Day 1: Our Community, Our Goals

Session Overview

We welcome you to the APIA Scholars community! Hear from the organization’s leaders, meet the Scholar Advisory Committee representatives, and learn about cultivating mindsets that value your strengths. Reflect and set goals you want to establish for yourself in your college journey.


Shyam Gadwal

Vice President, Programs, APIA Scholars

Shyam is a cultural broker – he lives, navigates, and thrives within the hyphen as an Asian-American. He cherishes his Indian immigrant parents and his sisters for nurturing and interrogating his cultural roots. His ability to find the opportunity from the most ambiguous situations is a result of lessons learned as an educator and entrepreneur. He has spent more than a decade working with students and educators to tap into their best leadership potential. Shyam currently serves as the Vice-President of Programs at APIA Scholars and is honored to work with Scholars across the United States and Pacific Islands to ensure their success as college students and early career professionals.

Dr. Noël Harmon

President and Executive Director, APIA Scholars

Noël Harmon is President and Executive Director of Asian Pacific Islander American Scholars, formerly, the Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund. She joined the organization in June 2018. Harmon comes to APIA Scholars from Say Yes to Education, where she was Senior Vice President for Strategic Partnerships. Harmon has also held positions at the Brookings Institution where she was the Associate Director of the Global Cities Initiatives, a joint project of Brookings and JPMorgan Chase, and at CEOS for Cities, where she was the Chief Program Officer and National Director of the Talent Dividend. She led the National Talent Dividend Network and Prize, a joint initiative of Living Cities and CEOs for Cities, to foster post-secondary attainment, through cross-sector collaboration among more than 60 network cities. She also served as a senior research analyst at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) where she managed several long-term national initiatives.

Harmon spent the first decade of her career in direct service to students, working in administration at post-secondary institutions including Hofstra University, University of Michigan, Western Illinois University, and four years in Athletic Student Services at the University of Iowa. Harmon holds a PhD in Higher Education and a BA in English from the University of Iowa, and a MA in Student Affairs Administration from Ball State University.

Kimo Kippen

Board Chair, APIA Scholars

An aspiring “Citizen of the World,” Kimo Kippen is an accomplished visionary, thought leader and sought out international keynote speaker committed to making a difference in the world by inspiring business and civic leaders, as well as employees, to think outside the box and actualize what is truly possible.

Originally from Hawaii, for the past 20 years, Kimo has been on a lifetime journey to advance education, global labor force conditions, and economic empowerment internationally. In his past role as Chief Learning Officer at Hilton, he transformed the learning and development culture, improving the company’s guest scores, brand loyalty and global market foothold. Subsequently Hilton has won awards, accolades and increased the stock price (27.05% ) following the IPO in 2013, outperforming the S&P 500 by 18.37% as of June 29, 2015.

Kimo serves on several boards, where he has positively impacted corporate, academic and civic organizations’ abilities to drive progressive change; most recently supporting the success of Hilton’s “Travel with Purpose” initiative that educates and trains company team members on how to help stop child trafficking.

Prior to 2010 Kimo held various roles at Marriott International Inc., including leadership of the Learning Center of Excellence for all of Marriott International’s operated and franchised properties worldwide.

Arianne Martin

Program Manager, APIA Scholars

Arianne Martin was born in Korea and raised in Connecticut. She is a graduate of Hartwick College in upstate New York where she earned a B.A. in History. She has worked in Undergraduate Admissions across the United States, specifically at Alfred University in New York, Elmhurst College and Lewis University in Illinois, and American University in Washington, DC. Arianne then went on to be the Director of College Counseling at Edmund Burke School in Washington, DC where she supported high school students in their pursuit of higher education. She is currently a Program Manager at APIA Scholars and supports Scholars in their college and career goals. She is a dog lover and is mom to 4 year- old chocolate lab mix name Daisy. She enjoys reading, cooking and volunteering at local animal shelters.

Melissa May

Director, Programs, APIA Scholars

Melissa May is the Director of Programs at APIA Scholars where she actively works to support the holistic development of students from the time they access college to their entrance into their chosen career field. On the Programs Team, Melissa works to implement Scholar programming and curriculum that utilizes an equity lens and empowers students to develop leadership and professional skills that will enable them to uplift communities for generations to come. Melissa came to APIA Scholars in 2015 after serving as a high school English and World History teacher as well as College Counselor at Xavier High School in the Federated States of Micronesia. While in Micronesia, Melissa also worked with the Chuuk Women’s Council to bring gender based violence prevention programming and training to women in villages across the island and continues to volunteer for organizations that support the educational needs of female-identifying people around the world.

Melissa holds a M.A. in International Education from American University and a B.A. in Social Work and Political Science from Marquette University.

Florie Mendiola

Senior Programs Manager, APIA Scholars

Florie Mendiola is a Senior Programs Manager at APIA Scholars who works to support Asian and Pacific Islander American students in their educational journey and transition into the workforce. Florie has over 14 years of teaching and leadership experience in high school and post-secondary education and firmly believes in the transformative power of education. Florie received her Doctoral Degree in Education in hopes of being an example of what is possible for her students and Pacific Islander community. Grounded in the cultural value of reciprocity and community, Florie diversified her work to include developing programs and curriculum that promote social-emotional development, leadership training for teachers, mediation and conflict resolution training, and community building initiatives. Florie aims to create meaningful programming that has the potential to dismantle barriers to education and chart new paths that uplift generations.

Florie holds an Ed.D. from Pepperdine University, an M.Ed. from the University of Portland and B.A. in Secondary Education from the University of Guam.

Louise To

Vice-Chair, Scholar Advisory Committee, APIA Scholars

Louise To, a GMS-APIA Scholar from the2008 cohort, serves as the Vice-Chair of the Scholar Advisory Committee at APIA Scholars. Louise received her Ethnic Studies, Learning Design and Technology, and M.LISc.(Library and Information Science) from the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa. She served in both AmeriCorps VISTA and NCCC, with the former placing her at a DC arts nonprofit that taught young people how to campaign for change in their communities. She is now a librarian serving the Office of Engagement and Training and the Policy team at the National Library of Medicine.

chee ia yang

Chair, Scholar Advisory Committee, APIA Scholars

chee ia yang, a GMS-APIA Scholar awarded in 2007, is the Chair of the Scholar Advisory Committee for APIA Scholars and serves on the Board of Directors for the organization. She is currently working at the University of Michigan in the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs where she manages programs through the lens of race and ethnicity (heritage month programs, grants program, orientation, etc.). She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with double majors in Marketing and Sociology and Michigan State University with a Master of Arts in Student Affairs Administration. She has worked in different capacities in non-profit and higher education in areas of social justice education, multicultural affairs, college access, leadership development, and more. She believes in building relationships with people and communities to work towards collective liberation. As the fourth of eight children, she isa proud daughter of Hmong refugee parents. During her free time, she enjoy seating tacos, drinking coffee, and reading poetry.