Staff

The office of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders works with the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs, Regional Network and Interagency Working Group.


Holly Ham

Executive Director

Holly Ham was appointed on November 13, 2017 to the position of Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), housed in the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, DC. In this capacity, she is responsible for directing the efforts of the White House Initiative and the Presidential Advisory Commission on AAPIs to advise federal agency leadership on the implementation and coordination of federal programs as they relate to AAPIs across executive departments and agencies. The White House Initiative on AAPIs works with these entities to improve the quality of life and opportunities for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders through increased access to, and participation in, federal programs in which they may be underserved.

Ham previously served as Assistant Secretary for Management for the U.S. Department of Education. In this role, Ham led a senior team that manages a broad operations portfolio serving all employees and contractors in support of the Department’s mission.

Prior to joining the Department, Ham had an extensive career in private enterprise focused on increasing organizations’ productivity through technology. She spent the early part of her career as a management consultant for Fortune 100 firms seeking to optimize strategic sourcing, procurement, finance and accounting, and human resources operations. Her work enabled hundreds of millions of dollars of ongoing savings for those firms by increasing efficiency through a combined model of business improvement processes, technology, and redeploying and retraining human talent.

Ham led multiple teams working closely with corporate executives to provide strategic solutions to complex senior-level challenges, including enterprise data management and security, enterprise resource planning initiatives and enhancements, applications modernization, and cloud initiatives. Each strategic solution was required to address a myriad of challenges, garner support across business divisions, and exhibit long-term return on investment for users and shareholders.

Ham is a fellow at the Asian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Institute (APAWLI) through the Center for Asian Pacific American Women. She has also long been involved in efforts supporting families and students in need, serving on the board of directors for Skills for Living, Inc. and advising the board of Financial Mentors of America.

Ham is a graduate of the University of Houston, where she received both her Bachelor and Master of Business Administration degrees, graduating Beta Gamma Sigma. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and two children.

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Debra Suarez

Senior AdvisorDebra Suarez

Dr. Debra Suarez serves as Senior Advisor to the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. She is on detail from the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education where she has served as Organizational Development Specialist and, prior to that, as English Language Learning (ELL) Education Program Specialist.

Dr. Suarez is a nationally recognized expert in education and education business management, with specialized expertise in English as a Second Language Education.

Prior to joining federal service, Debra was a university professor, directing Ph.D. and MA-TESOL programs at the University of Maryland, The University of Alabama, and Notre Dame of Maryland University. Prior to her professorships, she was Director of the Second and Foreign Language Lab at the College at New Paltz, and an ESL/EFL teacher and teacher educator in the Unites States and abroad.

Dr. Suarez’s international experience includes serving as Invited ELL Specialist for the United States Department of State, designing graduate programs, evaluating language programs, and teaching graduate courses and teacher training seminars around the globe, including West Africa, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, Mexico, the Middle East and South and Central America.

Debra has a strong history of serving diverse populations via education program design and management. She served on the Anhui Education Subcommittee for the Maryland Sister States Program with Maryland’s Office of the Secretary of State, Subcabinet for International Affairs; she also served on the advisory board for Centro de Ayuda of Maryland, and served on MSDE’s Committee on the Achievement Initiative for Minority Students. Dr. Suarez was awarded Maryland’s `Excellence Spirit Award’” for Outstanding Efforts on Behalf of Maryland’s Minority Students.

She is a published, peer-reviewed author. She has published two books as Series Editor for the series Collaborative Partnerships between ESL and Classroom Teachers. Her research is published in Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, TESOL Journal, Technology and Teacher Education Annual, and Educational Horizons. She published a book chapter in the highly-acclaimed The Education of Language Minority Immigrants in the United States. She also co-edited Heritage Languages and TESOL, a Special Issue of Heritage Language Journal.

Debra holds a PhD in Language Education Curriculum and Instruction, with a minor in Educational Technology from the University at Albany (SUNY-Albany). She also holds a Master’s degree in Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL, SUNY-Albany). Dr. Suarez earned her Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree, specializing in education business development and management (University of Maryland University College). And she has recently completed her Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. She continues as an educational leader in national and international professional associations.

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