As Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month comes to a close, FUSE recognizes the large contributions the AAPI community has made throughout the history of this nation. In honor of this month, we are reflecting on the work of our executive fellows and how they are continuing to push the needle forward in the mission for a more equitable society.
During his fellowship, Nathaniel Bencivenga (2020-2022) worked with the Los Angeles County Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services to develop a pilot plan that connects older adults and caregivers in East Los Angeles, one of the city’s most historically underserved populations, to countywide services using culturally appropriate communication that would better meet residents’ needs and preferences.
“When you are given an opportunity, use it to support others so it multiplies and doesn’t just stop with you. As someone who identifies as a proud queer Filipino immigrant, I want to make long-lasting impact to represent everyone who has felt ‘othered’ in any way shape or form.” – Nathaniel Bencivenga
After his fellowship completion in April 2022, Nathaniel has joined the FUSE team on a permanent basis as our director of fellowships. Nathaniel leads the programs department and works closely with executive fellows to support them during their fellowship terms and beyond as alumni. “I’ve always been passionate about how I can truly make an impact in our most vulnerable communities,” Nathaniel says in his official announcement, “I’m proud to say that I will be doing exactly that across different cities, different regions, and different states!”
Gayathri Thaikkendiyil (2016-2017) worked with the San Francisco Ethics Commission to redesign and modernize the commission’s website and e-filing project. Her contributions helped the agency focus on broader organizational goals and priorities with an emphasis on improving user engagement, user experience, and operational efficiencies.
After the completion of her fellowship, Gayathri was hired by the San Francisco Ethics Commission where she currently works as Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer. She uses the knowledge she gained through working in the private and social sectors and brings a fresh, new perspective to her current role in local government. Gayathri also currently serves on the FUSE Board as an advisor.
“I am inspired by the positive transformation that effective local government can bring to our communities. I am excited that I get to use my voice and experiences to be a part of that change,” Gayathri says.
Swati Chandra (2018-2021) was first introduced to the public sector through her FUSE fellowship. Swati collaborated with the County of Los Angeles, Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services to implement a user-centric approach to measuring the effectiveness of service delivery to older and dependent adults.
“I am committed to public service to drive equity and social justice. I leverage my learnings in private sector to enable public sector programs to adopt a focused customer centric approach to ensure equity and social impact.” – Swati Chandra
After the end of her 2.5-year fellowship term, Swati joined FUSE as an Alum-in-Residence, where she supported active executive fellows and host agencies to ensure projects were on track to meet predefined goals and create the intended impact. Swati recently left FUSE to focus her efforts on food equity as she continues her work with the County as the executive director of the Los Angeles Food Equity Roundtable.
During her fellowship, Priya Dey-Sarkar (2017-2018) helped the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans implement enhanced process safety controls, create an enterprise risk management framework for the agency, improve construction safety, and increase operational reliability. As a FUSE alum, Priya currently serves on the Board as an advisor.
On top of her nearly two decades of experience in the energy and utility industry, Priya is also a devoted yoga instructor. To celebrate AAPI Heritage Month, Priya spent a bulk of this month diving deep into the Indian practice of Kirtan, a devotional practice where one accesses the heart. Through Kirtan, Priya and a group of diverse individuals shared their experiences through chant, breathwork, and movement. To close out AAPI Heritage Month, FUSE invited Priya to lead a yoga session with the staff!
On the integral role yoga can play within the larger framework of social impact, Priya reflects, “From a leadership perspective, I love to promote the idea of vitality-based or somatic-based leadership development–you can solve any problem in the world from a place of your own deep wellness, but that has to come from within. In the field of racial equity, this becomes even more important because it is such difficult work. Staying well through the mind, body, and spirit can be one of the ways you can access your superpowers to solve our world’s difficult problems. It’s from here that we cultivate deep empathy to help bridge our racial and social divides.”