AAJA National Staff



 Executive Director

Naomi Tacuyan Underwood has over a decade of experience in nonprofit management and community engagement where she has long focused on empowering Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Underwood has worked extensively in community outreach, including a stint as deputy director for APIAVote, a national nonpartisan organization that builds voter engagement capacity in local AAPI communities. She has also served as legislative staff for Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-Guam), focusing on territorial, environmental and AAPI issues, among other issues. Underwood, a Filipina immigrant, grew up in Guam and currently resides in the Washington, D.C. area. She graduated from New York University with degrees in journalism and Asian Pacific American studies, and received a Master’s in Public Policy from the University of California, Los Angeles.


 Director of Programs and Partnerships

Heather is responsible for leading the planning and execution of AAJA’s programs. Aguilar has worked in higher education for more than a decade in the areas of project management, program development, communications, fundraising, alumni engagement, and event planning. Her community involvement has encompassed providing access to educational programs that empower the AAPI community, and she serves on the Community Advisory Board for the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Global Asian Studies program. Aguilar is an Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies alum and a past intern of former U.S. Congressman David Wu (D-Oregon). She holds a B.A. in English with minors in Asian American Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from UIC. She currently resides in Chicago with her family.
Learn more about Heather




Chief Financial Officer 

Glenn has been AAJA’s accountant for almost 25 years. He is responsible for all accounting functions of the organization and works with the treasurers from all 21 chapters. Glenn’s accounting background includes working with corporate firms as well as nonprofit organizations. Glenn received his B.S. in accounting from Loma Linda University. He is an owner and partner of several businesses.




aaja_bw_Karen_222_bio.jpgKAREN A. SUGIHARA 
Accounting Consultant 

Karen started at AAJA over 16 years ago to cover for Glenn while he was recuperating from surgery and she has been with AAJA ever since. Karen helps with online payment processing, payroll and accounting support. After working with CPA firms, Karen started her own firm to be able to spend time raising her three daughters. She has a B.S. in accounting from Loma Linda University. Glenn and Karen are proud grandparents to four grandchildren: two granddaughters and two grandsons.











Daniel-Garcia.jpgDANIEL GARCIA
Program Associate

Daniel recently returned from a tour as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Republic of Moldova, where he served in the education and community development sectors. He has a wealth of educational and customer service experience ranging from studying and teaching abroad in France to volunteering and working for the Orange County Registrar. Previously, Daniel worked in the public relations field, where he honed both his managerial and organizational skills. Daniel attended California State University, Long Beach where he received degrees in French and Francophone Studies and International Studies.



Operations and Membership Associate

April's role at AAJA focuses on increasing member engagement and improving operations. April has a background in strategic communications management and business development, previously at Oliver-Zhang Law. Familiar with membership organizational development as the chief of staff at the National Federation of Filipino American Associations, April brings with her skills in budget analysis, nonprofit grant reporting with a focus on managing brand consistency across multimedia platforms. Mrs. Siruno previously worked as a communications and social media specialist at the Migration Policy Institute. She has a B.A. in Sociology and Politics with a concentration in Asian American Studies from Mount Holyoke College, and she obtained her M.B.A. from Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business in 2012, where she received the Leadership Development Program for Minority Managers Distinguished Alumni Award for ongoing achievement as a corporate and civic leader, committed to building community.


National Convention Consultant

Chris is the Founder & CEO of 3C Strategies, LLC and serves as a consultant for AAJA for AAJA’s convention and partnerships. His prior experience includes supporting the execution of three Democratic National Conventions. Chris also spent three years as President of the Association of Asian American Investment Managers, leading a non-profit organization at the intersection of diversity and finance with a heavy focus on strategic planning, project management and developing engagement opportunities. Chris also worked for three years at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) during President Obama’s administration, planning and executing SBA’s outreach and engagement strategy as well as managing the public speaking schedule of most of the agency’s top leadership. Chris is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Massachusetts.


derrick-jones.jpgDERRICK JONES
National Convention Consultant

Derrick is a Washington, D.C.-based communications director, as well as an experienced graphic designer, event planner, social media and marketing consultant. He has dedicated his career to working with non-profit organizations in a variety of capacities, concentrating on marketing, membership development and public relations. In addition to his work with AAJA, he is a designer and event producer for the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA).



Communications & Engagement Associate
Jessica is a DC-based writer with experience in program and event management, digital communications and narrative strategy, writing and editing, and social media from her work at the Climate Justice Alliance, Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop, Everyday Feminism, and American Humanist Association. Jessica is a 2020 National Urban Fellow with a Masters in Policy Management (MPM) from the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, and a B.A. & Sc. in Economics and Psychology from McGill University. She is a productivity, organizational development, and leadership junkie fascinated by tech and social entrepreneurship, the changing nature of information production and consumption, and the influence of arts and creators on policy and cultural change. She looks forward to deepening AAPI leadership in journalism and media at AAJA – and getting to know the #AAJAFamily.

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