Indian American Sonal Shah named Chief Commissioner on body to advance equity, justice, and opportunity for AA and NHPI communities
Four Indian Americans – Sonal Shah, Ajay Bhutoria, Kamal Kalsi and Smita N. Shah – have been sworn in as members of President Joe Biden’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.
Sonal Shah, a social impact and innovation leader who has launched and led social impact efforts in academia, government, and the private and philanthropic sectors for over 25 years, was designated as Chief Commissioner.
Vice President Kamala Harris and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra swore in the four along with 19 other members on Feb 3.
Co-chaired by Becerra and US Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai, the Commission will advise the President on ways the public, private and non-profit sectors can work together to advance equity, justice, and opportunity for AA and NHPI communities.
“We know there’s still a lot of work to do in an affirmative way, in a purposeful way, in an intentional way about ensuring that people are engaged, that they are involved, and that we are relevant to the way that they are experiencing and living life, and that we are connected with their goals and their dreams for themselves, for their families, and for their community,” said Harris to the commissioners .
“And that’s why it’s so important to have you all as the leaders that you are together in this advisory group, because the work that you will do is to give us candid feedback,” she said thanking the commissioners “for the life that you have chosen to live, which has been a life of leadership and service.”
“The Commissioners you see today represent not only subject matter experts who are recognized in their fields, but also visionary leaders who reflect the strength and diversity of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community,” said Becerra.
Read: Biden naming 4 Indian Americans to presidential body on AANHPI communities (December 21, 2021)
“From addressing anti-Asian hate and bias, to Covid-19 recovery, to the need for better data on AA and NHPI communities and resources for limited English proficient individuals, the needs of our AA and NHPI communities are wide-ranging, unique, and urgent for us to address.
“Together, with the leadership of our Commissioners, we will work to ensure that our nation lives up to its founding ideals, and that the American Dream is within reach for every AA and NHPI family.”
Sonal Shah is the Founding President of The Asian American Foundation (TAAF), starting the largest philanthropic effort to serve the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities.
Prior to TAAF, Shah founded and led Georgetown University’s Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation, providing students a first-hand opportunity to work on social impact projects in the public, private, and social sectors.
She served as Deputy Assistant to President Obama and created the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, worked on international development at the Department of Treasury, and led social impact efforts at Google and Goldman Sachs.
She serves on the boards of TAAF, Oxfam America, the Century Foundation, and the National Democratic Institute.
Ajay Bhutoria is a Silicon Valley technology executive, community leader, speaker, and author who has been recognized for his work.
He is a passionate advocate for the South Asian and AAPI communities in the areas of small businesses, educational opportunities, immigration issues, and technological advancement.
Bhutoria’s expertise in organizational transformations and change management has supported critical advancements within the AAPI community, and he is committed to the creation of a compassionate and empowering environment for all.
Dr. Kamal Singh Kalsi, LTC, USAR, is an emergency medicine physician from New Jersey who has served in the Army for 20 years and was awarded a Bronze Star medal for his work taking care of hundreds of combat casualties on the front lines in Afghanistan.
He has transitioned into the Army Reserve, and now serves as a senior advisor for Policy Vets and a Fellow of the Truman National Security Project’s Defense Council.
Kalsi founded the Sikh American Veterans Alliance (SAVA) in order to promote diversity, religious freedom, and service.
Smita N. Shah is an engineer, entrepreneur, and civic leader serving as President and CEO of Chicago-based SPAAN Tech, Inc, a multi-disciplinary firm with expertise in public and private infrastructure projects including transportation, aviation, and facilities.
Shah serves in various roles with the Chicago Plan Commission, MIT, the Museum of Science and Industry, After School Matters, Delhi Chicago Sister Cities Program, YPO, the Lincoln Academy of Illinois, and the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.
She is a member of the board of MacLean Fogg Company and a member of the Commercial Club of Chicago and the Economic Club of Chicago.
Shah earned her Bachelor of Science from Northwestern University, her Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering from MIT, and a Post Graduate Certificate in Management Studies from Oxford University.