API Forward Student Leadership Conference 2024

Date: Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024
Time: 9:00 a.m.- 2:15 p.m. PST
Fee: Free!
La Casa Latina Student Center
Smith Memorial Student Union, Room 228
Portland State University

Join us at the 4th Annual Student Leadership Conference to hear stories and learn to live “Life as a Leader” every day.

We are often faced with opportunities to speak up for ourselves and others, to make small, intentional decisions to improve, and to encourage those around us but we don’t need a leadership title or job to live like we have one.

Be inspired and make new connections at this event, free for API students, to start the new year and learn more about how the API Forward Foundation and the conference participants are here to support you!

Topics of discussion include:

  • Life as a Leader: Student Life
  • Life as a Leader: Post-Graduation

Speakers include (more announced soon):

  • Lavina Martinez, Forward Leadership Program Mentor
  • Kurt Jun, DEIB Manager for the City of Tigard
  • Brandon Ha, Vice President of White Lotus Foundation
  • Whitney Murphy, PSU PIAA Student Liaison
  • Chivon Ou, Alumni of Forward Leadership Program

FREE and open to API college students.

API Forward Student Leadership Conference

Date: Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022
Time: 9:45 a.m.- 4:00 p.m. PST
Location: Virtual Conference

See Full Program →

“If you want to build a ship, do not task people with collecting the wood. Do not assign them tasks and orders. Instead, teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” – Shan-Lyn Ma, CEO of Zola.

There’s more to leadership than having a title and there’s more than one type of leader. Join API Forward in a leadership conference designed specifically for college students of Asian or Pacific Islander descent.

Understand what it takes to be a leader in the 21st century and shift from unconscious bias to conscious inclusion. Students will discover possibilities, explore their own journey from “me” to “we,” and what you can do to help bring diversity, equity, inclusion and justice to our communities.

Topics of discussion include:

  • Leadership in the 21st century
  • Leadership in public service
  • Leadership in social and racial justice

Speakers include (more announced soon):

  • Octaviano Merecias-Cuevas, Organizational Training & DEI Education Manager, OHSU
  • Sheila Murty, Executive Vice President of People and Culture, Tillamook County Creamery Association
  • Amanda Park, Project Manager, Prosper Portland, and Co-Founder of My People’s Market
  • Makerusa Porotesano, Multicultural Student Services Coordinator, Portland Community College Sylvania
  • Rep. Khanh Pham, State Representative for Oregon House District 46
  • Toc Soneoulay-Gillespie, Director of Community Health, Health Share of Oregon
  • Ian Davie, Deputy Executive Director, Home Forward
  • Theresa Mai, Co-Chair, Multnomah County Charter Review Committee

FREE and open to API college students. The first 40 to register and attend will receive an adidas employee store pass. Other door prizes will be given away at the event.

Vision 2022

Date: Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021
Time: 5:00 p.m.- 6:00 p.m.
Location: Virtual Event – Free Registration!

Missed our event? Watch the recording of this celebration!

Join us for an evening of inspiration, community-building and fundraising as we share our vision for 2022.

The virtual event is FREE to attend, however a donation is greatly appreciated. It will be a chance for you to learn about the impact API Forward has had on the community.

In addition, you will

  • Meet students in our Forward Leadership Program.
  • Get inspired by our keynote speaker, Dr. Karen Eng, CEO of CSMI, an engineering firm; board member for National Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship (ACE)

About the Keynote

In today’s working environment, there are two obvious problems we must face: Problems with known solutions that only require the application of existing knowledge/experience and workflows to solve, and problems with unknown solutions that require innovation, experimentation, and adaptation to transform and survive. The Practice of Adaptive Leadership is a process to allow yourself to lead your organization through the difficult, uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous process of adaptation.

Please join us to hear from Dr. Karen Eng of her experience in dealing with these challenges, finding effective interventions, accomplishing results ever thought possible, and achieving a purpose while going through the process.

Dr. Karen Eng is the President and CEO of CSMI, an engineering firm. Initially a successful optometrist with a Doctorate from the New England College of Optometry, Dr. Eng surprised her family with her bold decision to switch careers and industries to take over the family business.

Dr. Eng has used her professional success to support, promote, and mentor other girls, women, and minority business owners, particularly those in STEM-related industries. Her company is especially dedicated to collaborating with other diverse firms.

Dr. Eng is a member of several prominent Boards, including National Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship (ACE), Illinois College of Optometry, and Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote (APIA Vote). The Illinois State Treasurer has given her an award for Outstanding Service in Business. In addition, she also has had positions on the State of Illinois Business Enterprise Program Council and The Illinois Census Count Commission 2020. Her most recent honor is receiving the National Executive Excellence award from OCA National in September 2021.

6th Annual Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month Celebration

Date: Wednesday, May 19, 2021
Time: 5:30 p.m.- 6:30 p.m.
Location: Virtual Event – Free Registration!

Missed our event? Watch the recording of this celebration!

Please join API Forward for the 6th annual Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Celebration on May 19, from 5:30-6:30 p.m. This event honors our diverse community and raises funds to educate local students and young professionals of Asian and Pacific Islander descent to become leaders in our community.

Simon Tam, founder of the Slants and the Slants Foundation

Chanpone Sinlapasai, partner at Marandas, Sinlapasai and Garcia

The virtual event is FREE to attend, however, a donation is greatly appreciated. It will be a chance for you to learn about the impact API Forward has had on the community. In addition to being a celebration of the Asian and Pacific Islander culture, you will:

  • Meet current and past students in our Forward Leadership Program.
  • Hear from community leaders about the importance of advancing API leadership.

About Keynote Speaker

Simon may best be known for winning a landmark case in 2017 that helped expand civil liberties for minorities, unanimously, at the Supreme Court of the United States (Matal v. Tam). He is the founder and bassist of The Slants, one of the first all-Asian American dance rock bands in the world, and also leads The Slants Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides resources and mentorship for artists that incorporate activism into their work.


About Emcee

Chanpone Sinlapasai-Okamura is a partner with Marandas & McClellan. She represents clients regarding general immigration law matters including visas, citizenship issues, consular processing, deportation defense and appeals. She is an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA Oregon) and currently serves as the co-liaison for Immigration Custom’s Enforcement.  Her volunteer work includes chairing the DOJ’s Immigrant Crime Victim’s Rights Enforcement subcommittee, member of the Victims of Crime Act Advisory Committee for the State of Oregon, DOJ’s Immigrant Crime Victim’s Right Compliance Project Advisory Committee, F.B.I. Citizen’s Alumni Board (Oregon FBI Council on Community Outreach), Oregon Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Oregon Minority Lawyer’s Association, and Oregon Women’s Lawyer’s Association. She is currently the Chair of the Oregon Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs.

Lotus Sponsor:
OHSU, Port of Portland, City of Portland

Orchid Sponsor:
Tillamook, K&L Gates

Jasmine Sponsor:

Vision 2021: Moving Forward

December 15, 2020
Virtual Event – Free Registration!

Join us for an evening of inspiration, community-building, and fundraising as we share our hopes and dreams for the new year. Don’t miss your opportunity to bid on a suite of auction items just in time for the holidays, including Asian-fusion dinner packages, decadent desserts, artwork, and many more. 

Besides the fun, we also have a special keynote speaker from KGW-TV, Christine Pitawanich, who will share stories from the field and discuss leadership in a time of misinformation.


About Christine Pitawanich:
Christine Pitawanich has been working in local TV news for nearly a decade. She is currently a reporter and fill-in anchor for KGW-TV on channel 8. She joined the team in 2015. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and main anchor for KOBI-TV NBC 5 News in Medford, Oregon. During the pandemic she has mostly covered stories on the impact of COVID-19 on education and also covered the Beachie Creek Fire that swept the Santiam Canyon destroying homes and businesses in early September. She is always open to hearing from her community about issues they feel are newsworthy, so feel free to contact her if you’d like to discuss any ideas.

With your loyal support, API Forward can continue to develop more conscientious, strong, and compassionate leaders at a moment when our mission is more vital than ever. Your generosity will also allow us to raise the $5,000 necessary to make the 2021 FLP program a success. Now and always, thank you for the impact you make possible.

API Forward Student Leadership Conference

January 11, 2020
World Trade Center
Portland, OR

What does it mean to be a leader? What does it mean to be an Asian or Pacific Islander leader in the current political and social environment? 

On January 11, 2020, API Forward hosted the 2nd annual Student Leadership Conference designed for undergraduate college students of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. Students explored what it takes to rise up, how to find their voice as a person of color, the impact of unconscious bias, the importance of emotional intelligence, ways to bridge the cultural divide and more.

The conference was FREE and open to undergraduate college students. Snacks and lunch included. Special thanks to Partners in Diversity for providing the space and continued support.


  • Chanpone Sinlapasai, J.D., partner, Marandas Sinlapasai Garcia, LLC
  • Corissa Saint Laurent, professional speaker
  • Octaviano Merecias Cuevas, M.A., lead diversity trainer, OHSU Center for Diversity and Inclusion
  • Sandy Tsuneyoshi, Ph.D., former director, Asian and Pacific Islander American Student Services, Oregon State Universit

Knowing Your Rights Workshop

September 16, 2019
APANO Orchards of 82nd
Portland, OR

API Forward and APANO presented “Knowing Your Rights,” a workshop to help individuals understand their general legal rights. Having basic knowledge of what the law says empowers us to ask deeper questions to better protect ourselves, our family and our community. The workshop was led by attorneys Shenoa Payne and Matthew C. Ellis.

It covered general rights in the following areas:

  • Employment
  • Housing
  • Education
  • Government and public entities


Shenoa Payne is a solo practitioner and founder of Shenoa Payne Attorney at Law PC. She practices employment discrimination, disability rights, fair housing, and appellate law. Payne’s litigation practice focuses on representing individuals under state and federal civil rights statutes against large corporations and public entities in state and federal court.

Matthew C. Ellis, who followed his 1998 BFA in acting with a five-year stint in New York, says the progression from acting to litigation was fluid. “Actors are at their best when they’re authentic and believable,” the Seattle-raised Matthew explains. “That’s also what makes a good trial lawyer. … It’s not just being conscious of your voice and trying your best not to bump into the furniture, it’s about telling a story that resonates with people on a gut level.” After a post-September 11th bout of soul searching, he and his modern dancer wife moved to Portland so he could attend law school and she could pursue a career as a high school counselor.

4th Annual Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month Celebration

May 2, 2019
Ocean City Seafood Restaurant
Portland, OR

Together as a community, we raised more than $34,000. Special thanks to keynote speaker Bill Imada, founder of IW Group and former member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific Islander, for his inspiring message of courage and confidence. He also surprised us all by matching each of the student’s scholarship money.

A big congratulations to Erin San Antonio, Taryn Yamauchi, Sara Tajanlangit and Viv Cai for their successful completion of the Forward Leadership Program. Their work over the past 4 months exemplified the kind of excellence and leadership skills needed to create culture-change.

Event Sponsors

We are also grateful to the following sponsors for their commitment to equity and inclusion in our community.

Gold: Trimet
Silver: OHSU
Jade: Metro, Port of Portland and U.S. Bank
Champion: Portland State University and the City of Portland Procurement Services

Thank you to our program partner, the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2); our donors; and our amazing volunteers.

Student Leadership Conference

January 12, 2019
Portland Business Alliance
Portland, OR

API Forward hosted a leadership conference designed specifically for undergraduate college students of Asian or Pacific Islander descent.
The conference programs helped participants explore what it takes to be a leader in the 21st century and how cultural norms play a factor.


  • Grant Yoshihara (NW Natural, retired): Leadership in the 21st Century<-
  • Kilong Ung (Golden Leaf Education Foundation): Focus, Grit and Determination
  • Rosella de Leon(Foundation for Philippine Progress): Embracing Culture, Diversity and Equity
  • Octaviano Merecias Cuevas (OHSU Center for Diversity and Inclusion): The Impact of Unconscious Bias
  • Anna Canzano(That Expert Show, former KOIN TV anchor): Delivering the Best You
  • Jo Ann Hardesty (Portland City Commissioner): Seeing the Big Picture

Supporter Appreciation Night

September 27, 2018
K & L Gates
Portland, OR

API Forward hosted an evening of food, appreciation, and fun to thank our supporters for being a part of API Forward.

Event Sponsor: K&L Gates

3rd Annual Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month Celebration

May 10, 2018
Ocean City Seafood Restaurant
Portland, OR

API Forward’s annual Asian Pacific Island Heritage Month dinner, celebrates leadership, honoring our diverse community. It also serves to raise much-needed funds to educate local students and young professionals of Asian or Pacific Islander descent to becoming local leaders. In addition to enjoying a delicious 9-course Chinese meal, guests bid on exciting prizes in a silent auction.

Keynote Speaker

Swan Sit is currently the Vice President of Global Digital Marketing at Nike and has spent the past decade of her career accelerating digital into legacy companies. She was the Vice President of Global Digital for Revlon. As part of the Revlon portfolio, she developed Elizabeth Arden’s first digital platform, grew retailer sales by double digits, launched augmented reality makeover and skin diagnostic apps, and spearheaded the company’s award-winning “Desk of Liz Arden” social campaign. As the Executive Director of Online Strategy for the Estée Lauder Companies, Swan helped grow their global marketing, ecommerce and mobile sites from 125 to 450, with double digit sales growth across 30 brands and 50 countries.

Swan was voted a Brand Innovators Top Woman in Marketing to Watch and 40 Under 40, Consumer Goods Technology Visionary and Luxury Daily’s Woman to Watch. Her campaigns won the Glossy Awards’ Best Social Campaign and Best in Show awards. A regular on the conference circuit, this year she has spoken at SXSW, Cannes Lions, Etail East, Women in Retail, Web Summit and the largest digital conferences in Scandinavia, South Korea and Iceland.

Swan graduated with BA in Economics from Harvard and an MBA from Columbia. Having traveled to 73 countries, her favorites include Antarctica, North Korea, Mongolia, Rwanda, Bhutan, Myanmar and climbing Kilimanjaro. She sits on several boards, including Consumer Goods Technology Executive Council, Women in Retail, the Impact Network and Foundation Rwanda philanthropies. She can often be found smashing a volleyball or chasing restaurant openings around NYC and now in Portland.

Leadership Through Civic Engagement

April 12, 2018
K&L Gates
Portland, OR

API Forward brought issue-focused individuals and organizations together with local leaders to discuss ways to get civically involved and how we can work together to make meaningful changes to our community.

Topics Covered

  • The leadership skills needed to impact local issues and policies;
  • How to get your voice heard;
  • How to influence decision makers;
  • A better understanding of “the system” in order to take action.


State Senator Michael Dembrow is the state senator for District 23, covering portions of NE and SE Portland and the city of Maywood Park. First elected by voters in 2008 to the state house, he is serving his first term in the senate after being appointed to the seat in November 2013. Voters re-elected Michael to the senate in November 2014 and again in November 2016 to a full term. Michael currently serves as Chair of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.  He also sits on the Human Services Committee and the Judiciary Committee. In addition to his legislative committee assignments, Michael also serves on the Oregon Workforce Investment Board, the Oregon Youth Conservation Corps Advisory Committee and the Oregon Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs. Michael is a retired English instructor at Portland Community College’s Cascade campus in North Portland. He taught writing and film studies at the college beginning in 1981, and served as the President of the PCC faculty union for 16 years.  He continued to teach one or two classes per term after being elected to the House in 2008, and recently retired fully from teaching.

In 2007, Michael was appointed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski to the State Board of Education. Michael’s passion for film drives his involvement in the Cascade Festival of African Films, which he helped create in 1991. The Festival, which Michael is co-director of, has grown in size each year since its founding.  He was also one of the first members of the Portland chapter of Jobs With Justice.

Commissioner Nick Fish is a Portland City Commissioner. He leads the Bureau of Environmental Services and the Portland Water Bureau. He’s an advocate for affordable homes, older adults, small businesses, and the arts. He is deeply committed to making our city more welcoming and inclusive for all. When he’s not in City Hall, you’ll find Nick listening to jazz, riding his bike, or watching his son play soccer.

Commissioner Lori Stegmann grew up in the Rockwood neighborhood in west Gresham after being adopted as an infant from an orphanage in Korea. She has been a small business owner and insurance agent for more than 20 years, specializing in commercial insurance. She chose to live and locate her Farmers Insurance agency in the same neighborhood she grew up in.Lori served six years on the Gresham City Council and served as City Council President in 2014.  Her duties as Gresham City Councilor have included committee assignments on the Public Safety Committee, Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce, Gresham Sister City Association, Youth Advisory Committee and the Council Employee Performance Subcommittee. Before being elected to the Gresham City Council in 2010, she served on the Gresham Planning Commission, Rockwood Stakeholders Group and Rockwood Light Rail Station Art Committee, as well as Vice Chair of the Gresham Redevelopment Commission Advisory Committee. She has also served as a board member of the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce.

Born in Hong Kong, Helen Ying came to the United States at age 11 to join her extended family. Helen’s grandfather was the first of her family to immigrate to America, leaving China in the late 1800’s. Helen’s professional career encompasses 30 years of experience as a mathematics teacher, high school counselor, and high school vice-principal. Currently, she serves as a Hearings Officer for a local school district. In addition to her professional work, Helen has also been active in the community – serving in various capacities over the years rallying for the causes of youth, civil rights, and leadership development.  She desires to engage and empower people in improving their communities.  She was elected in May 2017 as a Multnomah Education Service District Board Director representing the entire Multnomah County. In addition, she is also serving on a myriad of boards and in leadership positions involved in efforts connected to education, health care, civil rights, environment, and social justice issues. Helen holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics and a Master’s degree in Education and Counseling from Portland State University.  She is fluent in Chinese. Today, she lives in SW Portland with her husband, Stephen.  Her daughter, Melanie lives in NW Portland and her son, Geoffrey, lives in Corvallis.  In her leisure time she enjoys walking, hiking, reading, and traveling.​


Christine Chin-Ryan is a business owner, consultant and community activist. Her company, Synergy Consulting, Inc., provides comprehensive IT software solutions, as well as consulting services in the area of diversity, inclusion and facilitation. Among the many committees and organizations she’s a part of, Christine currently is the executive vice chair of the Democratic National Committee Small Business Council, board member of the Greater Portland Chapter of the National Organization of Women, and a member of the City of Portland Small Business Minority Evaluator Program. She has also served as an ambassador for the Asian Pacific American Chamber of of Commerce of Oregon, testified in front of the Portland City Council in support of the resolution to declare the city as a Sanctuary City, and coordinated AAPI focus groups for Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Healths’ One Key Question advisory council. ​