Nineteen Badgers recognized among Wisconsin’s Most Influential Asian American leaders for 2024

Top Row: L-R Stacey J. Lee, Brian Lee, Wajiha Akhtar-Khaleel, Yee Lee Vue, Kevin Wong; Second Row: L-R Saran Ouk, Danny Tang, Catherine Chan, Susan Tran Degrand, Ryan Tsuchida; Third Row: L-R Sheng Lee Yang, Sirinda Pairin, MGR Govindaranjan, Nathaniel Chin, Sara Lam; Bottom Row: L-R Pasha Thao, Kaiping Chen, Yang Tao, Chundou Her

Nineteen University of Wisconsin–Madison community members were recognized in Madison365’s annual list of “Wisconsin’s Most Influential Asian American Leaders” for 2024.

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 the complete list on the Madison365 website.

Stacey J. Lee is a faculty affiliate in Asian American Studies and the Frederick Erickson WARF Professor of Educational Policy Studies. She has authored 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. Her research focuses on the role of education in the incorporation of immigrants and migrants into the US. In 2016, she won the Distinguished Scholar award from the American Educational Research Association and the Vilas Mid-Career Investigator Award from the University of Wisconsin in 2015 and 2016.

Brian Lee is a UW–Madison alumnus, having earned his bachelor’s degree in strategic communications. He is the founder and president of Revelation PR and Revelation Events. He also founded TryaTaste and is editor-in-chief of He has been listed in InBusiness Magazine’s “40 Under 40” list and as PRSA-Madison’s Communicator of the Year.

Yee Lee Vue earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from UW–Madison, and today is the Adult Services & Engagement Librarian at the Appleton Public Library. She is also co-owner of restaurants Little Siam and Bowl Ninety-One with her husband.

Kevin Wong is program coordinator for the Asian Pacific Islander and Desi American (AAPIDA) Student Center at the UW–Madison. For over 10 years prior to taking this role, he worked at the UW Survey Center. He is president of the Wisconsin Alumni Association’s APIDA Affinity Group and earned his degree in political science at UW–Madison in 2015.

Dr. Wajiha Akhtar-Khaleel is the assistant director of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. She also directs of the Wisconsin Population Health Service Fellowship and joined the UWPHI in 2021 after directing the Thrive4LifeWi Study. She has served on several boards, including One City Schools and HEART Women and Girls. As a Muslim American, Dr. Akhtar works with other Muslim faculty, staff, and students at UW–Madison to build and amplify their collective voice.

Danny Tang is a shareholder and real estate attorney at Godfrey Kahn, helping guide clients through acquisitions and dispositions of commercial property. He has also worked closely with Godfrey & Kahn’s Environmental Practice Group in connection with the acquisition and disposition of environmentally-impacted real property. Tang is a graduate of University of Wisconsin Law School.

Dr. Catherine Chan is the assistant vice provost for high impact practices in the Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement at UW–Madison, where she provides administrative, operational, and strategic leadership for the DDEEA’s high-impact educational efforts. She leads the development, cultivation and implementation of the division’s framework for enhancing student experiences through high-impact educational practice programs and initiatives. Dr. Chan oversees the division’s Academic Coaching to Thrive and Succeed, Center for Educational Opportunity, Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, Education and Wellbeing, and experiential learning programs that include Global Scholars, Internship, and STEM Initiatives.

Susan Tran Degrand is the Director for Equity, Inclusion & Employee Well-Being for the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Office of Human Resources, providing leadership,  strategic vision and consultation for schools, colleges, divisions, and departments on campus as they work to support their employees through an equitable, and human-centered lens.

Saran Ouk is manager of the Office of Business Resources for the City of Madison, helping businesses open and expand in Madison. She helps businesses through the permitting and approval processes and directs them toward assistance programs and other resources. She is also the founder of conNEXTions, a nonprofit organization that guides underrepresented young adults from the Madison community to achieve their career goals. Ouk earned a degree in nonprofit management at UW–Madison.

Dr. Ryan Tsuchida is Assistant Dean for Multicultural Affairs for Health Professions Learners and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. He is also Co-Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. Dr. Tsuchida also currently serves as a faculty mentor to underrepresented medical students through the Building Equitable Access to Mentorship (BEAM) initiative at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. He received the Dr. Arno Kumagai Award for Excellence in Institutional Change to Promote Health Equity, Social Justice and Compassionate Care awarded by the University of Michigan Student Diversity Council as well as the 2021 Outstanding Future Academician Award, Academy for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Medicine (ADIEM).

Sheng Lee Yang is executive director of Us 2 Behavioral Health Care, a nonprofit mental health organization she founded in 2019 focused on accessible, culturally competent care. She serves on the boards of  Asian Corporate & Entrepreneur Leaders – National, NEW Mental Health Connections, and Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity and chairs the board of the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. Yang is a member of the Wisconsin Maternal Mortality Review Team and the UW-Madison Prevention Research Center Community Advisory Board. She received her master’s degree in social work from the UW–Madison.

Sirinda Pairin is an Engagement and Communications Manager at the Wisconsin School of Business and focuses on climate, culture, and belonging. She is a graduate of the UW–Madison School of Journalism and a founding member of the UW–Madison Multiracial Student Union.

MGR Govindaranjan is a Madison alder, representing the UW campus area. He serves on the Common Council Executive Committee, the Downtown Coordinating Committee, the Joint Campus Area Committee, the Sustainable Madison Committee and Transportation Commission. He was elected as a student studying Legal Studies and Political Science at UW–Madison. He previously served as the Legislative Affairs Chair at the Associated Students of Madison, UW’s Student Government.

Dr. Sara Lam is vice president of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, where she leads efforts to strengthen NWTC as a culturally sustaining college where all students feel they belong, achieve success, and are empowered to take action for positive change. Prior to joining the college, Dr. Lam held various DEI roles at University of Minnesota Morris in teaching, research, and service since 2015. She is a co-founder of the Rural China Education Foundation, a published author, and holds national accolades for her work around educational equality. Dr. Lam earned a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from University of Wisconsin–Madison, an Ed.M. in International Education Policy from Harvard University, and a B.A. in Elementary Education from the University of Minnesota Morris.

Dr. Yang Tao is director of traffic engineering for the City of Madison, where he supervises 140 employees to manage, operate, and maintain Madison’s pedestrian, bicycle and motor vehicle systems. Prior to becoming director, he had been a traffic engineer since 2006. He’s earned several honors from the Institute of Transportation Engineers, including the Martin Bruening Award in 2007, the Young Professional Award in 2012, and the Transportation Professional of the Year for the Midwest District in 2018. He earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Tsinghua University in Beijing and a PhD in civil engineering with a minor in business from the UW–Madison.

Pasha Thao is program manager for diverse alumni engagement at the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association, where she coordinates and supports a number of affinity groups for University of Wisconsin Alumni. Thao previously spent three and a half years as a program manager for Wisconsin Youth Company, where she staffed and coordinated after-school programs. Thao earned a degree in community and nonprofit management at UW–Madison.

Dr. Kaiping Chen is an Assistant Professor in computational communication at University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication, and a faculty affiliate at the Department of Political Science, the Data Science Institute, the UW–Madison Robert & Jean Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies, the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, the Wisconsin Energy Institute, the Institute for Diversity Science, the Center for East Asian Studies, and the African Studies Program. Since 2022, she’s served as the elected International Liaison and the chair for the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Taskforce at the Computational Methods Division, the International Communication Association (ICA). She is the recipient of the AEJMC Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver Early Career Woman Scholar Award. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Fudan University in China, a master’s degree from Columbia and a PhD from Stanford.

Dr. Nathaniel Chin is medical director and Clinical Core Co-Leader for the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) and medical director for the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP). Dr. Chin sees patients in the UW Health Memory Clinic three half-days a week and is the host of the Wisconsin ADRC’s podcast, “Dementia Matters.” In each bi-weekly episode, he interviews local and national Alzheimer’s disease experts about research advances and caregiver strategies. Dr. Chin grew up in Watertown, Wisconsin, and earned undergraduate and medical degrees from UW–Madison.

Chundou Her is a graduate student in Curriculum & Instruction at UW–Madison, researching the intersection of storytelling, youth activism, art, transformative justice, and participatory methods. Through this work, the goal is to develop strategies, patterns, and pedagogy that can be incorporated into the classroom which works towards a liberation-based education versus conformity-based education. Her has presented at a number of national education research conferences.