AAJA Announces the Executive Leadership Program Class of 2017


The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) is proud to announce the following members who will be participating in the 22nd Executive Leadership Program taking place on March 28 – April 1, 2017 at the City University of New York (CUNY).

To date, more than 500 journalists and media professionals have completed the program since its inception in 1995. The program is open to professional journalists who are interested in moving ahead in the workplace and developing the skills to achieve goals, professional and personal.

This year, AAJA has opened the application to all journalists. In past years, the esteemed program was only offered to AAJA members. The change reflects one aspect of AAJA’s mission to advance minority journalists as news managers and media executives and play a vital role in the diversification of newsrooms across the country.

Please join AAJA in welcoming our 22nd ELP Class!



In 2015, Amy was awarded an Alicia Patterson Fellowship to write about teenagers who grew up on death row. The resulting stories appear in The New York Times and Salon. The fellowship capped a career-long dedication to social and criminal justice issues, which she pursued as a writer or editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Miami Herald, and numerous other publications. Her aim is to illuminate poverty, inequality, racism, and displaced anger, the latter being particularly virulent today. The challenge is to present truths that can’t be discounted with a few tweets. She looks forward to conquering that obstacle. Currently, Amy is the Editor for AAJA’s newest reporting program, the CJ Project.



Amy Padnani works on the obituaries desk at The New York Times. She has been a web editor at The Times for six years. Before that, she was a reporter at the Staten Island Advance, The Journal News, The Star-Ledger, Newsday and the Herald News. She grew up in Queens, New York, and attended the Bronx High School of Science and New York University, where she studied journalism and web programming. She enjoys traveling, reading, baking and running. She recently ran the New York City marathon with her dad and is hoping to complete a half marathon in every state.




Candice Choi is the national food industry reporter at The Associated Press. Her coverage has focused on how food and beverage companies influence how people think about healthy eating.




Denise Chow is the assistant managing editor at LiveScience.com, where she oversees daily coverage of science and technology news. Prior to joining Live Science, Denise worked as an associate producer at NPR and as a staff writer at Space.com, where she wrote about rocket launches and covered NASA’s final three space shuttle missions. Denise has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto, and a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University. Previously, Denise also worked at the New York Daily News and GQ magazine.




Emma Carew Grovum is a journalist in New York. She works exploring the intersection of storytelling, technology, and audience in her role as assistant managing editor at The Daily Beast. Previously, Emma led social media strategy for the New York Times Opinion section and oversaw editorial products (social media, homepage, newsletters, CMS) at Foreign Policy magazine. Emma trains fellow journalists on data visualization, social media reporting and analytics, media diversity and project management.




Esther is a copy editor at Mic. After spending the last four years navigating the freelancing world, she transitioned back to full-time company employee. She also freelances for the Detroit-based alternative weekly Metro Times, keeping her love for the print product alive. Esther is based in the Detroit area.




Kassandra Lau is a producer with more than five years of experience in local news. She currently works at KUSA in Denver. Prior to that, she worked at stations in her hometown of Tucson, Arizona and Lafayette, Louisiana. Lau doesn’t think she would have pursued a career in journalism if it weren’t for AAJA. After her freshman year of college at the University of Arizona, she was selected by AAJA to participate in Student Campus at the UNITY convention in Chicago. The experience ignited a passion that has guided her since.




Lauren is a freelance copy editor for clients including The Daily Beast and Viacom. She’s been a small-market TV reporter in Minnesota, an entertainment TV producer in Kingston (Jamaica), and a radio personality in South Korea. She enjoys traveling, scuba diving, and practicing yoga. And of course, she loves AAJA. She currently serves as the advisory board member for the Florida chapter and is an at-large chapter representative on the governing board.




Mariecar Mendoza is the arts content editor for the San Francisco Chronicle where she has helped manage coverage of the Bay Area pop music and pop culture scenes. Prior to that role, Mariecar was the features digital editor for the Los Angeles News Group (now the Southern California News Group) specializing in music, food and festival coverage for that region, which included everything from the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival to major awards shows like the American Music Awards and Emmys. Mariecar is an alumna of the Chips Quinn Scholar program and an active member of AAJA.




Mary Hudetz is an Associated Press reporter based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she has covered law enforcement, criminal justice and federal Indian Country policy for the past year. She moved to Albuquerque from Phoenix, where she was the editor of Native Peoples, a national newsstand magazine published bi-monthly.

In 2009, she joined the AP’s West regional editing desk, where for more than four years she filed national breaking news and daily reports from 13 Western states.




Nicole Dungca is a reporter at The Boston Globe. She joined the newsroom in 2014 after covering breaking news, suburban education, and Oregon’s largest school district at The Oregonian. She graduated from Brown University and has also written for The Providence Journal and The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.




As a mid-career journalist, Nidhi had the chance to work in several major news rooms in Australia (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the Daily Telegraph), London (the Guardian), and the U.S. (Politico New York, CBS Investigative Unit, Metro New York and Fusion). She came to understand the value of diversity in the newsroom. She grew up in India, New Zealand and then Australia and has lived in Chile and the U.K. She is eager to lend her unique insights as a life-long immigrant to the important news coverage that will be unfolding in the coming years.




Patrick Lee has been with CBS News for over a decade. As an award winning editor/producer for Sunday Morning. In 2011, he joined the editing staff at Sixty Minutes, he also directed a short documentary on micro-finance in Kenya, Africa. Recently, he co-produced a documentary Black Women in Medicine, which is being shown in various film festival and is scheduled to broadcast on World Channel in February of 2017. He holds a master’s degree from New York Institute of Technology, and is the recipient of the Emmy, Edward Murrow and AAJA awards.




What drives Saba’s success is getting the best stories out of life, and challenging public perception in the process. As a hijab-wearing Muslim woman, born in Kenya and of Indian heritage, Saba has surpassed expectations. She has built a journalism career, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and pushed for better coverage of minorities. She has tried most everything from overcoming her fear of heights learning how to wall climb, to overcoming her fear of failure taking on the role of editor/publisher of a short-lived nonprofit magazine. At the end of the day, She gains the most from her relationships, at work and at home.




Sonya Song is a media researcher at Chartbeat where she analyzes user behaviors and business models and offers insights to a variety of publishers inside and outside the US. Prior to Chartbeat, she was a 2014 Harvard Berkman Fellow, a 2013 Knight-Mozilla OpenNews Fellow and a 2012 Google Policy Fellow. Sonya obtained her PhD from Michigan State University with concentration on media economics, a field that answers the question how to make money using media content. Before moving to the US, Sonya studied computer science at Tsinghua University in Beijing and journalism at the University of Hong Kong.




Steve Mullis is a journalist and digital engagement editor for NPR in Washington, D.C., where he promotes the look and voice of NPR’s reporting across multiple digital platforms. A graduate of the University of Central Florida, he spent time helping shape digital news desks at the Orlando Sentinel and at Minnesota Public Radio before joining NPR in 2011. Since then, he has helped shape how NPR approaches its journalism on digital platforms and social media channels to better inform the public and serve their public service mission.




Taylor Temby is a sports reporter at 9NEWS in Denver, Colo. A native to the Centennial state, she is thrilled to be working at the station she grew up watching while also covering her hometown teams. Taylor is a multi-skilled journalist who shoots, edits, writes and reports her own stories – a challenge she embraces because she can see her perspective from inception to air. Prior to her move to the sports department, Taylor worked on the 9NEWS morning show as a multimedia journalist and fill-in traffic anchor. She is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder.




Wendy Tang is an independent tech reporter in Beijing. Leveraging her Cantonese, Mandarin, and English skills, she hopes to bring more China’s tech coverage to the West. She took eight years to realize the tech beat is her passion.







Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career and business expert, writer, speaker and co-founder of SixFigureStart®. Prior to launching SixFigureStart® in 2008, Ceniza-Levine spent 15 years in strategy consulting, executive search and HR. She has been a repeat guest on CBS, CNN, CNBC and Fox Business and has been quoted in BusinessWeek, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Fortune, Inc, MORE, Newsweek, NPR, Real Simple, and Success Magazine.

Ceniza-Levine is a career columnist for Forbes.comMoney.com and Time.com and formerly wrote for CNBC, and Portfolio. She is the author of 3 books: “Jump Ship: 10 Steps To Starting A New Career” (2015, Forbes); “Six Steps To Job Search Success” (2011, Flat World Knowledge); and “How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times” (2010, Two Harbors Press).

Ceniza-Levine teaches Professional Development and Negotiation courses at Columbia University and received a grant from the Jones New York Empowerment Fund for her work with the mid-career professional. A classically trained pianist at Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music, she stays active in the arts, performing stand-up comedy. Follow her on Twitter at @sixfigurestart.



Virgil Smith earned his Bachelor of Science and Master’s degree from the University of San Francisco and has a long career as a media executive. He has spent 20 years with McClatchy Newspapers and the last 24 years with Gannett, where he served numerous roles, including president and publisher and corporate HR executive.

Smith has recruited, mentored and coached hundreds of professionals from entry-level to senior executive roles in broadcast, publishing and other professions. He can be reached at virgil@smithedwardsgroup.com and you can find more information about his firm at www.smithedwardsgroup.com. Follow him on Twitter at @virgillamar.



Dickson Louie is currently principal of Louie & Associates, a boutique San Francisco Bay Area-consultancy that provides strategic planning, competitive analysis, and executive development services to start-ups, non-profits and Fortune 500 companies. Louie has over 25 years of professional management experience within the news media industry, having worked as a planning and business development executive at the Los Angeles Times, the San Jose Mercury News and the San Francisco Chronicle. As a research associate at the Harvard Business School, he wrote 20 case studies, including those on Amazon.com, The New York Times on the Web and CBS Marketwatch.

Louie, a certified public accountant, is a graduate of California State University, East Bay, where he received his bachelors, magna cum laude, in business administration, with a minor in journalism. He received his MBA from the University of Chicago, with concentrations in finance, marketing and statistics. Louie has also completed the Advanced Executive Program at Northwestern University’s Media Management Center. He is on the faculty of the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis, where he teaches the popular MBA elective course, “The Business of the Media.” Follow him on Twitter at @dlouie888.





Katie Nelson is news director for The Huffington Post, where she helps lead editorial planning and strategy — with a special emphasis on partnerships and cross-functional coordination. Katie is an AAJA and ONA member, a 2016 Punch Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program fellow at Columbia University and a Chips Quinn Scholars alum. Previously, she worked for the New York Daily News, The Associated Press, The Cambodia Daily and The Arizona Republic, among others. Follow her on Twitter at @katienelson.



Caridad Hernandez-Wood is the Executive Producer of Investigations and Special Projects for CBS4Miami. She is responsible for the production of stories generated by the team of investigators and reporters dedicated to bringing awareness to important issues in the South Florida community. Prior to joining CBS4, Hernandez-Wood was an Executive Producer for CNN Newsroom in Atlanta. She gained her experience as a producer by working at various television stations in both Miami and Philadelphia. Follow her on Twitter at @CariCBS4Miami.



Paul Cheung is the Director of Visual Journalism at NBC News. This newly created role will build NBC News Digital’s foundation of visual language and define how stories are told beyond text, videos and photos across all digital platforms. Cheung is a recent graduate the 2016 Punch Sulzberger Executive Leadership at Columbia University.

Prior to NBC, Cheung helped pioneer VR360, automation, data journalism strategies and digital training initiatives at the Associated Press as their head of Interactives and Digital News Production. Before joining AP, Paul was The Miami Herald’s deputy multimedia presentation editor and a senior graphics editor at The Wall Street Journal.

Cheung served two terms as the president of the Asian American Journalists Association from 2013 to 2016. He currently serves on the board of ASNE and as an adviser for Journalism 360, a coalition launched by the Online News Association, Google News Lab and the Knight Foundation to help newsrooms experiment with immersive storytelling. Follow him on Twitter at @pcheung630.


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