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Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

collage of flags of Asian and Pacific Island nations

Established in 1977, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebrates the contributions and accomplishments of the richly diverse group of people originating from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Fiji, Guam, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Palau, the Philippines, Samoa, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tonga, Vanuatu, Vietnam, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

U.S. Representatives Frank Horton (NY) and Norman Y. Mineta (CA) introduced a resolution proclaiming the first 10 days of May as Asian-Pacific American Heritage week in 1977. In the next month, Senators Daniel K. Inouye and Spark Matsunaga from Hawaii introduced a comparable bill in the Senate. Both proposals passed and then-President Jimmy Carter signed a Joint Resolution establishing the annual celebration. The celebration was extended to a full month under former President George H. W. Bush in 1990. The official designation of May as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month was signed into law in 1992.

The first documented arrival of Japanese immigrants to the United States took place on May 7, 1843, which is why May was chosen as the month during which we recognize Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

This month we honor the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, particularly in connection with the scientific community, STEM research, and the diverse variety of environmental support work here at DEC. The theme for the observance of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in 2021 is "Advancing Leaders Through Purpose-Driven Science," focusing on diversity, inclusion, and leadership to advance the AAPI community. To recognize these contributions, DEC is featuring employees who are contributing to our mission, from environmental engineering to forest protection to investigating environmental and legal infractions. DEC values and honors the richness and diversity of our employees and what each of our experts bring to our agency's mission. At a time when anti-Asian racism and violence is on a documented rise, we stand united in support of our Asian American and Pacific Islander employees.

There are numerous ways to learn about, appreciate, and experience Asian Pacific American culture and history (leaves DEC website) throughout New York State during May. Enjoy architecture, cuisine, gardens, art, shopping, spirituality, and scholarship from New York City to Buffalo/Niagara, throughout the Hudson Valley, and from Long Island to the Finger Lakes with I Love New York.

Yuko Ashida

woman in hat

Yuko Ashida started her career as a high school Earth Science teacher, but realized her true calling was to work outdoors protecting New York State's natural resources. She became a Forest Ranger in 2016 and has loved every minute of the diverse type of work the position involves.

Interacting with the public is one of the aspects of her job that she enjoys most. Her passion for teaching finds expression in the way she is able to educate the public about proper state land use and illuminate conservation efforts to protect our natural resources.

Currently a Lieutenant in Region 3, Ashida supervises Forest Rangers in Putnam, Dutchess, Orange, and Sullivan Counties. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Natural Resources from Cornell University and a Master of Arts Degree in Science Education from City College.

Yu Chen

man standing in front of mount everest

Born and raised in Beijing, China, Yu Chen - Chen to his friends - came to the United States after graduating from college. He earned a Master's degree in Chemistry from the University of Georgia and a PhD in Biology from Virginia Tech, with a focus on endocrine disruption by environmental contaminants in avian species. As a postdoc associate at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Chen continued his research in the field of avian ecotoxicology.

He joined DEC in September 2016 as a Research Scientist to lead the Ecotoxicology Section in the Bureau of Ecosystem Health, Division of Fish and Wildlife. He currently oversees investigative research efforts focusing on the effects of exposure to chemical contaminants in wildlife populations in New York, using field, experimental, and literature-based approaches. He also participates in ecological risk assessments of pesticide products and the development of environmental standards for the protection of fish and wildlife resources in New York. Chen also teaches Environmental Toxicology at SUNY Cobleskill in the spring and mentors student interns in ecotoxicology research.

Chen is a fan of the mountains and spends almost all of his vacations on hiking trips in and out of the country. He has made three trips to the mountains in Eastern Africa and traveled twice to Nepal since he began working at DEC. He is pictured at Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal and hopes to hike to Mt. Everest base camp on his next trip to Nepal.

Alan Bennett Ilagan


Alan Bennett Ilagan is the Associate Director of Human Resources 1 in the Division of Management and Budget. His father was born in the municipality of Alitagtag in the province of Batangas, Philippines, and immigrated to the United States in 1957. His mother is from Hoosick Falls, New York.

Ilagan graduated from Brandeis University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and American literature, began working for the New York State in 2001, and advanced through several agencies before finding a home at DEC, where he administers the Personnel procedures for the Divisions of Air, Communication Services, Forest Protection and Law Enforcement, as well as the Performance Evaluation program. He enjoys the challenging work of fostering diversity and inclusion within DEC and is constantly looking for ways to improve on both fronts

From 2008 to 2012, he served as the curator and manager of the Romaine Brooks Gallery of the Capital Pride Center, which named him Volunteer of the Year in 2011. Currently, Alan is on the Board of Trustees for the Sok Nam Ko Educational Exchange Foundation, which aims to give students opportunities to travel abroad, learn about other countries, and develop connections between different cultures. He has maintained a personal website since 2003, and has developed a considerable social media presence. In 2010 he married his husband, Andy, in Boston, Massachusetts.

One of the things that Ilagan admires most about DEC is the fact that so many employees have found a way to match their passion to their profession, each working toward the agency's mission using their own unique set of skills and talents.

Aseem Kumar

headshot of man in sunglasses

Aseem Kumar is a professional engineer in the Division of Water working on non-point source water pollution issues. He is celebrating 27 years with DEC, having joined March 31, 1994. As part of his work with DEC, Aseem is the EPA's contact person for non-point source work. He serves on the state committee for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is an active member of the New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee. Aseem represents New York State on non-point source issues on the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC). Before coming to Central Office, Aseem spent a year working in DEC's Region 3.

Aseem was born in India and earned his mechanical engineering undergraduate degree there. After college he worked for a Fortune 500 company in India. He chose Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for his master's degree in Environmental Engineering. Before leaving India to move to Troy, Aseem was matched with his wife and spent just a few hours with her before their wedding. They came to the U.S. together and have enjoyed upstate New York ever since.

In addition to his professional work with DEC, Aseem is an active part of PEF. He is an elected PEF executive board member from DEC, Assistant Local Chief Steward, Region 8 PEF Political Action Committee Member, and the chair of DEC PEF Audit Committee.

Aseem enjoys his work at DEC and appreciates his coworkers caring about the environment. He said, "People are very helpful, and it is a very positive work environment. I have made many lifelong friends."

When he isn't working, Aseem enjoys reading, traveling, and helping others.

Doreen Lum

woman behind desk

Doreen Lum is a Supervising Environmental Conservation Officer (SECO) in DEC's Division of Law Enforcement (DLE). She is a graduate of Colgate University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree, majoring in Geology.

Doreen graduated from the 11th Basic Academy held in SUNY Oswego in 1996, becoming the first female Asian American Environmental Conservation Officers (ECO). In her 25-year career, she has worked with many federal, state, and local agencies on joint task force enforcement details throughout New York State. She completed the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center Boat Operator Course and has worked as a deputized federal agent for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). She has actively participated in relief efforts related to several major environmental events during her career, such as the TWA 800 Crash, Superstorm Sandy, the 9/11 World Trade Center attack, and the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Lt. Lum was promoted to SECO in 2017, and has supervised 18 probationary ECOs in New York City, training them to handle a wide range of enforcement duties, such as the illegal sale of endangered species, water and air emission pollution, policing commercial fisheries, illegal solid waste dumping, and fish and wildlife poaching. In addition to her police duties, she is active in recruitment and public outreach, as well as setting up DEC community internship programs.

Waiyee Anne Stockholm

young woman in front of helicopter

Waiyee Anne Stockholm - Anne to her friends - is a Fish Culture Program Aide in the Division of Fish and Wildlife. She joined DEC in 2016 and works in a program that raises fish in 12 fish hatcheries and stocks them in waterbodies throughout the state. One of Anne's exciting experiences at DEC was participating in air-stocking of fish.

Anne was born in Hong Kong and spent her childhood under British rule. She earned her degree from the University of Hong Kong in linguistics and business communications. Prior to joining DEC, Anne worked as a freelance translator.

Most of Anne's family are of Chinese heritage but she gets her surname from her paternal grandfather who also had Swedish heritage.

Anne's favorite part about DEC is working with people who love what they do, have passion for the environment, and take great pleasure in their jobs. When Anne isn't at work she enjoys horror films and thrillers, shark documentaries, and RPG (role-playing) games.

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