Leading During the Most Uncertain of Times

by Katrina Dizon Mariategue

In August of this year, the SEARAC team hosted a virtual farewell for our fearless leader and Executive Director of over eight years, Quyen Dinh, as she prepared for her well-earned and much needed sabbatical. After six months of intense coaching and training, I suddenly found myself steering SEARAC’s work as an ally in the midst of a global pandemic, mass anxiety over the upcoming elections, and nationwide protests in support of the movement for black lives. 

Internally, the SEARAC team also went through a lot of change as we welcomed and onboarded five new staff in a span of a few months, growing our team to eleven members. And as this was all happening, I joined the millions of other working parents around the country desperately trying to balance a full-time job and childcare. After my four-year-old’s preschool shut down, with no end in sight, I was juggling work and family simultaneously, day after day — and never quite feeling I was doing my best at either of the roles. 

Stepping in as Acting Executive Director of SEARAC during this uncertain time in the world led to much struggle and uncertainty within myself. Leading up to the transition, I questioned if I could fill such big shoes; how could I make sure that I was leading with respect as an ally, ensuring that SEARAC’s work continued to make an impact, while caring for staff struggling to move forward as the world burned all around us?     

But the funniest thing happened. My first official day as Acting Executive Director, I was surprisingly overcome by a sense of calm and confidence in myself and our team. Now four months into this role, I reflect on how much the team, our work and our impact has adapted to this new environment, and how, despite all odds, we have thrived amidst so much uncertainty. And while I still have a few months left in this interim period, with work that is likely to continue and intensify as we prepare to welcome a new Administration and Congress and ensure that we advocate for policies to protect immigrant and refugee communities during this pandemic, I know we will do what we have always done: we will adapt, we will learn, and together, we will thrive.

As we close out the year, I want to express my deepest gratitude to:

  • The SEARAC team: for their hard work and dedication to SEARAC’s mission and communities
  • Our Board of Directors: for their faith and guidance in me these past few months
  • Quyen: our Executive Director who has invested in my growth and has trusted me to lead 
  • And finally, to our communities, partners and allies: thank you for continuing to believe in our work. Thank you for sharing your time, your stories and for always pushing us to be better.

In solidarity,


PS: We’re looking ahead to 2021 and asking for our communities’ support to fund us abundantly into the new year. Please make a gift to SEARAC today to help us continue to uplift and empower Southeast Asian American communities.