Tina Wei Smith will serve as the next executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI), according to a newsletter from The Yappie, a briefing on Asian American power, politics, and influence. The position was previously held by Holly Ham.
WHIAPPI, which was established in 1999 during the Clinton administration, “works to improve the quality of life for AAPIs by facilitating access to and participation in federal programs in which many AAPIs remain under-served,” according to the initiative’s website.
WHIAPPI has five areas of strategic focus: education and career development; business and jobs; immigration; healthcare and housing; and workforce leadership. It coordinates between three entities to do its work: the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders; the Interagency Working Group; and the Regional Network. The advisory commission advises the president on AAPI issues. The Interagency Working Group works with 31 federal agencies and offices to help increase AAPI access to federal resources. The Regional Network comprises of over 350 employees from federal agencies across different regions who work to engage with local AAPI communities.
According to The Yappie, WHIAPPI is currently undergoing a transition from the U.S. Department of Education to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Smith will serve as executive director during this transition.
Smith attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she received her B.A. in English Literature and Political Science. Later, she earned her M.P.P & M.A. in Higher Education Administration at the University of Michigan.
Before WHIAPPI, Smith spent almost six years as the director of the Global Engagement Office at Asbury University. She has spent much of her career working in higher education, but she has worked in national politics before. In 2012, she spent a summer as a legislative intern for the House Committee on Education & the Workforce. She also served as an aid to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
In January, President Trump announced that he intended to appoint Chao WHIAPPI co-chair. As executive director, The Yappie says, Smith will report to Chao and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
According to her LinkedIn profile, Smith began her job as executive director this December. However, it remains unclear when or if Smith has officially started.
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