Shige Sakurai

Shige Sakurai (they/them) is an expert in LGBTQ+ and diversity/equity issues in higher education, with over 15 years of experience in the field (over 8 years with University of Maryland), and additional years as a community volunteer, student leader, and advocate. Sakurai has extensive experience with top-notch institutions and has conducted hundreds of workshops in dozens of cities globally, including at 40+ universities, such as UCLA, Georgetown, Columbia, NYU, and University of Michigan. Sakurai has been interviewed by USA Today, El País, Washington Post, Associated Press, CNN, CBS News, and MTV.

At the University of Maryland, Sakurai received an award for excellence in supporting people of color from the President's Commission on Ethnic Minority Issues, and also received the Champion of Our Community Award from the LGBT Staff/Faculty Association at UMD. Sakurai is a Certified Professional Coach by the University of Miami. They have an International MBA from the acclaimed IE Business School in Madrid, Spain and an MA in International Training and Education with a concentration in Social Justice Movement Building from American University in Washington, DC. Sakurai has a BA with a major in Sociology and a minor in Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

A few of Sakurai's major accomplishments and honors across the past 18 years:

  • 2018: founded the first International Pronouns Day to raise awareness about the importance of sharing and respecting personal pronouns.
  • 2017: became the first person in the United States to officially receive a gender-neutral driver's license with a gender marker of "X." They are an outspoken trans/nonbinary person of color and advocate for these communities.
  • 2016: received the prestigious Award for Outstanding Social Justice Practice from the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals and the National LGBTQ Task Force during a plenary session of the 4,000-person Creating Change Conference.
  • 2016: created a unique study abroad course in Thailand focusing on movements for LGBTQ+ justice in Thailand and the Asia-Pacific region.
  • 2015: founded the Lavender Leadership Honor Society, the world's first collegiate leadership society focusing on LGBTQ+ social justice. The society has been recognized in the Washington Post and also counts actress and advocate Laverne Cox among its honorary members.
  • 2014: conceived of and then co-founded the Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in International Education, a unique set of professional development experiences (including conferences and online learning) that enhance LGBTQ+ inclusion in study abroad, international student services, and global/cross-cultural education.
  • 2013: inducted as a lifetime member of University of Maryland's circle of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society.
  • 2012: invited by Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden to their home for a reception of LGBTQ+ community leaders.
  • 2011: recommended that the Office of LGBT Equity become the LGBT Equity Center and worked with Dr. Jensen in the reshaping of the Center's mission and vision.
  • 2010: began working at the University of Maryland and immediately initiated a regular newsletter and social media presence for the LGBT Equity Center that has grown to reach thousands of people.
  • 2009: inducted as a lifetime member of Beta Gamma Sigma, the international honor society for excellence in business.
  • 2008: led a group of U.S. students in an LGBTQ+ social justice program in Mexico City.
  • 2007: became the very first Chair of racial justice for their international professional association, the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals.
  • 2006: founded what has become the longest-running LGBTQ+ college student conference in the Washington, D.C. area.
  • 2006: spreadheaded the advocacy and wrote a key report in trans inclusion in health insurance that created what is believed to be the first trans-friendly employee health insurance policy to include surgical options at a private university in the U.S.
  • 2005: created the LGBT Students of Color National Summit, a capacity-building weekend drawing LGBTQ+ students of color from all around the country.
  • 2004: was a leader in the unionization of a national organization, and played the key role in writing an equitable labor agreement.
  • 2003: conducted numerous trainings around the country on grassroots organizing for college students seeking to advocate for more equitable campus environments.
  • 2002: co-founded the Queers of Color Coalition at the University of Illinois and spearheaded major policy change campaigns on campus.
  • 2001: studied sexuality, gender, and identity in the Netherlands with a focus on intersections of race/culture and youth issues.
  • 2000: spearheaded a campaign against hate speech in campus entertainment, drawing significant international media attention (and death threats).
  • 1999: co-wrote and published a groundbreaking article in a Catholic high school's newspaper, offering support for people of all sexual orientations.