initiative’s health policy and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community engagement efforts. Prior to joining the Initiative, Chris played a leadership role in the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organization’s Washington, DC office to implement administrative, legislative and political advocacy strategies to improve the quality of care for medically underserved AA&NHOPI communities. Chris was also previously the Policy and Programs Director for the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. Before entering the national advocacy arena, Chris worked at the Illinois Department of Human Services and oversaw the implementation of “Open Door” programs and other immigrant integration initiatives for AA&NHOPIs, Limited English Proficient individuals, and other low-income and underserved individuals with disabilities.
Chris received her B.A. from Oberlin College and a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Chicago. She was named a Future Leader in 2009 by the Overseas Korea Foundation and received a 2011 Unsung Hero award from Asian Pacific Americans for Progress. In 2012, Chris was a Fellow in the Center for American Progress Leadership Institute.
Rebecca Lee serves as Rebecca Lee serves as Communications Director for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In this capacity, she oversees the Initiative’s strategic communications.
Rebecca joined the Initiative as a Presidential Management Fellow (PMF), selected from graduate programs across the country in 2011. As a PMF, Rebecca served as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). At HHS, she coordinated communications efforts around the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Prior to joining the federal government, Rebecca was a senior consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton specializing in strategic communications campaigns for federal health clients. She has spent time with the Asian & Pacific American Islander Health Forum and began her career at the Kaiser Family Foundation. Rebecca holds a Bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a Master’s degree from Columbia University. At Cornell, Rebecca led a diverse coalition to found the Asian & Asian-American Center (A3C), a student resource center on campus.
Rebecca has served as Chair and is now an Advisory Council member of the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL), an educational nonprofit dedicated to building the pipeline of Asian Pacific American leadership in public service. As Chair, she led a 20-person Board of Directors to transform CAPAL from an all-volunteer organization to one with paid, full-time staff.
Deputy Regional Director
Bonnie Kwon serves as the Deputy Regional Director for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In this capacity, Bonnie supports the Initiative’s Regional Network and strengthens relationships with community partners. Prior to joining the Initiative, Bonnie was Program Manager for the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum where she led the immigrant health portfolio to increase access to affordable quality health care through policy analysis, advocacy with government agencies, community education, and program development for a national Affordable Care Act implementation strategy for hard-to-reach, immigrant and limited English proficient Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities. Previously, at the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, Bonnie led a team responsible for national policy and the organizing strategy for anti-discrimination and paid sick days campaigns.
Bonnie holds a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and B.A. in Gender Studies and International Relations from Brown University. Bonnie was a New Leaders Council fellow in 2013 and a Health Rising Leadership Institute faculty in 2015.
Bessie Chan serves as a Senior Advisor for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In her capacity, she leads community and youth engagement efforts.
Prior to joining the Initiative, Bessie worked as a Development Associate at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC (formerly the Asian American Justice Center) managing the organization’s corporate partnerships and the planning of their signature American Courage Awards celebration.
Bessie graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University with a major in Government, a minor in Chinese and an Asian Studies certificate. She served as president of the Asian American Student Association and was the recipient of Georgetown University’s 2012 Commitment to Diversity Award for Outstanding Senior.
Akil Vohra serves as Senior Advisor at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. At the Initiative, Akil supervises the education and data portfolios. Prior to the Initiative, Akil was Counsel at Muslim Advocates where he focused on anti-terrorism financing, strengthening the nonprofit sector, and civil rights and civil liberties issues. Previously, he practiced international trade and customs law in Washington D.C.
He is currently an Ariane de Rothschild Fellow, which is an Edmond de Rothschild Foundation initiative in partnership with the Columbia Business School and the University of Cambridge. Akil has previously served on the board of the South Asian Bar Association of Washington D.C., and the Bay Area Association of Muslim Lawyers.
He holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of California Irvine, and a J.D. from the George Washington University Law School where he received the Michael Dillon Cooley Award for service to the law school community. He has also completed a program in international human rights and immigration at Oxford University (U.K.).
Melody Caprio joins as an Advisor to the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. At the
Initiative, Melody leads the AAPI Bullying Prevention Task Force, an interagency working group comprised of experts from across the federal government committed to addressing bullying of AAPI students.
Melody comes to the Initiative from the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service. As a Program and Policy Analyst for the Justice Department’s peacemaking agency for community conflicts based on race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, and religion, Melody develops and designs program deliverables and services to fit the needs of the community. In addition to program development, Melody focuses on strategic planning, performance management, and building collaborative partnerships. Melody also serves as the agency’s Intern Coordinator.
Melody received her Bachelor in Arts in Economics from St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, and her Juris Doctorate from Albany Law School in Albany, New York.
Paul Chang serves as a Regional Advisor for the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders. In this capacity, Paul coordinates with regional interagency working groups and other federal agencies to strengthen strategic community engagement partnerships. Paul will also focus on Hmong Farmers, vulnerable workers, and economic development projects for small and underserved businesses.
Paul comes to the Initiative from the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) at the US Department of Labor (DOL) where he is an Assistant District Director. In that capacity he enforced comprehensive laws that protect the nation’s workforce. Paul has nearly 20 years of enforcement experience with the WHD and has worked on cases involving wage theft, child labor, human trafficking, family medical leave, and many forms of exploitation of vulnerable low-wage workers. At the WHD, Paul worked on many strategic initiatives, including the fight against sweatshop conditions. Focusing on the root causes of the violations in a fissured industry, he helped develop a certificate training program for small businesses at the East Los Angeles College to go along with WHD’s comprehensive enforcement strategy. As a team member on the Capacity Building team for the WHIAAPI and Federal Asian Pacific American Council challenge program, Paul helped recommend solutions to build, strengthen, and sustain strategic partnerships between government and the AAPI community. Paul received his B.A. in Political Science and M.S. in Public Administration from California State University, Los Angeles.
Ana Victoria Fortes serves as a Regional Advisor for the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders. In this capacity, Ana Victoria leads the interagency work group to strengthen community engagement among stakeholder groups and federal agencies located in Northern California. She is a member of the AAPI Bullying Prevention Task Force and will work on economic development efforts targeting Hmong Farmers.
Ana Victoria comes to the Initiative from the Women’s Bureau (WB) at the US Department of Labor where she is a Program Analyst in the Region IX office. In that capacity, she serves as the liaison between federal, state, and local officials and stakeholder groups working on issues focused on increasing women’s participation in in-demand and non-traditional occupations, promoting fair treatment of women in the workplace, and promoting workplace policies that support working women and their families. She is actively engaged in promoting the priorities of the WB by providing technical assistance and planning outreach events that amplify the Administration’s focus on equal pay, promoting fair treatment of women in workplace, educating worker of workplace rights, and issues affecting women veterans to a range of audiences.
Ana Victoria received a B.A. in Business Management Economics at the University of California, Santa Cruz and a Master’s in Public Policy with a focus on Social Welfare at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
Dave Hung serves as a Regional Advisor for the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders. In this capacity, Dave coordinates with regional interagency working groups and other federal agencies to strengthen strategic community engagement partnerships.
Dave comes to the Initiative from the Center for Disability Programs at the Social Security Administration (SSA) where he is a Disability Program Expert. In that capacity he provided technical guidance on rules and regulations related to the Social Security Act. Dave has over 10 years of experience of working directly with the public at SSA. In 2015, Dave received a Commissioner’s Citation, SSA’s highest honor award.
Prior to joining the initiative staff, Dave served as the lead of the Region VII Regional Interagency Working Group. Dave worked with the AAPI community to build, strengthen, and utilize strategic partnerships between government and the AAPI community. Dave received his BSBA in Accounting from Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, MO.
Priscilla Huang serves as a Policy Advisor at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In this capacity, Priscilla leads the Initiative’s policy work on language access and data disaggregation.
Priscilla has 15 years of experience working with non-profit organizations, and spent 10 years dedicated to federal policy work in Washington, DC. She was the former Senior Director of Impact Strategies at the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), a national health justice organization dedicated to improving the lives of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and other communities of color. At APIAHF, Priscilla served as its primary strategist and supervised the organization’s policy, government relations, communications and research staff. Prior to APIAHF, Priscilla served as the policy and programs director at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum where she oversaw the federal policy advocacy and government relations for their immigrant rights, anti-trafficking and reproductive justice programs. She has also worked with a variety of direct service and policy women’s organizations on issues of gender discrimination, abortion, domestic violence, and homelessness in the San Francisco/Bay Area and Washington, DC.
Priscilla has served on several boards and advisory committees, and has been recognized for her leadership by the National Immigration Law Center, White House Champion of Change, Families USA, the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, and others. Priscilla graduated from American University, Washington College of Law, where she was one of ten Public Interest/Public Service Scholars. She graduated with BA in English and Philosophy from Boston College.
Ambreen Tariq is on detail from the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, serving as an Advisor for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In this capacity, Ambreen supports communications, media strategies and special policy efforts.
At the Wage and Hour Division, Ambreen is a Specialist in the Communications Division. Her work focuses on strategic messaging and media planning to elaborate on the agency’s priorities and accomplishments as they relate to protecting vulnerable low-wage workers and ensuring a level playing field for businesses. She advises on AAPI outreach and education efforts and helps strengthen AAPI language access to agency resources. Ambreen also works on building and maintaining strategic stakeholder relationships with state and federal agency partners. Her federal career previously included work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Ambreen holds a J.D. from the Catholic University of America and a B.A. in Politics and South Asian Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Jill Yu serves as an Advisor at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. At the Initiative, Jill works within the Interagency Working Group and Intergovernmental Affairs Team. There, she assists federal departments and agencies in developing implementation plans to increase participation and access to federal programs for underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. She is also the staff lead for all housing and community development issues.
Jill comes to the Initiative as a Presidential Management Fellow (PMF), a highly competitive leadership program for the federal government, and she was appointed to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). As HUD’s Operational Lead for the Interagency Physical Inspection Alignment Initiative, Jill ensured that residences participating in Public Housing, Section 8, Rural Development, and/or Low Income Housing Tax Credits programs were decent, safe, and sanitary without unduly burdensome or intrusive inspections. Jill is an active member of the PMF AAPI group and HUD’s AAPI Affinity group, where she led social media efforts in promoting Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
Prior to federal service, Jill was a Staff Attorney for the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, where she worked on the cross-section of foster youth and education and vulnerable youth experiencing homelessness, juvenile detention, and immigration challenges. Jill has been awarded the Philippine Bar Association of Los Angeles’s Future Attorney Scholarship, Whittier Law School’s Center for Children’s Rights’ Outstanding Fellow Award, UCLA’s Chancellor Service Award, and UCLA’s Women of Change Award. Jill received her B.A. in Psychology from UCLA, and her J.D. from Whittier Law School. She is barred in New York and the District of Columbia. She has also completed Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute’s Congressional Briefing for Presidential Management Fellows.