About Us

Meet the Staff

Madalene Mielke

President & CEO

Madalene Mielke

President & CEO

Madalene Xuan-Trang Mielke is the President & CEO of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) as well as the Founder and Principal of Arum Group, LLC.  She brings more than 20 years of experience working in political campaigns and specializes in political/non-profit fundraising and political training. Ms. Mielke began her professional career working at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the Training Division of the Political Department and later for the Clinton/Gore Coordinated ’96 campaign as a Regional Field Director in Pennsylvania.

After returning from the ’96 campaign, Ms. Mielke worked for the Co-Executive Director at the Presidential Inaugural Committee and later to Vice President Gore’s team. Ms. Mielke started fundraising while working at the New Democrat Network PAC and she returned to her roots as the Training Director for the Ron Brown-Paul Tully Institute (BTI), the training arm of the DNC.  In 2002 Ms. Mielke started her political consulting firm, specializing in fundraising and political training. Madalene has collaborated with the NAACP National Voter Fund, John Kerry for President, Democratic National Committee Asian American Leadership Council, Mike Honda for Congress, Friends of Hillary, CHC BOLD PAC, Akaka for US Senate, Xavier Becerra for Congress, Mazie Hirono for Congress, Honda for Congress, America’s Opportunity Fund, Asian American Action (AAA) Fund and Young Democrats of America to raise millions of dollars to empower communities of color.

Throughout her career, Madalene has been a featured speaker or trainer at many conferences and trainings including the American Medical Association (AMA), the Center for Asian Pacific American Women, Virginia Leadership Institute, Netroots Nation, Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL), and numerous other organizations and non-profits.

She has spent her entire professional political career working to bring diversity to the political process and nurturing candidates and staff as they move forward in bringing political change.  The Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce awarded Ms. Mielke with its National Community Service award for her work in mentoring and promoting Vietnamese American civic participation.

Madalene is a proud graduate of Tulane University, Newcomb College. She serves as a mentor through a variety of collegiate mentoring programs including the Newcomb College Institute Women to Women Mentoring Program and Georgetown University’s Politics Mentorship Program.

Ahmir Rashid

Chief of Staff

Ahmir Rashid

Chief of Staff

Ahmir Rashid has a diverse background spanning more than a decade that includes work for and proven results at non-profit organizations, engineering companies, private firms, large corporations, and political campaigns. He has led successful projects in many states and several countries.  Ahmir was born and raised in Michigan and earned a BSE and MSE in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan.

In September 2017, Ahmir assumed the role of Chief of Staff at the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS).

Most recently, Ahmir served as a Managing Director at Composite Path, a strategy and operations consulting firm that he founded.  He served mostly tier-one and tier-two suppliers in the retail and renewable energy industries.  In the business strategy space Ahmir has advised clients on executive level management, corporate road mapping, product deployment, and financial controls.  This includes engagements on specific work streams as well as companies as a whole.

Ahmir has always sought out unique and challenging jobs and roles. As a student, he was CFO of the national championship University of Michigan Solar Car Team and he founded an official university scholarship endowment. With a strong technical background, he joined the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company straight out of college, served as COO of a national non-profit organization, built his own successful consulting business, and founded his own personal foundation in India that supports underprivileged schools.

Through personal and business endeavors, Ahmir has visited all 50 US states, all 10 Canadian provinces, and more than 30 countries.

Helen M. Ruggiero

Chief Operating Officer

Helen M. Ruggiero

Chief Operating Officer

Helen Ruggiero has over 20 years of experience in office administration and finance. In her current position, she is in charge of financial responsibility, fundraising, grant writing and event planning.  She is also liaison for APAICS Board and Advisory Council.

Helen also served as Office Manager/Finance Manager for The Interface Group, Ltd. in Washington, DC, an executive recruiting firm that placed presidents, CEOs and vice presidents with Fortune 500 companies and non-profit organizations.

Previously, she was Office Manager for the North American Marketing Office of HD International, Inc. in New York City, a London based investment firm.  Prior to her affiliation with HD International, Helen was Office Manager for Kortright Market Systems, Inc. in New York City and Assistant Controller/Office Manager at the Harvard Club of New York City.

Helen is a graduate of Katherine Gibbs School of Business.

Vimala Phongsavanh

Director of Programs and Community Engagement

Vimala Phongsavanh

Director of Programs and Community Engagement

Vimala was born, raised and educated in Rhode Island and brings over 10 years of non-profit management experience to APAICS. Vimala began her career as an AmeriCorps VISTA serving in Chinatown Boston at the Asian Community Development Corporation (ACDC) as a youth organizer where she worked with youth to use their voices in affecting positive change in the community through the power of dialogue, storytelling and placemaking.

In 2009, Vimala successfully ran for local office for a seat on the Woonsocket School Committee and became the first Lao American elected to a school board in the country, and the first Asian American elected to office in the city. Vimala served on the Woonsocket School Committee for two terms, eventually becoming the committee’s Chairwoman.

During her tenure on the school committee, Vimala led the school department during the city’s historical financial meltdown, and championed policies that benefited the city’s most vulnerable and youngest residents. She passed a family planning policy that dramatically decreased the teenage pregnancy rate in the city, and increased opportunities for high school students by leading the campaign for expanded learning opportunities – which allowed students to receive credits through partnerships with local non-profit organizations.

Vimala served as the Director of Programs at the Center for Southeast Asians for four years, where she led the organization’s strategic directions, vision and management for organizational programs in the areas of leadership development, adult and youth education, and civic engagement. Additionally, Vimala also worked directly with the low-income community members to enroll them for social service programs and health insurance, and filing their taxes.

Before moving to Washington, DC, Vimala led organizing and lobbying efforts at Common Cause Rhode Island and successfully led campaigns in democracy including the passage of legislation such as automatic voter registration, online voter registration, post-election audits, and ethics reform.

In coalition with the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) and the Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE), Vimala worked as a lobbyist to pass state legislation for the disaggregation of Southeast Asian student data.

Prior to joining APAICS Vimala served as the Policy Director at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) where she worked to build power for Asian American and Pacific Islander women and girls through leading the organization’s reproductive justice agenda in areas of reproductive health and rights, economic justice, and immigrant justice.

Nashwah Akhtar

Communications Associate

Nashwah Akhtar

Communications Associate

Nashwah Akhtar currently serves as the Communications Associate at APAICS. Nashwah was born and raised in the Bay Area, CA and attended the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, where she earned her BA in Communication, and Master’s in Public Diplomacy.

While at USC, Nashwah was a multimedia journalist and held leadership roles in various social justice projects and student organizations. Following graduation, Nashwah studied the refugee crisis in Paris, France, and also worked with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in a communications and outreach capacity, facilitating hundreds of voter registration drives before the 2016 Election.

In this role, Nashwah will be working to build relationships with press, create and distribute content for APAICS’ social media and website, and provide general support of APAICS’ programs. In her free time, Nashwah enjoys traveling, reading, and practicing Arabic calligraphy.

Mary Lou Akai-Ferguson

Staff Assistant

Mary Lou Akai-Ferguson

Staff Assistant

Mary Lou Akai Ferguson is Tokyo-born and Atlanta-bred. After graduating from Wellesley College, Mary Lou moved to New Orleans, Louisiana to teach 9th grade math in St. Bernard Parish with Teach for America.
Mary Lou worked in the APAICS office as a LEE (Leadership for Educational Equity) fellow before joining the 2018 Ben Jealous gubernatorial campaign in Maryland, where she led as the regional organizing director of Montgomery and Anne Arundel Counties. She is excited to be back at APAICS!

Rebecca Kwon

Graphic Design Assistant

Rebecca Kwon

Graphic Design Assistant

Rebecca Kwon is a junior at the George Washington University where she majors in Political Communication. Since being introduced to journalism in high school, she has been interested in the way media can affect politics, particularly voting behavior. As a student in high school and college, she has served as a student advocate working to mobilize her community to vote. Prior to joining APAICs, Rebecca interned for 4CM+M, a political digital media consulting firm, during the 2018 midterm cycle. Throughout the internship, she honed her passion for digital media, producing creatives like digital banners and multi-platform advertisements on behalf of clients like the DCCC and Center Forward.

Ryan Bae

S. Floyd Mori Intern

Ryan Bae

S. Floyd Mori Intern

Born and raised on Long Island, New York, Ryan Bae is currently a senior at Georgetown University studying Government. Interested in understanding where policies are best implemented, Ryan interned at all three levels of government. He interned for the Office of U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu, the Office of the New York State Attorney General, and the Brooklyn District Attorney. On campus, Ryan is the co-President of both the Asian American Student Association and Truth and Human Rights in North Korea. He is also a Resident Assistant, a Blue and Gray Tour Guide, assistant photography editor for the Hoya, and on the board of the Korean Student Association. Ryan hopes to pursue law school to advocate and advance justice for marginalized groups through law, public policy, and education reform.