2022-2023 Board Members
GLAS Community and Alumni Advisory Board
Inhe Choi is the Executive Director of HANA Center, Chicago’s leading immigrant justice organization that provides critical services and builds power for Korean, Asian American, and multi-ethnic immigrant communities in the Chicago area to advance racial, economic, and social justice. For more than 35 years, Inhe has dedicated her life’s work toward building strong communities and coalitions across boundaries of race, gender, class, immigration status, and more. Her background includes serving as the Executive Director of Korean American Resource and Cultural Center, an immigrant rights organization; Program Director at the Crossroads Fund, a public foundation that funds organizations working on social justice issues in the Chicago area; and Community Organizer in the Harold Washington administration for the Commission on Asian American Affairs. Inhe is a founder of KAN-WIN, an organization that supports Asian American survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. She immigrated to the U.S. from Seoul, Korea at the age of 12 and grew up in Rogers Park, Chicago.
Co-founder and Steering Committee member of Liberation Library
Bettina Johnson (she/they) is a lifelong Chicagoan and a graduate from Chicago Public Schools and University of Illinois at Chicago. Bettina has worked in the domestic violence, manufacturing, and public education sectors. Bettina has participated in activism or movement building work since high school and her practice has tended towards disrupting state violence with an emphasis on supporting the leadership of young people and folks otherwise ignored or spoken about rather than heard. Presently, Bettina serves on the steering committee for Liberation Library, a books to prisoners project focused on sending books to incarcerated young people in Illinois.
Ginger Leopoldo is an educator, actor, director, producer, and community organizer. She is the founding Artistic Director of the Center for Immigrant Resources and Community Arts (CIRCA), and Executive Director of CIRCA Pintig. Her work includes performing, directing, producing, and facilitating theatre productions and workshops for all ages. Ginger has created youth heritage curricula with techniques that utilize a basic integrated theatre arts workshop methodology as well as Activism & Art workshops.
Ginger has over 20 years of experience as a teaching artist and literacy coach for public school teachers. In addition, she teaches English to students on a virtual and global platform and is an adjunct lecturer in the ESL program at the University of the Potomac. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in organizational leadership focusing on the pedagogy of the Theatre of the Oppressed, popular education, teaching artists, and diaspora. She received her B.A. (1997) and M.A. (2002) in Theater from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Ginger is a proud 1.75-generation Filipino American and lives in Chicago with her husband and three children.
Grace Chan McKibben is Executive Director at the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community (CBCAC), which seeks to empower the Chinese American communities in Greater Chicago through planning, advocacy, and organizing. Under Grace’s leadership since 2019, CBCAC has tripled its budget and staff size. CBCAC recently led a Coalition of Asian American organizations and ally organizations to successfully advocate for the first-ever Asian American majority ward in Chicago. For over 25 years, Grace has held senior level positions in education, government, corporate, and nonprofits. In these roles, she created numerous programs that brought communities together and amplified the voices and influence of marginalized communities. She is a fierce advocate of equality, inclusion, and belonging for immigrants, persons of color, the low-income community, and the LGBTQ+ community. She currently serves on the Chicago Community Development Commission; the Illinois State Asian American Employment Plan Advisory Council; the Illinois ACLU Board; and the National ACLU Board. Grace holds an M.B.A. from Keller Graduate School of Management, an M.A. in Linguistics from The University of Chicago, and a B.A. in Linguistics and Sociology from The University of Chicago. She and her husband Tom live in Hyde Park and have four adult children.
Joy Messinger (she/they) is a physically disabled and chronically ill queer femme Korean adoptee, organizer, resource mobilizer, facilitator, poet, and writer. She has nearly two decades of experience in nonprofit, philanthropic, and grassroots community organizations and collectives, with a focus on racial, gender, disability, immigration, reproductive, and healing justice. They are currently the Owner and Principal of Yeojeong Consulting & Coaching, a social change consultancy dedicated to developing and strengthening BIPOC, LGBTQ, disabled, migrant, youth, and emerging leaders, organizations, and social movements and previously worked in local, state, and national reproductive justice and social justice philanthropy. Joy is a Master Certified Professional & Life Coach, the founder of Femme of Spoons Tarot, and a collective member of the Rogers Park Free Store, and holds graduate degrees in social work, public health, and nonprofit leadership from the University of North Carolina and the University of Illinois at Chicago (2011). Learn more at www.joymessinger.com.
Brandon R. Mita graduated from UIC in 2006 with a B.A. in Political Science,and from 2005 to 2006, he was the Chairperson of the Asian American Coalition Committee. He received his law degree from Howard University School of Law, a Historically Black College and University. Brandon is currently a Shareholder at Littler Mendelson, P.C., the world’s largest labor and employment law firm, where he specializes in counseling clients on developing their DE&I programs and representing companies in employment litigation and disputes.
Grace Pai is the Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago, where she leads strategy for issue-based campaigns and power-building work. In 2021, she led a successful campaign to require Asian American history to be taught in all Illinois public schools. Grace has spent nearly a decade organizing in Chicago toward racial, economic, and immigrant justice and has trained hundreds of organizers and community leaders across the country. She also serves as the founding Executive Director of Asian American Midwest Progressives, a political organization established in 2019 that endorses progressive candidates for elected office.
Naomi Leilani Salcedo's (they/them) career has historically focused on community organizing, leadership development and direct services supporting the liberation of immigrants and refugees across Chicagoland. Their first experiences with activism and organizing began during their undergraduate years at UIC advocating for Asian American Studies and off-campus through their work in Queer Latinx spaces such as Amigas Latinas. Since then, their movement in non-profit remains committed to racial, immigration, gender, and disability justice. While trained as a community organizer and leadership professional, they are also a licensed mental health practitioner. Their models of care include narrative centered and decolonial approaches to addressing intergenerational trauma, otherness, LGBTQIA+ issues, systemic oppression, and racial battle fatigue. The overlap of their experiences has allowed them to live out their values while using the privilege of their current leadership role in the non-profit setting to fight white supremacy and build from the grassroots. Naomi graduated from UIC in 2016 with their BA in Sociology and a minor in Asian American Studies; they also hold a Master’s in Social Work and Policy from The University of Chicago. Currently, they are the Program Director at the Vietnamese Association of IL serving diverse groups of immigrants and refugees in Uptown and DuPage County. In their free time, Naomi enjoys sci-fi novels, caring for their four cats, and belting ballads at karaoke.
Chirag Shah is the Community Navigator Program Manager. The Community Navigator helps connect hard-to-reach communities to vital resources and educates on topics such as Know Your Rights. Chirag graduated from UIC with a Bachelor's in Business Administration in 2022. While in school, he earned Summa Cum Laude. When Chirag is not working, he enjoys using his self-taught graphic design skills to create marketing materials for political campaigns, and businesses, and with his broad sense of humor, photoshopping his friends into funny situations.
Mike Takada serves as CEO at the Japanese American Service Committee, bringing a unique combination of over 30 years of experience in the financial sector and nonprofit experience to lead both the day-to-day operations and long-range planning for JASC. Mike’s volunteer experience includes serving as past President and Board Member of JASC, anti-racism and diversity facilitator with the Anti-Defamation League and the Unitarian Universalist Association, past President and Board Trustee at the Unitarian Church of Evanston. Mike received a BA from Boston University and a MBA from DePaul University. He helped raise three beautiful daughters in Rogers Park and now calls the Uptown neighborhood home.
Chief of Asian American Services
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS)
Ada Tong is the Chief of Asian American Services at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Ada grew up in Chicago’s Chinatown and is an active member of the community. Prior to DCFS, Ada worked for the first Asian American elected to the Illinois General Assembly, State Representative Theresa Mah, as her Constituent Services Coordinator. Ada organized the annual health and job fairs for the district in addition to building strong relationships with community leaders and constituents. In her volunteer time, Ada serves on the associate board of the Chinese American Museum of Chicago. Ada holds a Master of Public Policy from the School of Global Policy and Strategy at University of California San Diego and a Bachelor of Arts in Public Health from the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago with double minors in Asian American Studies (now Global Asian Studies) and Public Policy in 2016.
Ryan Viloria (he/him) is the Executive Director of the Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE), a community organization that organizes and uplifts Filipinx/a/o leadership of immigrant rights, workers' rights, and civic engagement through the framework of healing justice; in this capacity, Ryan also serves on the steering committee of the Pan Asian Voter Empowerment (PAVE) Committee of Illinois. Prior to this role, Ryan previously worked as a staff member of UIC's Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy (IRRPP), where he also served on the Executive Committee of the College of Urban Planning and Public Administration (CUPPA) and the Chancellor's Committee on the Status of Asian Americans. He was also the coordinator for the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) National Conference in 2015. Ryan earned his M.A. in English Literature in 2012 and his B.A. in English in 2005, both from UIC.