Ten Badgers recognized among Wisconsin’s Most Influential Asian American Leaders for 2023

Top Row (L-R) : Victoria Solomon, Ankita Bharadwaj, Dr. Shobina G. Chheda, Tony DelaRosa, Yimmuaj Yang | Bottom Row (L-R): Kaili Lee, Chingcha Vang, Dr. Ruttanatip (Dang) Chonwerawong, Nancy Saevang, Naomi Takahashi

Ten University of Wisconsin–Madison community members were recognized in Madison365’s annual list of “Wisconsin’s Most Influential Asian American Leaders” for 2023.

Madison365, a nonprofit online news publication, 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,” according to Henry Sanders, Jr., the co-founder, publisher, and chief executive officer of Madison365.

Congratulations to the following current and former UW–Madison students and employees who received this well-deserved recognition. You can read parts onetwothreefour, and five of the complete list on the Madison365 website.

Victoria Solomon is Associate Professor in Community Development with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension. Her research and educational programming has focused on inclusion, diversity, equity, and access in community development. In her role, she focuses on building community capacity through leadership development and public participation. Her work has included leading research on women in government, co-constructing culturally relevant educational programs, and facilitating deliberative dialogue training. She is also co-owner of Parrfection Produce, near Monticello, Wisconsin, which aggregates and distributes produce to increase healthy food accessibility in Wisconsin and the Midwest. Solomon served on the Southwestern Wisconsin Community Action Program (SWCAP) Board of Directors and put forward organizational change so that SWCAP plays a key role in welcoming refugees to southwestern Wisconsin. Solomon has a master’s degree in Environmental and Sustainable Development from University College London and a BA in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Ankita Bharadwaj is a lawyer, advocate and activist in Madison. They joined UW Madison’s Office of Human Resources as BIPOC Employee Retention Specialist in November 2022. Ankita engages in creating programs, events and strategies to cultivate a sense of belonging for and with BIPOC employees on campus in an increasingly volatile political climate at the state and national level. Ankita graduated from the UW–Madison Law School in 2020 as an international student; served as the Vice President of Middle Eastern Law Students Association from 2016-2017; and served on many non-profit boards — including the Madison Community Coop, North American Students of Cooperation and as one of the inaugural members of the City of Madison’s Police Civilian Oversight Board that oversees the Madison Police Department. Recently, Ankita was appointed by Gov. Tony Evers to serve on the State Council on Affirmative Action to ensure the state’s compliance to affirmative action policies and laws. Ankita was also elected to be on the AAPI caucus board for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. This caucus elects Wisconsin’s Asian and Pacific Islander leaders to guide and advise the party’s efforts towards inclusion for the demographic. Ankita also has their own show called Subtle Desi Traits that strives to amplify BIPOC, women and youth voices and talks about world affairs with a Desi perspective.

Dr. Shobhina G. Chheda is associate dean for medical education at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. She completed a combined internal medicine and pediatrics residency at Cornell University Medical College/North Shore University Hospital and received her master’s in public health at Saint Louis University School of Public Health. She joined the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health faculty in 2001. She has been a leader in medical education locally and nationally. She has received the School of Medicine and Public Health’s Dean Teaching Award and the Department of Medicine Schilling-Harkness Teaching Award. She was a founding member of the national Society of General Internal Medicine TEACH program for faculty development. She has received the Clinician Educator of the Year Award from the Midwest Society of General Internal Medicine and recently has been elected president for the national Alliance of Academic Internal Medicine/Clerkship Directors in Internal Medicine. In her role as associate dean for medical education, Chheda is responsible for the overall development and management of curriculum and assessment for medical students. Chheda continues in her commitment to patient care through practice of both inpatient and ambulatory general internal medicine at the UW Health West Clinic.

Tony DelaRosa is an award-winning Filipino American anti-bias and anti-racist educator, motivational speaker, spoken word poet, racial equity strategist, and researcher. He holds a BA in Asian Studies at the University of Cincinnati and M.Ed with a focus on Arts Education and Non-Profit Management from Harvard University, and is currently pursuing his PhD in Education Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin–Madison as an Education Graduate Research Scholar. He received the 2021 INSPIRE Award from the National Association of Asian American Professionals, and the 2023 Community Trailblazer Award from The Asian American Foundation where he was featured on the special Heritage Heroes airing now on Hulu. His work has been featured in NPR, Harvard Ed Magazine, the Smithsonian, Columbia University’s Hechinger Report, Hyphen Magazine: Asian American Unabridged and elsewhere. He has co-founded New York City’s first Asian American teacher support, development, and retention initiative called AATEND under NYC Men Teach, the NYC DOE, and Office of the Mayor. He served as a Director of Leadership Development at Teach for America, coaching teachers and leading racial equity strategy. Today, he coaches CEOs and Principals on crafting and refining their short-term and long-term racial equity strategy. Lastly, he is writing a book with Jossey-Bass Publishing (WILEY) called “Teaching the Invisible Race,” which will provide practical ways on embodying a pro-Asian American lens, while combating anti-Asian American violence, racism, and hate for PK-12 educators.

Yimmuaj Yang is Community Director with Groundswell Conservancy, a 40-year-old organization dedicated to conservation, acting on climate change and connecting people with nature. Since Yang joined Groundswell Conservancy in 2020, she’s closed the gap between non-white farmers and available farmland. Partnering with Madison’s Southeast Asian Healing Center, Hmong seniors — who normally rely upon public transportation or family members to drive them — are provided with taxi service to their one-acre Lifting Hearts Therapy Garden in Westport. This garden debuted in 2021 at the height of the pandemic, and the transportation and supervision for the Hmong elders is the result of Yang securing a grant. As a young child, she arrived in Madison with her family from a refugee camp and went on to earn a degree in cultural anthropology at UW–Madison and an MBA from Lakeland University. She was named a 2023 “Woman to Watch” by Brava Magazine.

Kaili Lee is the Diversity & Inclusion Director of TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) & SSS STEM at UW-Oshkosh. She previously served as the Director of Advising and Retention at Lakeshore Technical College and has been providing student support services for college students for the past sixteen years. Kaili received her Bachelor of Science in Family and Consumer Education from UW Madison and is an alum of UW Oshkosh with a Master of Science degree in Educational Leadership. Currently, she is pursuing her doctorate at Edgewood College in their Higher Education and Leadership Studies program. As a first-generation Hmong American college student herself, she is committed to being a champion for supporting and celebrating academic and career success among first-generation, underrepresented college students.

Chingcha Vang is a program manager at Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics (LEAP) in Milwaukee, where he designs, workshops, and develops training and professional development for Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders in both the corporate and non-profit settings. He joined LEAP in 2021 after five years at Teach for America, first as a classroom teacher and later as a recruitment manager and leadership development manager. He previously served as a social studies teacher at the Hmong American Peace Academy. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Southeast Asian History from UW-Madison and a master’s degree in educational policy and leadership from Marquette.

Dr. Ruttanatip (Dang) Chonwerawong is a senior consultant at Arredondo Advisory Group, a DEI consultancy. She focuses on access to higher education for students from low-income families, first generation college students, and – most importantly – students who are historically underrepresented in American higher education settings. She has more than 25 years of experience as a higher education practitioner and senior administrator, much of it at the University of Wisconsin, where she led TRIO Student Support Services for 14 years before becoming an Assistant Dean for Student Diversity Programs in the School of Education. In that role, she oversaw multiple programs ranging from pre-college to graduate levels. She previously served as Associate Vice President for Student Academic Support Services at California State San Marcos, Special Assistant to the President of the University of Wisconsin System, Dean for Student Development at Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, and Associate Vice President for Student Success at California State University, Dominguez Hills. She received her undergraduate degree in Teaching English as a Second Language from Chiang Mai University, Thailand; Master’s degree in Adult Education from University of Wisconsin Platteville; Master’s degree in Educational Administration; and a PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from UW-Madison.

Nancy Saevang is director of the Waisman Early Childhood Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, leading a staff of 17 caring for about 100 children aged 12 months to eight years. She started there 10 years ago as an undergraduate student in human development and family studies. She signed on as a full time teacher in 2016 and has since worked her way to the director role.

Naomi Takahashi is the director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at the UW–Madison School of Medicine and Public Health and UW Health, where she supports DEI program expansion and strategic development. She joined SMPH in 2018 after two years as race and gender equity manager at the YWCA Madison and five years as a field faculty associate in the School of Social Work. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Wesleyan University and a master’s from UW-Madison.