14 Badgers recognized among ‘Most Influential Asian American Leaders’ in Wisconsin for 2022

Grid collage of headshot photos of Asian American people with the UW–Madison crest at center

Fourteen members of the UW–Madison community were honored by Madison365 in its annual list of Wisconsin’s Most Influential Asian American Leaders.

A nonprofit online news publication, Madison365 has published annual power lists recognizing Wisconsin leaders from different racial and ethnic groups since 2015. The purpose of the lists is to “highlight the beauty of the diversity across our state” and highlight role models for Wisconsin’s young people, according to Henry Sanders, Jr., co-founder, publisher and chief executive officer of Madison365.

“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,” Sanders said.

Congratulations to the current and former UW–Madison students, faculty and staff who received this well-deserved recognition. You can read the full post on Madison365’s website.

Jay Balachandran, M.D., (’99, M.D. ’03) is the chair for hospital specialty medicine at Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s in Milwaukee and one of the city’s top doctors in pulmonary/critical care medicine and sleep medicine. He earned his medical degree from the UW School of Medicine and Public Health in 2003. He completed his residency in internal medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he served as chief resident. He completed fellowship training in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Harvard Medical School and fellowship training in sleep medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center. He is also a Village of Whitefish Bay trustee and a member of the Whitefish Bay Public Library Board

Sachin Chheda is a partner at Nation Consulting and a communications, government relations, advocacy and nonprofit management professional. He currently serves as director of the Fair Elections Project, as campaigns adviser to the Economic Security Project, as a strategic communications adviser to the Wisconsin AFL-CIO and as senior adviser to Community Shares of Greater Milwaukee. Sachin also oversaw winning campaigns for Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices Rebecca Dallet and Jill Karofsky, Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Jill Underly, and then-Superintendent Tony Evers, as well as dozens of local judges, council members, school board members and others. Sachin attended UW–Milwaukee and UW–Madison.

Adam Clausen (’06) is the senior leader of Life Center Madison, a non-denominational, multicultural church. He co-founded a grassroots community organizing effort of service providers, the Southeast Community Network, which serves the southeast side of Madison. He currently serves out of the Office of the Superintendent for Madison Schools in addition to boards, committees and councils that advocate for justice, youth engagement and empowerment and community collaboration.

Shayna Hetzel, M.P.A., is a community builder focused on collective action for greater social impact with more than 15 years of experience in education, equity and social justice. She leads teams focused on social innovation and community collaboration to close equity gaps in education and for our youth through investments, strategic partnerships and community programs at the American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact. Before joining AmFam, Hetzel worked at the Wisconsin State Budget Office on education policy and government operations and at UW–Madison’s Wisconsin Union on community building, capital project management, and stakeholder communications. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UW–Madison.

Lisa Imhoff (‘00, M.S.S.W. ‘05) is associate dean for diversity and inclusion at the UW School of Pharmacy. She is also a licensed therapist and social worker supplying services through Evolve Wellness and Consulting. Before taking on the associate dean role in Pharmacy in 2019, she was a mental health clinician and substance abuse services coordinator at the university and spent 10 years as an evaluator and therapist at UW Health. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and women’s studies and her master’s degree in social work at UW–Madison.

Sarah Chitharanjan Jacobs (’06) is diversity, equity and inclusion manager at UnityPoint Health-Meriter, where she manages inclusion efforts for the organization’s 3,200 employees. Before joining Meriter in 2020 she worked in audience services, fundraising and membership for Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio for more than 10 years. She is also a strategic consultant for The Book Deal, a family-owned, mission-driven bookstore. A Stevens Point native of Indian and Polish heritage, she earned her degree in communication arts and Spanish from UW–Madison.

Angela Jenkins is an accomplished diversity, equity and inclusion leader and strategist who helps build sustainable and innovative programs focused on aligning equity and business priorities. She is a technology project manager at American Family Insurance where she oversees recruitment and placement of top tech talent into the Data Science and Analytics Lab. Jenkins studied project management at UW–Madison and has collaborated with community, nonprofit and large organizations. She holds leadership positions on nonprofits including The River Food Pantry, The Sessions at McPike Park, and Collaboration for Good. She is a commissioner on City of Madison’s Zoning Board of Appeal and is a member of the AAPI Coalition of Wisconsin, a statewide organization that amplifies AAPI voices and leads advocacy projects that stand against hate and racism.

Yoshi Kawaoka, Ph.D., is a globally recognized influenza expert and professor at UW–Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. He is an expert avian influenza virus and showed that a 1918-like pandemic influenza virus could be recreated again in nature. He also led a group that created a whole-virus vaccine against Ebola that was safe and effective in primates and traveled to Sierra Leone to learn more about the disease. His work is also changing how drug manufacturers make flu vaccines by supplying faster and more cost-effective methods. Kawaoka’s team created a new strategy to generate and manipulate the virus – a system called “reverse genetics” – that has revolutionized the field. In 2007 he co-founded FluGen, a Madison-based company dedicated to preventing and treating both seasonal and pandemic outbreaks that kill hundreds of thousands worldwide.

Nhi Lê, Ph.D., is an accelerator catalyst at the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation where she helps the Accelerator team provide resources and support to WARF project teams and commercialization efforts. Born in Vietnam and raised in Georgia, she earned her Ph.D. in materials science from UW–Madison with a research focus on stem cell engineering and biomanufacturing. She is also a deep tech investor at Paeonia Capital, based in Singapore, and founding partner of the venture firm Mariton Partners. She has her name on six patents.

Crystal Potts (’10) is the director of state relations for UW–Madison, where she serves as the contact for state government agencies including the governor’s office, state legislature and state agencies. She also helps create and implement statewide advocacy efforts on behalf of the university. Potts previously served as the chief of staff to Wisconsin state Senator Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green), where she also supported the legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee as the Senate staff lead on tax and local government issues. She served as the research assistant and staff clerk to the Committee on Ways & Means in the State Assembly early in her career at the Wisconsin State Capitol. Originally from the Twin Cities, Crystal is a proud graduate of UW–Madison with a BA in political science and Chinese.

Nashant Upadhyay is director of data and analytics at UW Credit Union, where he started in 2021 after 13 years at American Family Insurance. At AmFam he most recently served as vice president for information and data management. He earned an undergraduate degree from St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai and an MBA from Bhavnagar University, also in India, in 1997.

Soyeon Shim, Ph.D., has served as dean of the UW–Madison School of Human Ecology since 2012. On arrival, Dean Shim started a school-wide strategic plan to leverage the grand opening of the school’s Nancy Nicholas Hall. She led the school’s All Ways Forward campaign, which raised $72 million including 13 endowed chairs and professorships, a deanship and 10 new graduate fellowship endowments. Dean Shim has received many teaching, research, development and leadership awards, and has written or co-written more than 110 scholarly articles.

E Her Vang (’12) is managing director of the Network for School Improvement at City Year Milwaukee, where she leads efforts to set up and run a network of schools that will use continuous improvement practices to improve outcomes for students. Before joining City Year Milwaukee in 2019, she worked in community health with the Milwaukee Consortium for Hmong Health and Independent Care Health Plan. She is vice president of the board of Our Scholarship and served two years on the committee for Hmong Young Professionals. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from UW–Madison and a master’s degree in public health from UW-Milwaukee.

Goodson Vue is associate director in UW–Madison’s Precollege Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence (PEOPLE). As an adviser and coordinator of PEOPLE’s College Scholars program, Vue has supported hundreds of undergraduate PEOPLE scholars through their time at the university. In 2022 Vue was honored with the Outstanding Achievement Award from the UW Office of Undergraduate Advising for his work cultivating a culture of respect, inclusion, scholarship and trust amongst PEOPLE scholars, improving the retention and success of marginalized students at UW–Madison. He earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology and master’s degree in communications from UW–Whitewater.