Dr. Sumun Pendakur
Chief Learning Officer and Director of the USC Equity Institutes at the USC Race and Equity Center
Dr. Sumun Pendakur, Ed.D., is the Chief Learning Officer and Director of the USC Equity Institutes at the USC Race and Equity Center. Sumi leads three of the Center’s signature activities, all of which focus on advancing racial justice in higher education and other sectors. Sumi serves as a consultant, speaker, and facilitator regionally and nationally, helping campuses, non-profits, and other organizations build capacity for cultural competence, social justice, and equitable practices. She is a scholar-practitioner, whose research interests include Critical Race Theory, Asian American and Pacific Islander students, change agents, and institutional transformation. Sumi is passionate about empowering students, faculty, staff, and administrators to be empowered agents of change in their spheres of influence.
Most recently, Sumi served for the last 5 years as the Assistant Vice-President for Diversity and Inclusion at Harvey Mudd College. Sumi was a member of the President’s Cabinet and served as the co-Chief Diversity Officer, partnering with Academic Affairs, to focus on campus-wide efforts related to access, equity, campus climate, and inclusion. She also directed HMC's social justice education center, the Office of Institutional Diversity (OID).
Prior to Harvey Mudd College, Sumi spent 7.5 years at the University of Southern California, where she served as the director for Asian Pacific American Student Services. In 2011, she won the USC Remarkable Women Award and the USC Rossier School of Education Dissertation of the Year Award. In 2014, she won the Outstanding Mid-Level Professional Award from the NASPA Asian Pacific Islander Knowledge Community.
Sumi has held leadership positions and presented her original research at NASPA, ACPA, NADOHE, NCORE, and ASHE. In addition, she is an Asian American and Pacific Islander Research Coalition Fellow, the 2014–2016 co-chair of NASPA Southern California, the 2015 co-chair for the NASPA Western Regional Conference Research Institute, as well as a 2014–2015 NADOHE Chief Diversity Officer’s Fellow. Sumi served as a Cultural Competence Coach (2013-2016) for the AAC&U's Teaching to Increase Diversity and Equity in STEM (TIDES) Institute. Most recently, Sumi was appointed to the Board of Directors for NADOHE, the national chief diversity officers' organization, for 2016-2019. Sumi’s two primary research agendas are on Asian American students in higher education and practitioners’ roles as change agents, transforming student experience and institutions from the inside. Her most recent publications are chapters in edited volumes: Empowerment agents: Developing staff and faculty to support students at the margins (2016), Beyond boba tea and samosas: A call for Asian American race consciousness (2016), and Going against the grain: Higher education practitioners countering neoliberalism and postracial ideology (2014).
Pendakur is a graduate of Northwestern University with a double major in Women’s Studies and History and a Minor in Spanish. She holds an M.A. in Higher Education Administration from the University of Michigan. She received her doctorate in Higher Education Leadership from the USC Rossier School of Education.
Sumi is married to actor Sunil Malhotra and is the proud (and permanently tired) mommy of 4-year-old Shashi Veer Pendakur Malhotra.