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Sumun L. Pendakur

Senior Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategist

Dr. Sumun L. Pendakur (Sumi) believes that we have infinite capability to imagine and enact a more just, equitable, and compassionate world.  Sumi is a scholar-practitioner, an activist-educator, a skilled facilitator, and a mom.  With nearly 20 years in the field of higher education and a decade as a DEI speaker and trainer, Sumi’s work and research focuses on helping campuses, corporations, non-profits, and other organizations build capacity for social justice and racial equity by empowering individuals at all levels to be transformational agents of change in their spheres of influence. Most recently, Sumi was the Chief Learning Officer and Director of the USC Equity Institutes at the USC Race and Equity Center, dedicated to advancing racial justice in higher education and other sectors. Prior to that position, Sumi held roles as the Assistant Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion at Harvey Mudd College, serving on the President’s Cabinet and directing the Office of Institutional Diversity, and as the Director for USC Asian Pacific American Student Services.

Sumi received her doctorate in Higher Education Leadership, as well as the Dissertation of the Year award, for her study on institutional change agents, from the USC Rossier School of Education.   Sumi is serving her second term on the Board of Directors for NADOHE, the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.  She has served as Faculty Coach for the AAC&U’s multi-year TIDES (Teaching to Increase Diversity and Equity in STEM) Institute.  She is also the co-editor, with Dr. Shaun Harper and Dr. Stephen Quaye, of Student Engagement in Higher Education: Theoretical Perspectives and Practical Approaches for Diverse Populations (3rd edition) (2020).  In 2019, she was named one of the top 35 women in higher education by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education magazine.

Sumi is the multilingual daughter of immigrants, was raised in the Midwest, and currently calls Los Angeles, CA, home.  She is the wife of actor Sunil Malhotra, and proud mommy to Shashi Veer and Shama Shakti.