White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Kiran Ahuja was appointed on Dec. 14, 2009, as executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) at the U.S. Department of Education. In this capacity, she is responsible for directing the efforts of the White House Initiative and the Presidential Advisory Commission on AAPIs and advising federal agency leadership on the implementation and coordination of federal programs as they pertain to AAPIs. The initiative works with these entities to improve the quality of life and opportunities for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders through increased access to, and participation in, federal programs in which they may be underserved.
For almost 20 years, Ahuja has dedicated herself to improving the lives of women of color in the U.S. Well-known as a leader among national and grassroots AAPI and women’s rights organizations, she served as the founding executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) from 2003 to 2008. Through her leadership, Ahuja built NAPAWF from an all-volunteer organization to one with a paid professional staff who continue to spearhead successful policy and education initiatives, expanded NAPAWF’s volunteer chapters and membership, and organized a strong and vibrant network of AAPI women community leaders across the country .
Ahuja grew up in Savannah, Ga., where her understanding of race, gender and ethnicity was formed as a young Indian immigrant. She received her bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Spelman College, an historically black college, and her J.D. at the University of Georgia School of Law. Following law school, she was chosen as one of five Honors Program trial attorneys for the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, where she litigated education-related discrimination cases and filed the Department’s first peer-on-peer student racial harassment lawsuit. In addition, she participated in the division’s National Origin Working Group as part of a core group of attorneys who organized response efforts for the division after the September 11 terrorist attacks.