February 28, 2024

API Summit 2024

02:30 PM - 06:30 PM

Merage School Auditorium

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Join us for the inaugural API Summit hosted by The Asian/Pacific Islander (API) Initiative. This event aims to showcase the inspiring journeys and accomplishments of API leaders who are boldly breaking barriers and using their voices to drive meaningful change.

The summit will provide a dynamic and thought-provoking exploration of the challenges faced by API leaders and the resilience they exhibit in overcoming obstacles. From business and technology to arts and activism, distinguished speakers will share their personal narratives, shedding light on the diverse ways in which they have paved the way for progress within their respective fields.

This summit is not only an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of API leaders but also a platform to engage in meaningful discussions, exchange ideas, and foster meaningful connections.

All identities are welcome to attend this event!


FREE FOOD FOR ALL ATTENDEES! We will be serving a variety of appetizers during our tea break including coconut shrimp, garlic chicken wings, vegetable spring rolls, beef satay, veggie potstickers, assorted dessert bites, 85°C pastries, coffee, and tea.


Panels & Speakers

Inspiring Stories of Successful API Leaders

  • Karen Nguyen MBA ’11, Founder & CEO at Inspired Enterprises
  • Viet Nguyen, CEO at Kei Concepts
  • Tim Li, Founder & CTO at MaxDecisions
  • Sashee Chandran ‘07, Founder & CEO at Tea Drops
  • Liz Chuk, Moderator & Associate Professor at UCI Paul Merage School of Business


How Can Our Voices Be Heard?

  • Mary Anne Foo, Executive Director at OCAPICA
  • Nate Cho '03, Senior Director at SiriusXM
  • Diane Thai, Business Advisor at EY Management Consulting
  • Grace Hwang, Head of Campus Recruiting at American Airlines
  • Derek Powell MBA '98, Moderator & Director at Altman Solon



2:00 pm – 2:30 pm


2:30 pm – 2:35 pm

Welcome & Introductions

2:35 pm – 3:35 pm

Panel Discussion 1: Inspiring Stories of Successful API Leaders

3:35 pm – 4:00 pm

Tea Break

4:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Panel Discussion 2: How Can Our Voices Be Heard

5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

Networking Reception





Inspiring Stories of Successful API Leaders

Karen Nguyen

Karen Nguyen, MBA '11

Founder & CEO
Inspired Enterprises

Karen Nguyen is a dynamic executive, entrepreneur, and educator with 18+ years of marketing leadership and business ownership experience. She is known for driving tangible and intangible growth in her ventures and as a corporate consultant. Notably, she founded Inspired Art Wine, an art studio wine bar and galley in Costa Mesa serving 30,000+ global customers and 250+ corporate clients since 2016.

Karen also established Inspired Somm, Pour Fine Art, and Inspired Vineyards, earning accolades and a Clio nomination for her artwork and wine labels. Her work has been shown at New York World Trade Center, John Wayne Airport, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Costa Mesa City Hall and exhibitions internationally.

As a corporate consultant, her expertise in brand identity and strategic communications benefits hi-tech, retail/CPG, manufacturing, education, and hospitality sectors. She previously led Worldwide Partner Marketing at Western Digital, spearheading global programs in 90 countries. Nguyen holds a bachelor’s and MBA from the University of California, Irvine, and speaks on entrepreneurship and modern marketing strategies.

Notable recognitions and award include: “Inspirational OC Women” “Innovator of the Year”, “Women in Business” and “Emerging Small Business” award by the LA Times, OC Business Journal and Connected Women of Influence, respectively.


Viet Nguyen

Viet Nguyen

Kei Concepts

Chef Viet Nguyen's culinary journey began in the vibrant heart of southern Vietnam, where he resided with his parents and four younger siblings in a modest two-room living space atop their family's bustling chemical factory in Ho Chi Minh City. As a curious child with an insatiable appetite, Viet found himself irresistibly drawn to the cacophony of flavors and aromas emanating from the factory's lively kitchen and cafeteria. Here, 4,000 ravenous workers gathered daily to partake in nourishing meals, instilling in young Viet a profound fascination for the culinary arts that would shape his future. In 2014, Chef Viet unveiled his culinary vision with the launch of his first restaurant, Sup Noodle Bar, in the charming town of Buena Park. Are sounding success, the establishment expanded to a second location in Cerritos in 2017. Shortly thereafter, the highly anticipated Vox Kitchen made its debut in Fountain Valley, further cementing Chef Viet's reputation as a rising star in the culinary world. From there, a rich and flavorful history unfolded.


Tim Li

Tim Li

Founder & CTO

Timothy Li is a serial tech entrepreneur. He spent the past 20 years in financial technology focusing on banking and fintech product while building mission critical platforms for Intel Corporation and JPMorgan Chase.

He currently serves on multiple FinTech advisory boards worldwide. Tim is also a professor at the University of Southern California, Viterbi School of Engineering where he enjoys helping hundreds of students build their high tech startups.





Sashee Chandran

Sashee Chandran

Founder & CEO
Tea Drops

Sashee Chandran is founder and CEO of Tea Drops, which creates bagless whole leaf teas. She wrote her own patent for this new category innovation, which sheds less waste than traditional tea bag packaging. Tea Drops has become a favorite among new and experienced tea drinkers alike, launching innovative tea experiences that merge flavorful blends, food art and innovation. Tea Drops are now available in 2,000 retailers — and are loved by Oprah Magazine, Chrissy Teigen, and former first lady Michelle Obama. Sashee is a 2021 Inc 100 Female Founder, a 1st place $100K Tory Burch Fellow Grant winner, and the 1st place $50K PepsiCo WomanMade Challenge winner. She has also raised over $8.4M in VC funding for Tea Drops.




Liz Chuk

Liz Chuk

Associate Professor
UCI Paul Merage School of Business


Professor Elizabeth Chuk earned her PhD from the University of Washington and was an assistant professor at USC before joining UCI in 2016. Prior to her doctorate, she was an auditor at Deloitte & Touche. Her current research focuses on financial reporting, accounting regulation, and defined benefit pensions. Professor Chuk currently serves as a Board Member at Eco-Soap Bank, a humanitarian and environmental non-profit organization.






How Can Our Voices Be Heard?

Mary Ann Foo

Mary Anne Foo

Executive Director

Mary Anne Foo has over 30 years of experience of working in the non-profit organization management industry. She currently serves as the Executive Director and Founder of the Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance (OCAPICA).

The Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance (OCAPICA) is dedicated to enhancing the health, and social and economic well-being of Asians and Pacific Islanders in Orange County, California. Established in 1997, OCAPICA works to improve and expand the community’s opportunities through service, education, advocacy, organizing and research.

Mary Anne has served for over 30 years with disadvantaged, diverse communities with an emphasis on health equity and social justice issues. Mary Anne received her Bachelor of Science from UC Davis and her Master in Public Health from UCLA.


Nate Cho

Nate Cho '03

Senior Director

Nate Cho is a Senior Director at SiriusXM, where he fosters relationships with Genesis, Hyundai, and Kia brands. With a robust automotive background as both a client and strategic business partner, he’s been instrumental in orchestrating global brand launches, pioneering new vehicle developments, and crafting enduring marketing experiences. His approach to relationship-building is rooted in transparency, accountability, and empathy. In his role, he actively seeks diverse perspectives from experts and multiple data sources, enjoying the process of collaborative problem-solving. Nate is appreciative of the meaningful connections forged beyond the surface, as he firmly believes that one's network is a reflection of their professional journey. Nate is a proud UCI alumus who approaches life mindfully and with a conviction in its limitless opportunities.



Diane Thai

Diane Thai

Business Advisor
EY, Management Consulting

Diane Thai is a Business Advisor at EY Management Consulting, where she leads the firm's strategic and large-scale initiatives to introduce innovative capabilities, improve operational efficiency, and cultivate a change-oriented culture, propelling the firm to new heights in today's competitive business landscape. Diane has built a robust career within the financial services and consulting sector, with previous experiences at PwC Management Consulting, Credit Suisse, Vanguard, and PFPC. Diane also serves as Co-President of the Ascend Orange County chapter. Ascend is the largest Pan-Asian business professional membership organization in North America. The organization’s mission is to drive workplace and societal impact by developing and elevating all Asian and Pacific Islander (API) business leaders and empowering them to become catalysts for change. During her spare time, Diane enjoys mentoring the next generation of business leaders and inspiring them to reach their fullest potential.



Grace Hwang

Grace Hwang

Head of Campus Recruiting
American Airlines

Grace Hwang is the Head of Campus Recruiting at American Airlines. In her role at American Airlines, Grace is responsible for leading a small, but mighty, team to recruit and onboard more than 200 interns and full-time campus new hires for departments across the company.

Prior to her current role, Grace has worked in numerous business functions at American including Loyalty, Network Planning, Internal Consulting and Sales. She has also had roles at PwC, Delta Air Lines and Pizza Hut in various functions such as marketing, finance, and forensic services. Grace is passionate about connecting with students in a personalized way and making an impact on their journeys.

She received her undergraduate business degree from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as her MBA from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. Grace is a fierce advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion.


Derek Powell

Derek Powell, MBA '98

Altman Solon


Derek Powell is currently a Director at Altman Solon, the largest strategy consulting firm globally focused exclusively on the Technology, Media, Telecom sectors. He is a seasoned executive with nearly 20 years of transformation experience within the Media & Entertainment industry focused on helping media clients develop growth strategies, create and manage strategic cost programs and integrate new and emerging technologies. His production, post-production and distribution experience with Warner Bros. and Sony spans across digital media services, new product development, and operations management for film, television, music and games. Derek also founded the Black Employees of Altman Solon diversity group to focus on recruitment, retention, development and allyship of Black employees at the firm. Having seen firsthand the need for greater diversity within the media and entertainment industry, Derek helps his clients understand how media companies source, hire, train, and retain diverse representation “behind the camera.”

Derek is an alumnus of Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program and the African-American Board Leadership Institute (AALBI). He holds an MBA from the University of California, Irvine's Paul Merage Graduate School of Management and a BS degree in astronautical engineering, with military distinction, from the U.S. Air Force Academy.