WASHINGTON — The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) has named Stephanie Otani-Sunamoto as its new Daniel K. Inouye Fellow.
She will assist with JACL’s public policy initiatives and leadership programming from the Washington, D.C. office. The fellowship, named after the country’s longest-serving senator and current president pro tempore of the Senate, is sponsored by Eli Lilly.
Otani-Sunamoto graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in comparative studies in race and ethnicity (CSRE) with Honors. At Stanford she dedicated her time to Asian American community development and social justice, serving on the Asian American Activities Center Advisory Board, leading campaigns to protect workers’ rights, and fundraising for campus community centers with the Stanford Asian American Activism Committee.
She also led a class on Japanese American internment for fellow undergraduates, which concluded with a pilgrimage to Manzanar.
She has received numerous honors for her work, including the Stanford Asian American Activities Center Special Achievement Award, the Stanford Asian American Pacific American Alumni Club Outstanding Senior Award, and the CSRE Margarita Ibarra Community Building Award.
As a Yonsei whose family has lived in Ventura County for over 100 years, Otani-Sunamoto has always been interested in Japanese American community and identity. As an undergraduate, she had the opportunity to explore these interests when she conducted a self-designed research project on the identity formation of biracial American Okinawan youth in Okinawa.
She also wrote an award-winning honors thesis that offers a new framework for conceptualizing mixed-race identity in the U.S.
Before she received the Inouye Fellowship, Otani-Sunamoto worked as an intern in Rep. Mike Honda’s (D-San Jose) D.C. office through JACL’s John Moy and Southwest Airlines Congressional Internship program. She conducted legislative research, met with community organizations and lobbyists, and wrote letters and opinion editorials on behalf of Honda.
She is excited to apply her lessons from the Capitol Hill and her passion for social justice to her work with the JACL.