Nick Sakurai is a seasoned leader, manager, educator, and social justice advocate. He has over a decade of community and professional experience with organizational development and social justice issues, including work both as a director at a national non-profit advocacy organization and work as a university administrator. Sakurai is a sought-after presenter, having conducted over 60 panels, workshops, trainings, and talks in over 30 U.S. cities, and in Madrid, Montreal, Paris, Mexico City, Amsterdam, and Sarajevo. Sakurai's presentations and facilitation have brought him to Yale, Cornell, NYU, UCLA, University of Michigan, and numerous other top universities. He has been quoted or interviewed in The Chicago Tribune, The Associated Press, El País, CBS News, MTV, and numerous other media outlets worldwide.
Sakurai has an M.A. in International Training and Education from American University in Washington, D.C., where he completed a capstone project focusing on diversity and inclusion in international exchange. Sakurai also graduated in the top 10% of his program in the International M.B.A. at the Instituto de Empresa (IE Business School) in Madrid, Spain (#6 M.B.A. in the world, 2010 Financial Times rankings). He focused on social dimensions of management and social entrepreneurship and impact during his M.B.A. program. Sakurai also received a B.A. in Sociology with a minor in Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
LGBTQA Community and Professional Experience
Nick Sakurai is a leading expert on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) issues and has been involved in LGBTQ and allied communities for over 12 years.
St. Xavier High School (1995-1999)
Nick Sakurai attended an all-male, Catholic high school in Ohio. There, he was inspired by religion teachers and by Jesuit principles of social justice to work towards ending violations against LGBTQ people and others who face marginalization. During his graduation semester in 1999, Sakurai sought to put a face to the issues by coming out, along with two of his classmates, in his high school newspaper - the first time that students had so publicly come out at the school.
After graduating, Sakurai co-founded a website providing support for isolated gay/bi/trans students at the school by asking alumni and staff/faculty to come out as "allies" by posting their names on the site. This action placed pressure on the school's administration. Sakurai and a friend met with the principal who subsequently decided to have the school provide its own in-house resources and training for faculty and staff on LGBTQ issues. As a result, the school became one of the first Catholic high schools in the country to have a Gay/Straight Alliance. Since graduating, Sakurai has returned to his high school on several occasions to speak during religion classes on LGBTQ social justice.
University of Illinois (1999-2003)
Nick Sakurai founded the annual Day of Silence events at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and grew the annual rally from 60 people in 2000 to over 300 participants by 2003. Sakurai linked these education events to campaigns for policy and program improvements on campus. Sakurai was the Political Chair for the largest campus LGBTQ organization, and spearheaded a platform for change at the university. Due to these efforts and a meeting that Sakurai organized with the university's Chancellor, the Chancellor established a campus-wide standing committee on LGBTQ issues and appointed Sakurai as a charter member.
Sakurai pushed two successful campaigns while on the Chancellor's committee, one to increase the representation of people of color on the committee, and the other to secure immediate funding to capture critical space for the future LGBT Resource Center. The standing committee ultimately secured the resources to properly staff a campus LGBT Resource Center. Sakurai also convened a coalition of LGBTQ advocates from the three campuses that make up the University of Illinois system, and spoke before the Board of Trustees on several occasions to advocate for domestic partner healthcare benefits. Further, Sakurai worked with a friend to present a successful proposal to include domestic partners in family and graduate student housing, to request gender neutral housing options, and to write and present a key proposal for gender identity anti-discrimination to the campus Senate.
In 2000, Sakurai led a petition campaign in response to the university's decision to invite Eminem to perform homophobic and misogynistic songs on campus. Sakurai built a diverse group of supporters, including a feminist organization representative, a number of students of color, and a local pastor, to meet with high-level university administrators. The campaign led to a change in the mission statement of the university's entertainment division. Sakurai's leadership in this campaign included organizing a press conference that generated international media coverage.
In 2001, Sakurai studied sexuality, gender, and identity at a specialized program based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Through this program, Sakurai conducted independent study of LGBTQ issues for youth and education policy, particularly as they relate to immigrants, communities of color, and Islamic diaspora. His project advisor was Peter Dankmeijer, a leading authority on LGBTQ issues in education and Executive Director of the Global Alliance for LGBT Education. Sakurai was commended for pioneering one of the first online surveys in the Netherlands to look at LGBTQ issues and for securing a higher success rate in obtaining non-ethnically-Dutch and multi-ethnic respondents than past studies. Sakurai also completed a cross-city comparison of LGBTQ youth resources in Amsterdam, London, and Berlin as part of his studies.
Sakurai completed enough academic credit hours of LGBTQ-centered courses to qualify for a minor in LGBTQ studies had one existed, including studying transgender and intersex issues with Professor Cole, the first person to teach a transgender studies course in the U.S.
From 2002, Sakurai was invited to serve as an assistant to the Office of LGBT Concerns (the future fully-staffed LGBT Resource Center). In this position, he supported programming and educational events while also pursuing his advocacy work.
Also while at the University of Illinois, Sakurai co-founded an LGBTQ student of color organization on campus and he was heavily involved in organizing Asian and Pacific Islander American students around LGBTQ issues, including a collaboration that brought transgender activist and University of Illinois alumna Pauline Park as the keynote speaker for an annual Asian and Pacific Islander American student conference. Sakurai was deeply involved in creating and facilitating various educational programs while in college, and he presented at several national and regional conferences, including a national mixed race student conference where he was invited as a plenary speaker on LGBTQ issues.
For all of these accomplishments, Sakurai was awarded with the Excellence in Leadership Award, the highest student leadership honor for a graduating senior.
U.S. Student Association Foundation (2003-2005)
From 2003 to 2005, Nick Sakurai was the Director of the LGBT Student Empowerment Project for the U.S. Student Association (USSA) Foundation, the nation's oldest and largest student-led organization. During this time, Sakurai represented LGBTQ student interests as a member of the Hates Crimes Coalition of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, where he moved forward critical questions of the Department of Education in its rapid decline in hate crimes reporting since the Bush administration took office in 2001. He also represented LGBTQ student interests on immigration and relationship rights coalitions.
While with USSA, Sakurai also took charge of the national coordination of all college Day of Silence events in the country. He built a national leadership team, raised national participation by 62% from 430 to 700 colleges, and developed resources to encourage more campuses to link policy change campaigns with their Day of Silence education and visibility events.
In 2003, Sakurai was invited to moderate a panel on LGBTQ people of color issues as part of the 40th anniversary celebrations of the famous 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
In 2004, Sakurai also founded an LGBTQ people of color networking group in Washington, DC, that brought together national advocacy professionals from a variety of organizations to discuss common concerns and interests. Sakurai was also a guest presenter at the first-ever training on transgender issues presented at the AFL-CIO. Further, Sakurai was invited to present on transgender issues on behalf of the National Center for Transgender Equality as a consultant. He was invited to facilitate workshops and to speak at numerous other conferences and engagements, including speaking at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, where he had the opportunity to meet with some friends of Matthew Shepard and to view the Matthew Shepard files at the university's archives.
Sakurai also envisioned and executed the first-ever National LGBT Student of Color Summit, a capacity-building event that took place in 2005. Sakurai coordinated all parts of the program, including conception, participant recruitment, curriculum design, facilitator training, fundraising, logistics, and execution. The summit accepted and drew 50 participants from Washington, DC and 12 states in all U.S. regions. The event had a deep and lasting effect for many of the participants. Following the conference, students went back to their home sites and organized their local and regional groups. Regional and national conferences based in Pennsylvania, New York, Wisconsin, and California followed, organized by attendees to the summit and those who followed in their footsteps.
Through his collaborations with USSA's fundraising consultant, Sakurai was able to secure grants from the Gill Foundation and from the Rainbow Endowment. Also while working at USSA, Sakurai edited and wrote numerous publications such as a fundraising guide for LGBTQ student organizations; factsheets on uniting LGBTQ and labor movements, hate crimes and the Higher Education Act, immigration policy and same-sex partnerships, and marriage and partnership legislation; and a guide for transgender inclusion in student organizations.
American University (2005-2008)
From 2005 to 2008, Nick Sakurai was the full-time professional Program Coordinator at the GLBTA Resource Center at American University (AU) in Washington, DC. During this time, he spent over one year in the role of interim director, managing the center and representing the department at weekly meetings of all department heads in student affairs. While working full-time at AU, Sakurai also completed a masters degree through evening and weekend classes over an intense 24-month period.
While completing his Master of Arts in International Training and Education, Sakurai was able to travel to Bosnia to work on a consulting practicum for UNICEF. During the trip, Sakurai made time to meet with leaders of Organisation Logos, a Sarajevo-based LGBTQ organization addressing issues of religion/faith through the use of arts and cultural events as instruments of dialogue and change. This experience was moving for him to see the entirety of a country's LGBTQ movement rest in the hands of two organizations, neither of which had members over the age of 30.
Sakurai made diversity and inclusion a key focus of his studies and completed a capstone project on the training of international exchange administrators for LGBTQ inclusion. Sakurai developed and implemented special orientation materials and presentations at AU focusing on LGBTQ issues for international students, and he presented on LGBTQ human rights in international exchange and on sexual harassment in study abroad at the 2008 international conference of NAFSA: Association of International Educators.
In the summer of 2006, Sakurai was selected for a grant to attend and chair a panel on LGBTQ issues in higher education at the International LGBT Human Rights Conference that was hosted in Montreal.
In the fall of 2006, Sakurai founded American University's GLBT Studies Colloquium, an annual academic conference that brings together students, faculty, staff, and the community around sexuality and gender studies.
From 2006 to 2008, Sakurai spearheaded a successful diversity policy change among the first of its kind in the world, negotiating transgender inclusion in employee health insurance covering 1,850 employees and family members. As a result, AU became the first private university in the U.S. to offer such a benefit to employees and one of the first employers in the U.S. to include a full range of transition care in their health insurance benefits. Ultimately, AU was able to align its values and practices and to enhance its reputation as a transgender-inclusive institution. Sakurai was also an invited faculty member for a national institute on transgender inclusion in health insurance sponsored by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
In 2008, Sakurai organized and mentored a ten-person LGBTQ human rights delegation from AU that traveled to Mexico City. He provided facilitation, cross-cultural preparation, and crisis management for the group. Sakurai spoke in support of LGBTQ studies and university resources as an invited guest panelist at a press conference leading up to a queer studies conference to take place in Mexico City.
From 2006-2008, Sakurai was also a member of the Executive Board of his national professional association, the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals, where he served as the founding Chair of an initiative for racial justice. Sakurai developed a strategic plan for racial and ethnic inclusion within the association based on survey data and 20 individual interviews with board members and stakeholders.
As an advisor, Sakurai listened to LGBTQA student and employee concerns and assisted with personal issues including family concerns, religion, international issues, sexual assault, gender, identity, careers, discrimination, and coming out.
IE Business School (2008-2009)
Nick Sakurai is a member of IEOut, the LGBTQ alumni and student organization of IE Business School in Madrid, Spain. Sakurai studied at IE Business School in 2008-2009 where he concentrated on social issues in business and management, including courses looking at social entrepreneurship, strategic philanthropy, and negotiation skills. In 2008, Sakurai chaired a panel on HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace at the Reaching Out M.B.A. conference. In 2009, Sakurai traveled to Copenhagen to attend the International LGBT Human Rights Conference hosted there. Sakurai graduated from the prestigious International M.B.A. program at IE Business School with top honors. Sakurai is a lifetime member of Beta Gamma Sigma, the international business honor society. He is also a lifetime member of Net Impact, an international non-profit organization dedicated to using the power of business for social and environmental sustainability.
University of Maryland (2010-Present)
As the Associate Director at the LGBT Equity Center, Nick Sakurai has taken the lead on a wide portfolio of programs and departmental functions, including a 3,000 item LGBTQ library and resource lounge, social media outreach, and all technology for the department. In 2010, Sakurai organized an open house and began in-office programming of events to transform the usage of the LGBT Equity Center towards truly being a central hub and gathering place for the LGBTQA communities on campus. In 2011, Sakurai began to re-design his department's website. In the fall of 2011, he will teach a new undergraduate course in Facilitation and Leadership Skills in LGBTQA Organizations. He is currently working to support the development and re-design for a campus-wide LGBTQA education program, the Rainbow Terrapin Network, which was officially re-launched in the spring of 2011. Further, Sakurai serves as appointee to the President's Commission on LGBT Issues. He is also working to support the revitalization of the LGBT Staff/Faculty Association.
In 2011, Sakurai was invited to present on international LGBTQ issues at two national conferences, one in San Francisco and one in Minneapolis. He also presented on LGBTQ issues to staff of the University Studies Abroad Consortium. He maintains his membership in NAFSA: Association of International Educators and also in the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals.