Shige Sakurai

Shige Sakurai (they/them) is a transgender person of color and a social justice leader with two decades of community and professional experiences. They currently serve as Director of Leadership Initiatives and Associate Director of the LGBT Equity Center at University of Maryland, College Park; adjunct faculty for American University’s International Training and Education Program; and executive education faculty for USC’s Race and Equity Center.

Sakurai is the first person in the U.S. to receive an officially nonbinary driver’s license, the author of the MyPronouns.org website that receives over 10,000 visitors per week, and the founder of International Pronouns Day, with hashtags making over 73 million potential impressions. Sakurai has received accolades at the University of Maryland, as well as international, national, and local awards from Diversity Abroad, the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals, and the Mayor of Washington, DC.

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.

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 20 years:

  • 2019: won the Excellence in Diversity & Inclusion in International Education award in the category of individual leadership (the highest award to an individual) from Diversity Abroad at the Awards Gala during their annual conference in Boston.
  • 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 the Vice President of the United States to his official residence 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 an LGBTQ+ college student conference in the Washington, D.C. area that ran for over a decade.
  • 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.