Act to Change Fellow
Maulik Pancholy, Chair & Co-Founder
Maulik Pancholy is an award-winning actor, author and activist whose work has spanned hit television shows, the Broadway stage and films. He is best known for playing Jonathan on NBC’s award-winning comedy 30 Rock, Sanjay on the Showtime hit series Weeds, and Neal on the NBC comedy Whitney. He is also the voice of Baljeet on Disney’s Phineas and Ferb, and the title voice of Sanjay on Nickelodeon’s Sanjay and Craig – the first lead Indian-American character on a network cartoon.
In 2019, Pancholy released his first book, a middle grade novel titled The Best at It (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins). It was named a 2019 Junior Library Guild Selection and received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and the American Library Association’s Booklist. Drawn from his own experience, The Best at It is about a 12-year-old, gay, Indian American Boy coming into his own. It has been called at once, “exuberant and heart-wrenching.”
As an activist, he has long been an advocate for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) and LGBTQIA+ communities. He is the recipient of the Asian American Arts Alliance Award, the Human Rights Campaign’s Visibility Award, and was named to Out Magazine’s Top 100 list. He regularly speaks at universities and corporations on the topics of diversity and inclusion.
In 2014, President Obama appointed Pancholy to serve on the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs. During his three-year tenure at the White House, he helped launch Act to Change.
Rebecca Lee, Managing Director & Co-Founder
Rebecca Lee is an entrepreneur, seasoned communications professional, and community advocate. Rebecca delivers more than a decade of strategic communications experience across government, consulting, and nonprofit environments. Rebecca is Chief Marketing Officer of DAWN, a communications and marketing agency that specializes in start-up companies and social impact organizations.
Rebecca was previously Communications Director for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, a government-wide initiative that focuses on advancing the AAPI community. At the Initiative, she launched the award-winning anti-bullying campaign Act To Change; led the communications effort around the historic White House Summit on AAPIs; and developed the branding for a network of regional-level federal outreach ambassadors.
Rebecca also served as a public affairs specialist at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where she developed agency-wide messaging. Rebecca joined the federal government as a Presidential Management Fellow (PMF), selected from graduate programs across the country in 2011. As a PMF, Rebecca coordinated Department-wide efforts around the Affordable Care Act at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Prior to joining the government, Rebecca was a senior consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton.
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).
Rebecca serves on the Advisory Council of the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL). Her leadership as Chair in 2013 helped transform CAPAL from an all-volunteer organization to one with paid, full-time staff.
Jill Yu, Managing Director & Co-Founder
In 2015, Jill served as an Advisor at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. She worked on critical initiatives including “Act to Change”, promoting enrollment for healthcare, organizing the philanthropic and public and private partnership event at the White House, and working with senior federal agency executives in how their agency can better serve Asian American populations.
Jill came to federal service as a Presidential Management Fellow. Prior to federal service, Jill was a Staff Attorney for the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, and worked on the cross-section of foster youth and education as well as policy issues impacting vulnerable youth.
Jill is an active member of the National Filipino American Lawyers Association. Jill also founded and served as the inaugural President of the Filipino American Lawyers Association of Washington, DC, an affiliate of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.
Belinda Lei, Board Member
Belinda previously served as a Strategy Consultant Associate at Tyton Partners, an advisory and investment banking firm that specializes in the global knowledge sector. Her duties include working with companies, investors, and organizations in the private and public sectors to drive insights for capitalizing on education-related opportunities. Prior to joining Tyton Partners in June 2018, Belinda completed her first year of business school at Yale School of Management. She is currently enrolled in the Yale Silver Scholars program, a program at Yale for recent college graduates who pursue their MBA straight after graduation. Before attending Yale SOM, Belinda held multiple internships in the public and private sector, including the White House Initiative on AAPIs and FiscalNote. While at the White House Initiative, Belinda worked as a Senior Intern to spearhead the launch of the AAPI Bullying Prevention Task Force, a coordinated cross-agency effort to address community concerns about bullying across the country.
Ru Bhatt, Board Member
Ru Bhatt is a Partner in the Associate Practice Group at the world’s largest and the nation’s top-ranked legal search firm, Major, Lindsey & Africa. He has been a member of the firm’s New York office since 2008. Ru graduated from Fordham Law School in 2007 and received his bachelor’s degree, in Theatre Arts, from The University of Miami in 2002. Ru specializes in placing attorneys of all levels in top-tier national, international, regional and boutique law firms. He also places attorneys in prominent in-house positions at companies and financial institutions. Ru distinguishes himself by taking pride in acting as a career counselor and a strong advocate for his candidates by helping them identify opportunities that are consistent with their diverse career goals.
Ru follows his passion for music as a DJ, and co-founder of Occupy The Disco (OXD), a New York-based DJ collective with a musical repertoire that defies the confines of a single genre. OXD has headlined events at NYC Pride, The Fire Island Pines Party (2018), and at their residency at Le Bain at The Standard Highline. OXD started out as a casual experiment between three friends to reintroduce underground dance music to the gay dance floor. The mission was simple: reclaim the queer identity’s role as tastemakers, and hence the name ‘Occupy The Disco’ was borne. Their sound is permeated by a collective love of nightlife’s past and present; it’s unabashedly queer, underground-inspired, and ever eclectic.
Ru is actively involved in fundraising efforts for local and national LGBT charity organizations such as Lambda Legal and The Trevor Project. Ru also recently sat on the Associate Board for The George Jackson Academy, a middle school in Manhattan that provides a place for bright boys from all incomes to thrive in a culture of challenging academics, supportive community, and social and moral development.
Grace Choi, Board Member
Grace Choi is the Director of Policy to the First Lady of NYC. Recently, she served as the Constituency Director for Asian American & Pacific Islander Outreach for the Stacey Abrams for Governor Campaign. Previously, she was the Associate Director for Global Gender Policy and Advocacy at Save the Children. She served in President Obama’s Administration as Policy Advisor in the Secretary of State’s Office on Global Women’s Issues and as Staff Assistant in the White House Liaison’s Office at the U.S. Department of State.
Prior to her political appointment at the Department of State, Grace worked for the Council of Korean Americans (CKA), the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) in Congresswoman Judy Chu’s office, the Presidential Inauguration Committee, President Obama’s 2012 Presidential Campaign, the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Refugee Affairs Division.
She is a Council on Foreign Relations Term Member, is a Council of Korean Americans Member, was a Member of the White House National Security Leadership Workshop, and served on the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership Board of Directors as Vice Chair for Programs. She holds a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a Bachelor of Arts from Boston College.
Nicholas Hatcher, Board Member
Nicholas L Hatcher is a Media Relations Associate at Megaphone Strategies, a not-for-profit communications firm that works to uplift diverse voices and progressive issues. He also serves as the Associate Director of the East Coast Asian American Student Union, which hosts the largest and oldest conference by-and-for Asian American and Pacific Islander Students and is a part of the A-Doc Network, a supportive network of Asian American documentary filmmakers and industry professionals. He is also a founding member of the National Coalition for Asian American/Pacific Islander studies, a network of students, alumni, faculty, and community members working to promote and establish resources and programs for Asian American and Pacific Islander studies.
He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 2017 and was awarded the Walter S. Spearman award for outstanding leadership, academics, and character. He is currently based in Washington, DC.
Amit Jani, Board Member
Amit Jani currently serves in Governor Phil Murphy’s Administration in New Jersey. He served as the Director of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Outreach for the Murphy-Oliver Gubernatorial Campaign and the New Jersey Democratic State Committee for down-ballot Democrats across the state. Following the campaign, Amit worked on the Murphy-Oliver Transition Team focusing on Political Affairs and Outreach.
He previously served as a Congressional Aide for Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. in New Jersey’s Sixth Congressional District. Prior to this role, he worked in a legislative capacity for Congresswoman Judy Chu in Washington, D.C., as well as the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC). Amit also has prior experience working for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), New Jersey State Legislature, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ. He has also served as Committeeman for the Middlesex County Democratic Committee and currently serves on the Advisory Board for the Hudson County Schools of Technology Foundation.
Given the lack of South-Asian American representation in government and politics, Amit was inspired to create a non-profit organization to increase his community’s involvement in this sector. In 2015, he helped to found the New Jersey Leadership Program, which helps to place South-Asian youth in local government summer internships, while teaching them about the government, politics and community engagement.
Amit is a native of Jersey City, where he currently resides. He is also an alumnus of Rutgers University, the State University of New Jersey and a proud Scarlet Knight. Amit is a Contributor to the Huffington Post and was named as a “30 Under 30 in New Jersey Politics” by Observer Magazine. He hosts a podcast called Politics and Spice, which can be found on all major podcast providers.
Mindy Kordash-Shim, Board Member
Mindy is a long time educator in the city of Los Angeles. She immigrated from South Korea with her family at the age of 8 and lived in Irvine (CA), Portland (OR), Philadelphia (PA) before moving back to Southern California to start her teaching career with Teach For America. After years of being in the classroom, she made a recent transition to work for a school board member in L.A. Unified School District as the Director of Communications.
Mindy has been and remains curious about solving social problems that typically place groups of people at a disadvantage. She is passionate about changing the status quo so that historically marginalized people groups can live and lead a happy life, while also having the liberty to define their own “happiness.” She continues to be in the struggle and quest to close gaps of all forms: wealth, academic achievement, income and more.
Mindy is living out her own “happiness” soaking in the California sun, residing in Downtown Los Angeles with her husband, where she also serves as an elected Board Member for the Neighborhood Council. She loves to run, hike, socialize and get away to nearby destinations in her free time.
Richard Leong, Board Member
Richard currently works as a Program Coordinator at Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE), a non-profit leadership development organization that empowers current and former educators to make lasting civic change through public leadership.
As a Program Coordinator, Richard manages the logistics and operations for various leadership development workshops. This includes messaging, program recruitment and selection, identifying and managing relationships with vendors, and data analysis. Richard also leverages strong communication and facilitation skills with respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion, which he first honed through teaching 5th grade and after-school martial arts in the most underprivileged neighborhood of St. Paul, MN through Teach For America.
After leaving the classroom, Richard continued to hone his skills at problem-solving and data systems management as a Student Data Coordinator for Bright Star Schools, a charter network serving low-income students in the Greater Los Angeles area. At Bright Star, Richard led a complete redesign of the master scheduling process by integrating data and teacher voice to improve equity and student agency.
Because of his childhood experiences being bullied as an Asian American and the son of immigrant parents, Richard is passionate about social justice, education, and breaking the cycle of bullying. In his free time, he enjoys exploring the Los Angeles food scene, listening to podcasts, and practicing martial arts. He has a BA in Sociology from Columbia University and an M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.
Saad Qureshi, Board Member
Saad currently serves as an Outreach Director at Educators for Excellence – New York. As an organizer he has engaged educators by informing them about various education policy topics such as Common Core, Every Students Succeeds Act, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Student Discipline Code, School Climate, Restorative Justice and Union Engagement. Over the course of two years he hosted a total of 48 campaign specific events with schools and community partners collecting over 1,000 advocacy action responses.
At the age of 10, Saad and his family migrated to the United States. Raised in Flint, Michigan, Saad experienced a decline in the quality of education due to lack of funding. While his parents worked odd jobs to make ends meet, Saad enrolled at the University of Michigan-Flint to study biology. During his sophomore year, Saad began working for a nonprofit that provided assistance in housing, rent, utilities, food and job training. Working with the youth inspired Saad to apply to teaching programs which resulted in his acceptance as a 2013 Teach For America corps member. Saad taught high school biology and anatomy while continuing to advocate for education policy changes which resulted in accepting a full time position at an education policy and advocacy organization.
Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBA
19th Surgeon General of the United States
Advisory Council Member
Dr. Vivek H. Murthy served as the 19th Surgeon General of the United States appointed by President Barack Obama. As the Vice Admiral of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, he commanded a uniformed service of 6,600 public health officers globally. During his tenure, Dr. Murthy launched the TurnTheTide campaign, catalyzing a movement among health professionals to address the nation’s opioid crisis. He also issued the first Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, calling for expanded access to prevention and treatment and for recognizing addiction as a chronic illness, not a character flaw. Dr. Murthy continued his office’s legacy on preventing tobacco-related disease, releasing a historic Surgeon General’s Report on e-cigarettes and youth. In 2017, Dr. Murthy focused his attention on focused loneliness and chronic stress as prevalent problems that have profound implications for health, productivity, and happiness. An internal medicine physician and entrepreneur, he has co-founded a number of organizations: VISIONS, an HIV/AIDS education program in India; Swasthya, a community health partnership in rural India training women as health providers and educators; software company TrialNetworks; and Doctors for America.
Dr. Murthy received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard and his M.D. and M.B.A. degrees from Yale. He completed his internal medicine residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and later joined Harvard Medical School as faculty in internal medicine. His research focused on vaccine development and later on the participation of women and minorities in clinical trials. Dr. Murthy’s book Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, will be published HarperCollins in April 2020. Dr. Murthy resides in Washington D.C. with his wife Dr. Alice Chen and their two young children.
Dikshant Rajbhandari, Act to Change Fellow
Dikshant Rajbhandari is a Digital Marketing Associate with DAWN Design Studios, a marketing and communications agency. He was born and raised in Nepal and later immigrated to the US, where he attended Colby-Sawyer College. After receiving his Bachelors in Business Administration, he worked as a Community Manager for ACE Next Gen, a non-profit organization focused on bringing together Asian-American entrepreneurs to share ideas and help each other in growing their businesses.
Dikshant is fluent in four languages – German, English, Nepali, and Hindi – and currently resides in Berlin, Germany.