First Asian International Leadership Summit set for April 12

In an effort to persuade Asian and international students to remain in this area after graduation, the West Michigan Asian American Association (WMAAA) will hold the first Asian International Leadership Summit on April 12.

The summit is intended to increase career and business opportunities for Asian students so they choose to stay and work in West Michigan.

“The goal is for those students to learn more about who we are here in West Michigan and learn about job and business opportunities here in West Michigan, because a lot of these students have talent we need to keep in West Michigan,” says Bing Goei, newly appointed Grand Rapids Third Ward commissioner and charter member of the WMAAA.

Tickets for the event are on sale.

With a theme of "Casting the Vision," the WMAAA board created the summit to champion diversity, foster community spirit, and showcase Asian leadership in various sectors. 

The summit will be from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, April 12, at the Goei Center, 818 Butterworth St. SW in Grand Rapids.

‘Attraction and retention’

"The goal of the inaugural Asian International Leadership Summit is to grow our West Michigan global economy through the attraction and retention of our Asian and international students studying at our colleges and universities," Goei says. "We also want to support our young Asian and international professionals in pursuing their American Dream and encourage them to stay in West Michigan."

The summit will feature keynote speeches from George Aquino, vice president and managing director at AHC + Hospitality, and Michelle Li, journalist and co-founder of The Very Asian Foundation. 

Other professionals will lead workshops, including:
  • Technology: Charles Elwood, founder, SolisMatica LLC, Microsoft AI MVP.
  • Education: Jesse M. Bernal, equity and inclusion leader, Grand Valley State University; Debra Kue, Ph.D. student, Syracuse University; and Le Tran, Michigan Art Education Association Secondary Art Teacher of the Year and National Secondary Art Teacher of the Year.
  • Entrepreneurship: Karla Velis-Brito, director, Spring GR; Khara DeWit, co-founder, South East Market; Kavy Lenon, creator of Zini lychee vodka; and Shirward Punches, co-founder and managing partner, Bridge Commercial Realty.
  • Civic leadership: Rosalynn Bliss, mayor of Grand Rapids; Michigan Sen. Stephanie Chang; Long Ho, city of Grand Rapids intern; Kim Koeman, global manager of social innovation for Steelcase Inc. and nominations and distribution committee chair for Women of Color Give; and Saleem Usmani, senior database administrator at Gentex Corp.
Registration for the summit is $100. Through sponsorships, the WMAAA will bring hundreds of Asian American and Pacific Islander students to the event. To register for the Asian International Leadership Summit, visit
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