Biden nominates four Indian Americans to key posts

Nominations push number of Indian Americans in Biden-Harris administration close to a record 50

President Joe Biden has nominated four more Indian Americans for key posts, pushing the number of people of Indian descent working in Biden-Harris administration close to a record 50.

Geeta Rao Gupta has been named Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues, while Jainey Kumar Bavishi would be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere.

Arun Venkataraman has been nominated to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director General of the US and Foreign Commercial Service, while Viquar Ahmad would serve as Assistant Secretary of Commerce and as Chief Financial Officer at Commerce Department.

The White House sent their nominations for confirmation to the Senate Tuesday.

Gupta, nominee for Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues at the State Department, is currently a Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation and Senior Advisor to Co-impact, a global collaborative philanthropy for systems change.

While at the UN Foundation, Dr. Gupta founded and served as Executive Director of the 3D Program for Girls and Women, according to her official bio.

She currently serves as co-chair of the WHO Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee for health emergencies, chairs the Global Advisory Board of WomenLift Health, a new initiative to promote women’s leadership in global health, and serves as a member of the Board of UBS Optimus Foundation and of the Advisory Board of Merck for Mothers.

Read: List of Indian Americans in the Biden administration (January 2, 2021)

She also serves as a Commissioner for the Lancet-SIGHT Commission on Health, Gender Equality and Peace.

Previously, Dr. Gupta was a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University and also served as co-Chair of the Gender-Based Violence Task Force of the World Bank.

Before that, Dr. Gupta served as Deputy Executive Director, Programs at UNICEF. Earlier, she was a senior fellow at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and served as president of the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW).

Dr. Gupta has served on several boards, including the Global Partnership for Education; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health; and the MAC AIDS Fund.

She is the recipient of numerous awards, including InterAction’s Julia Taft Award for Outstanding Leadership, Harvard University’s Anne Roe Award and Washington Business Journal’s “Women Who Mean Business” Award.

Dr. Gupta was awarded a PhD in Psychology from Bangalore University and a Master of Philosophy and Master of Arts from the University of Delhi in India.

Jainey Bavishi, nominee for Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere at Commerce Department currently serves as the Director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Climate Resiliency.

In this role, she leads a cross-disciplinary team that prepares the city for the impacts of climate change through science-based analysis, policy, program, and project development, and capacity building.

During the Obama Administration, Bavishi served as the Associate Director for Climate Preparedness at the White House Council on Environmental Quality and Director of External Affairs and Senior Policy Advisor at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Bavishi also served as the Executive Director of R3ADY Asia-Pacific, focused on enhancing disaster risk reduction and resilience in the Asia-Pacific region, based in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Previously, she was the Founding Director of the Equity and Inclusion Campaign, a coalition of community-based leaders in the Gulf Coast region that focused on recovery from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike, at the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation.

Bavishi has a Master’s degree in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Bachelor’s degree in public policy and cultural anthropology from Duke University.

Arun Venkataraman, nominee for Assistant Secretary of Commerce, has over 20 years of experience advising companies, international organizations and the US government on international trade issues.

He is currently Counselor to the Secretary of Commerce, advising the Department on trade and other international economic matters.

Before joining the Biden-Harris Administration, Venkataraman was a Senior Director at Visa, leading global government engagement strategy on a range of international policy issues including digital economy, trade, tax and sanctions.

He previously served as Trade & Investment Policy Advisor at Steptoe & Johnson LLP, where he counseled multinational firms and other organizations on e-commerce, intellectual property rights, and US and foreign trade policies.

As the first ever Director of Policy at the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration under President Barack Obama, Venkataraman helped shape the US government’s responses to critical challenges faced by firms in the US and in markets around the world, including China and India.

While at the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), he led the development and implementation of US-India trade policy as the Director for India, for which he received the agency’s Kelly Award for outstanding performance and extraordinary leadership.

Venkataraman also served as Associate General Counsel, representing the United States in litigation before the World Trade Organization and in negotiations on international trade agreements.

Before joining USTR, Venkataraman was a Legal Officer at the World Trade Organization, advising the organization on a wide range of issues raised in appeals of trade disputes between countries.

He began his career as a Law Clerk for Judge Jane A. Restani at the US Court of International Trade. Venkataraman holds a JD from Columbia Law School, a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and a BA from Tufts University.

Viquar Ahmad, nominee for Assistant Secretary of Commerce, has held multiple leadership roles in the US government over the past two decades.

He served as the Deputy Chief Financial Officer of the US House of Representatives over the past four years; his responsibilities included management of Congress’ operating budget.

Before returning to the House, Ahmad provided counsel to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) senior leadership on the budget decision-making, and oversight on a nearly $70 billion budget of its component agencies.

His leadership enabled DHS to successfully meet response and recovery efforts to catastrophic natural disasters, thwart cybersecurity threats, clean-up the largest maritime oil spill in US history, and recapitalize critical multi-billion dollar national security assets.

Previously, he served as a senior aide to the Chairman for the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.

In this capacity, he facilitated Congress’ enactment of the largest domestic discretionary spending bills, reflecting priorities outlined by a diverse constituency of stakeholders.

Ahmad has been recognized with excellence awards, including the US Coast Guard’s Distinguished Public Service Medal.

Read: Biden Administration appoints Indian-Americans to key posts in Energy Dept (January 25, 2021)

He earned a bachelor’s degree with honors from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the George Washington University.

He was awarded an Executive Certificate in Public Leadership from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

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