Kacie was encouraged to apply for the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership’s (CAPAL) Scholar & Intern program in 2010 through a friend and mentor, Clarissa Koga, who interned through CAPAL in 2009. Her experience was so positive, she told Jordan about CAPAL in 2012, and where he interned in her former placement at the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service (USDA – ARS).

This internship allowed for a number of opportunities for Kacie, who was not only able to access and learn about the current USDA’s nutrition-related research, but also contribute to Nutrient Data Laboratory’s (NDL) knowledge base. As an intern, she worked on the National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference and an emerging project to track sodium content in commonly consumed foods in the American food system. Her supervising scientists provided guidance related to nutrient data acquisition and dissemination as well as professional development. The work she did provided Kacie with a unique perspective, since the National Nutrient Database serves as a trusted reference that research, public policy, and the private sectors rely on.

Jordan had the opportunity to work with Food Quality Laboratory (FQL) at USDA-ARS, which focuses on researching scientific and technological methods to improve the quality of numerous food crops. During his work, he gained laboratory experience that led him to his current graduate school research. Jordan helped gather data on the quality of produce from around the nation, which can inform farmers on developing agricultural practices to feed the nation – great-tasting food with minimal production loss.

In the realm of science, many people see career options as being primarily within industry or academia. For Kacie and Jordan, CAPAL showed them that public service is an interesting avenue that combines their knowledge with hard and soft skills. They now understand that public service has the power to impart real change in society and intersects with many fields of knowledge and expertise.

However, CAPAL’s biggest contribution to both Kacie’s and Jordan’s life is the promotion of AAPI affairs. Being from Hawaii, where people typically have a background of 2-6 ethnicities with an Asian majority, they were never aware of the issues or sentiments felt by others in the mainland AAPI community. How Kacie and Jordan define their identities as individuals and in their communities changes depending on their situation, but their collective goal is to promote awareness and cultural sensitivity, which will hopefully echo in their professional lives. They seek to make this part of their careers by coordinating programs that emphasize professional development and the spectrum of diversity.

Kacie’s CAPAL experience as an intern was a positive and eye-opening one.  The Washington Leadership Program further educated her about policies that affect the Asian Pacific American community and allowed her to meet prominent Asian American leaders.  For Kacie, it was a good introduction so that she could better understand her identity and role in the AAPI community.

Her CAPAL experience was also the first time she had been so far away from Hawaii for such an extended period of time.  As a rising sophomore who had lived in the dorms and gone to an in-state university, the move to the Maryland/DC area that summer was a big step into a new place. The CAPAL Board members were incredibly supportive and built a safe mentorship environment for all the interns/scholars.  Also, the scholars and fellow interns in her CAPAL cohort are great people that she has built lasting relationships with.

She remembers being blown away with the talent, skill, intelligence, and poise that her fellow interns and scholars embodied as young professionals in their respective fields. In this sense, CAPAL brought together varied individuals from different fields, from different parts of the country, with different backgrounds through a commitment to public service.  As an undergraduate/graduate student, it was easy to meet mostly people in her major who inherently think similarly due to the common curriculum.  Developing friendships with those in other fields helped her to be a better team member as she learned to better understand individuals with different personality types and skill sets.

Kacie and Jordan continue to stay engaged with CAPAL because it had such a positive impact on both of them. They are excited to see CAPAL continually grow as the organization expands the support available for their future AAPI leaders.  CAPAL alumni should stay engaged because this increases the networking database, which benefits alumni, board members, interns, and scholars.  Ultimately, strengthening and expanding ties within CAPAL will help them individually in their own career and life goals and collectively by building a diverse community with a common interest of advancing the cause of AAPIs everywhere.  

Kacie Ho was part of the 2010 CAPAL program and interned with the Nutrient Data Lab in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Beltsville, Maryland.  Kacie received her B.S. in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of Hawaii at Manoa (Honolulu, HI).  Kacie has interned for the various companies in the food industry and has research experience in food engineering/processing, food chemistry, and food colloids.  Kacie is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Food Science at Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN) and is being funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program.  Her research focuses on using novel technologies to extract and encapsulate lycopene, an antioxidant and red pigment found tomato processing byproducts.  Kacie also received a travel award from NSF Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide (GROW) to conduct research at Wageningen University (Netherlands) for 8 months, starting in August 2015. 

Jordan Oshiro was part of the 2012 CAPAL program and interned with the Food Quality Lab in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Beltsville, Maryland.  Jordan received his B.S. in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of Hawaii at Manoa (Honolulu, HI).  There he worked for several years as a research assistant studying diets in different populations. Jordan is currently a Ph.D. student in the Interdepartmental Nutrition Program at Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN) and is a scholar in the Alfred P. Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership, a program that provides mentorship and partial funding for Native American/Native Hawaiian/Alaska Native graduate students.  Jordan’s research focuses on determining biological mechanisms of dietary components (e.g., minerals and bioactive compounds) in obesity-related diseases.

Jordan and Kacie are both involved with various groups on campus that work to provide professional development opportunities for graduate students at Purdue University and outreach events for students in the K-12 public school system.