Yen Le (Board Chair)
Yen is a full-time agent licensed in MD, DC, and VA. She specializes in residential and commercial real estate investment and sales in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Howard County, District of Columbia, and parts of Northern Virginia. She has an MBA in Real Estate from Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. Yen has over 7 years of experience in real estate and is a Multimillion Dollar Producer and has twice been named Commercial Agent of the Year in Montgomery County. She has experience working with buyers, sellers, and investors. Yen is an expert in marketing and utilizing technology to help clients maximize their investments.
Yen completed the Leadership Montgomery program in 2013 and has access to many valuable resources in the region. Before joining the real estate industry, Yen had a wonderful and rich career in the nonprofit organizational and program management. As Executive Director of a local nonprofit, Yen tripled its funding and led the organization to be featured in the Catalogue of Philanthropy as “one of the best small charities in the Washington region.” She’s a proud alumna of Smith College.
Cynthia Brothers (Secretary)
Cynthia Brothers is a program consultant with the Four Freedoms Fund (FFF) at NEO Philanthropy, a national donor collaborative working toward full integration of immigrants as active participants in our democracy. She founded Vanishing Seattle in 2016, a media project that documents the disappearing and displaced spaces of Seattle. Cynthia has recently consulted for Welcoming America, the New Americans Campaign, and the Seattle Office of Immigrant & Refugee Affairs. She has also worked with CultureStrike as an Immigration Cultural Strategist & Coordinator, and with 18MillionRising as Editor & Strategist. Her other volunteer roles have included Blog and Social Media Editor for Hyphen Magazine and founding member of the Chinatown International District (CID) Coalition/#HumbowsNotHotels, a grassroots anti-displacement group in Seattle. Cynthia holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, and BAs in Psychology and Business Administration from the University of Washington.
Sophal Ear, PhD (Treasurer)
Board treasurer Sophal Ear, PhD, is a tenured Associate Professor of Diplomacy & World Affairs at Occidental College in Los Angeles. He has taught political economy and how to rebuild countries after wars at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and international development policy at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University.
Prior to academe, Dr. Ear consulted for the World Bank, was Assistant Resident Representative for the United Nations Development Programme in East Timor, and Advisor to Cambodia’s first private equity fund Leopard Capital. A TED Fellow, Fulbright Specialist, Delphi Fellow of BigThink, Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, and Fellow of Salzburg Global Seminar, he is a Trustee of the Nathan Cummings Foundation and Partners for Development, and on the Board of Directors of the Southeast Asia Development Program.
Dr. Ear is Vice-Chair of Diagnostic Microbiology Development Program, a non-profit that builds laboratory capacity in the developing world. He advises the Faculty of Development Studies at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, and serves on the Boards of the Journal of International Relations and Development (Palgrave), the International Public Management Journal (Taylor & Francis), the Journal of South-East Asian American Education & Advancement (University of Texas), and Politics and the Life Sciences (Allen Press). He is the author of Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy (Columbia University Press, 2013) and co-author of The Hungry Dragon: How China’s Resources Quest is Reshaping the World (Routledge, 2013). He wrote and narrated the award-winning documentary film The End/Beginning: Cambodia (47 minutes, 2011) based on his 2009 TED Talk and has appeared in several other documentaries. A graduate of Princeton and Berkeley, he moved to the United States from France as a Cambodian refugee at the age of 10.
Sophia Giddens (Resource Development Chair)
Sophia Giddens is the Development Director of State Voices, which promotes the civic participation of historically underrepresented and marginalized populations, including people of color, low-income individuals, single women, LGBTQ+, and youth. She manages all aspects of fundraising in partnership with the national staff, board, and many generous funders and donors, to advance the vision of a robust, multiracial democracy for all.
Sophia is a senior nonprofit strategist and fundraiser with over a decade of experience in the nonprofit sector. She has worked with organizations to build capacity and resources for civil rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights, and the empowerment and visibility of diverse communities. She is passionate about racial justice and serving immigrants and low-income people of color. Sophia has helped build fundraising infrastructure and led successful strategies for visionary activists and progressive organizations at the grassroots and national levels.
Sophia holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence College. She is based in New York.
Trinh Nguyen (Policy and Programs Committee Chair)
Trinh Nguyen is the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development (OWD), an affiliated division of the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA). Prior to her role at OWD, Trinh was the Chief of Staff at the Boston Housing Authority.
Trinh has nearly 20 years of experience in operations, programs, resource, and budget management. She has worked for the Urban League of Massachusetts, the Boston Women’s Fund, the Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians, and University of Massachusetts Boston. She is currently Chair of the Neighborhood Jobs Trust, a board member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Workforce Development Council, and a board member of the Boston Educational Development Fund (BEDF). As Director of OWD, she has helped launch such recent initiatives as Boston Saves (the city’s children savings account program), the Tuition-Free Community College Plan, and the Greater Boston American Apprenticeship Initiative.
Trinh holds dual graduate degrees and an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and was a community fellow at MIT’s Department of Urban Planning.
Rev. Dr. Sharon Stanley-Rea (Audit Committee Chair)
Sharon is Director of Refugee & Immigration Ministries for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She is an employee of Disciples Home Missions, with her office located in Washington, D.C., on the second floor at National City Christian Church. She works to mobilize Disciples congregations around the country to offer hospitality to immigrants, provide refugee resettlement assistance to refugees, seek justice for farm workers, and engage in advocacy on behalf of refugees and immigrants. Prior to joining DHM, Sharon served for 19 years as the Founder and Executive Director of Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries (FIRM), which provides holistic ministries to thousands of refugees annually in California’s Central Valley. During her years at FIRM, Sharon enjoyed working with multiple SEARAC elder, citizenship, health, and other projects.
Previously, she pastored in North Carolina and California, and served in mission in Seoul and Pusan, South Korea. She is a pastor, ordained in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. and with clergy standing in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She is the wife of Disciples pastor Rev. Dr. Woodie Rea, Senior Pastor at The Inter-faith Chapel at Leisure World in Silver Spring, Maryland. She is the sister, daughter, and granddaughter of pastors. She holds a doctor of ministry degree from Columbia Theological Seminary, earned a Masters of Divinity degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary, has studied in Indonesia and China, and lived for many years in a Hmong neighborhood in Fresno, California nicknamed after a refugee camp in Thailand. She loves traveling, and enjoys running daily with her beagle.
Phitsamay Sychitkokhong Uy (Board Development Committee Chair)
Phitsamay Sychitkokhong Uy is an assistant professor in the Leadership in Schooling program and core faculty member of the Center for Asian American Studies at University of Massachusetts-Lowell. She is also a research fellow at the Asian American and Pacific Islander Research Coalition (ARC). Dr. Uy is the first Lao-American refugee to receive a Doctorate of Education from Harvard University. Her research focuses on Southeast Asian educational experiences and family and community engagement. Her teaching experiences include being an elementary teacher, a literacy specialist, and an Asian American studies instructor. As an educational consultant, she has provided workshops on diversity training, culturally responsive strategies to engage immigrant and refugee families, and professional development workshops for school teachers, administrators, and staff and parent workshops for immigrant and refugee families.
For over 20 years, Dr. Uy has been involved in various community boards of directors and steering committees including Legacies of War, Asian American Resource Workshop (AARW), Institute for Asian American Studies at UMass- Boston, Chea Uy Trust Fund, and the Nisei Student Relocation Commemorative Fund (NSRC). She is the new president of the National Association for the Education and Advancement of the Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans (NAFEA). Dr. Uy has also served as a reader and trainer for the Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium Scholarship Fund and the Asian American Pacific Islander Scholarship.
Nerou Cheng, CPA
Born in Cambodia, Nerou Cheng founded NCheng LLP In New York City in 1989, which has grown to an 80-person accounting and consulting firm. Nerou has over 30 years of experience in public accounting dedicated exclusively to serving the not-for profit sector. He has provided invaluable services in financial statements audits and advisory services to several not-for-profit clients in areas such as financial management and reporting, internal controls, governance, and regulatory compliance.
Nerou has an MBA from Ball State University and a BSBA from Georgetown University. He also holds a Certificate in Public Accounting from Pace University. Nerou is vice-chair of the board of Friends Without A Boarder, and is an active board member of Friends of Khmer Culture, two NGOs doing work in Cambodia.
Kathy Duong is currently a Senior Associate at Canyon Snow Consulting in Silicon Valley and focuses on local and state government affairs, policy analysis, and community engagement. As a boardmember for SEARAC, Kathy hopes to support the organization’s efforts to represent and advocate for our Southeast Asian and vulnerable communities.
Kathy is a founding member of the Bay Area Asian Pacific American Legislative Staffers Association. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Landscape Architecture and City Planning from the University of California at Berkeley and a Master of Science degree in public policy from Carnegie Mellon University. She was selected as Silicon Valley’s 40 Under 40 by the Silicon Valley Business Journal in 2019. On the weekends, she can be found serving coffee with her husband at their shop, Academic Coffee, in downtown San Jose.
“Julie” Yihong Mao
“Julie” Yihong Mao is currently a staff attorney with the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. Julie specializes in the areas of civil rights, enforcement, deportation defense, and grassroots campaign support. Previously, Julie was a staff attorney at the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice (NOWCRJ), where she provided legal and strategic support to its membership of immigrant workers in the Deep South and guestworkers across the country. She has represented immigrants in civil rights litigation against the unlawful practices of law enforcement, provided legal campaign support that led to the end of ICE holds in New Orleans, and worked with hundreds of grassroots community members to fight their deportations and demand ICE accountability. A former Equal Justice Works fellow, Julie is a 2011 graduate of NYU School of Law, where she was a Root-Tilden-Kern Scholar and a student of the NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic.
Huong Nguyen-Yap (she/her/hers) is the Director of California Programs at Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees. She oversees the California Immigrant Integration Initiative and the CA Census 2020 Statewide Funders Initiative. She has over 13 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. Prior to joining GCIR, she worked at Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) supporting the National Giving Circle Network. Her experience also includes providing behavioral health and recovery services and working in the field of Positive Youth Development.
Huong earned her MSW from San Jose State University and her BA in Asian American studies from the University of California, Los Angeles. Outside of work, she also serves on the board of EBAYC in Oakland and is a core member of the Hella Heart Oakland Giving Circle.
Monica Thammarath is currently senior liaison in the Center for Social Justice and Community Advocacy & Partnership Engagement Department at the National Education Association (NEA). At NEA, Monica works to connect NEA’s three million members and affiliates to student, parent, and community organizing opportunities focused on racial and social justice, particularly as it impacts the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities. Monica also serves as NEA’s appointee to the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO (APALA) National Executive Board and was elected National President at APALA’s National Convention in August 2017, making her the youngest and first Laotian American to serve in this role. On behalf of APALA, Monica co-chairs the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) Education Committee. Prior to joining the NEA, Monica was the Education Policy Advocate at the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), where she worked to build, strengthen, and oversee SEARAC’s Education Program and assisted community-based organizations across the country in connecting their direct service work to policy and advocacy. While Monica has spent the last decade in Washington, DC, working for national organizations, her work is grounded in her experience organizing campaigns around affordable, high quality public education and providing direct services to low-income, immigrant, and refugee communities in California’s Bay Area. Monica’s family arrived in the United States as refugees from Laos in 1980 but she was born and raised in southeast San Diego and is a proud product of California’s public K-16 education system. When she isn’t organizing educators, families, and students for racial and social justice, you will likely find her hosting brunch with friends, training for her next marathon, cuddling with her cat, or planning her next camping trip.
Parentless at 16 and pushed out of the school system, Phal wound up in the juvenile justice system to be tried as an adult. After 16 years inside, he became one of the first and few to benefit from enacted reforms and won early release. But as an immigrant, he was taken into immigration custody and forced to navigate the system without an attorney. Nearly a year later, he was released but taken back in for final deportation just months later. He managed his release once again, but uncertain of his future, he became a community leader, fighting for the marginalized, pushing his experience as a tool for the community, building a better tomorrow for all. Through his work, the community, and many elected officials’ support, he was pardoned by CA Gov. Jerry Brown, closing his deportation case. He continues to organize with the Youth Justice Coalition.
Kabo Yang is the executive director of Minnesota Women’s Consortium, a statewide nonprofit organization comprised of 100-member groups working to close gender-based disparities through education and policy advocacy. In addition, she has her own management and leadership consulting practice and is an adjunct professor in Organizational Leadership at St. Catherine University. Kabo has been an advocate for immigrant rights and gender equity, among other social justice movements, for over twenty years. She is currently working on her dissertation for her PhD on the topic of refugee women and leadership. Kabo is a single parent of two young adults.