The National Association of Asian American Professionals is a non-profit organization that cultivates and empowers Asian & Pacific Islander leaders through professional development, community service, and networking.

As the largest and fastest growing API professionals association, NAAAP continues to provide its members with the tools and resources to further career advancements and to empower Asians and Pacific Islanders to become great leaders as well as reliable employees.

In order to achieve our goals, NAAAP offers a diverse range of professional development programs on the local and national level, engages its membership in community service and organizes professional networking events. These may range from a series of panels, workshops and seminars, and web-based sessions and networking.

The History of NAAAP: 30 Years and Growing

What we now know as NAAAP, the National Association of Asian American Professionals, was founded 30 years ago, in 1982, in New York City. At first, the organization was called the National Association of Young Asian Professionals, the name was soon changed to embrace a broader range of Asian Pacific American (APA) professionals and to better reflect the rapidly changing demographic.

The brutal murder of Vincent Chin in 1982 had acutely raised awareness of the importance of activism, not only in the Chinese American community, but amongst all Asian Pacific Americans. Just as Asian Pacific Americans needed civil rights activism, so too did Asian Pacific Americans need to take their own professional destinies in their hands to overcome discrimination in the workplace and break the glass ceiling.

The organization at first was rather informal, providing networking and activity opportunities for the postcollegiate APA professionals and their families. Its commitment to being an organization for all Asian ethnicities, and for all professions, made it different from other groups in the city.

The organization’s concept was too good to stay bottled up for long, and new chapters sprung up in Boston in 1986 and Chicago in 1987. These three chapters formed the beginnings of NAAAP National. At first, NAAAP National merely consisted of informal networking and idea sharing amongst the local officers of the three chapters at an annual summer retreat, but the benefits of having a structured national entity became apparent.

NAAAP National’s 1991 retreat held in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, was made more structured and accessible to the general membership. 1991 also saw the creation of the NAAAP National Board and election NAAAP’s first National President, Robert Tanzil. NAAAP National held its first “real” convention during the 1992 Labor Day weekend in Chicago with multiple tracks and programming, corporate sponsors and evening gala events. The Labor Day weekend timing of the convention was a tradition for several years. At the request of sponsors and career fair recruiters, the NAAAP National Convention finally changed to occur over a non-holiday weekend in 2000. The NAAAP National Convention site now rotates amongst the NAAAP chapters throughout North America.

The Houston chapter was founded in 1994. The Asian Management Business Association in Seattle joined NAAAP in 1992, and Club Asean in San Francisco joined in 1996. These chapters officially changed their names to NAAAP-Seattle and NAAAP San Francisco in 1999.

To make NAAAP available to a wider audience, beginning in 1997, NAAAP National encouraged the development of chapter start-ups (known as Ventures) throughout North America. A few recent successful ventures who have achieved chapter status include Atlanta (in 2002), North Carolina (in 2006) and Philadelphia (in 2006). Currently, there are more than seventeen ventures and ten chapters across North America, with two in Canada.

Particularly noteworthy is NAAAP-Toronto, founded in 1999, which became NAAAP’s first Canadian chapter in 2001, and was the site of the NAAAP National Convention in 2003. Both Americans and Canadians of Asian Pacific Islander heritage share similar professional needs and challenges, and the growth of NAAAP into Canada reflects this.

As NAAAP grew nationally, it needed to grow internally as well. The NAAAP National Administration team has grown from three positions in 1991 to 12 today with a National Board of more than 20 directors, who represent NAAAP chapters across North America. Realizing that greater collaboration and communication was needed, the National Board meets not only at the NAAAP National Convention, but also during the winter NAAAP National Leadership Academy (first held in Dallas in 2001), and keeps in touch via monthly conference calls. During its 30 years of operation, NAAAP has remained an all volunteer organization, paying only for program-specific services and technology improvements.

NAAAP has had the foremost APA leaders pass through its halls over the years, including:

  • Jerry Yang, the current CEO of Yahoo
  • Indra Nooyi, current CEO of PepsiCo
  • Guy Kawasaki, managing director of Garage Technology Ventures and evangelist for Apple
  • U.S. Secretary of Labor, the Honorable Elaine L. Chao
  • U.S. Congressman, the Honorable Michael Honda
  • Jane Hyun, author of “Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling”
  • Qui Duc Nguyen, host and producer of KQED Public Radio
  • Former Washington State Governor, Gary Locke
  • Maya Lin, architect of the U.S. Vietnam War Memorial

In 2012, NAAAP turned 30 years old. We celebrated our 30th anniversary with the NAAAP National Convention and Diversity Career Fair presented by Macy’s in the city of both organizations’ birthplace, New York City. Aptly titled Leadership Never Sleeps, sponsors, speakers, and participants shared the round-the-clock, pioneering spirit of leadership. Agendas, photos, and other details of the Convention and Career Fair may be seen at

The 2013 NAAAP Convention was called the International Convention as we headed north to Toronto, where NAAAP has one of its largest chapters. The 2014 NAAAP Convention and Diversity Career Fair will be hosted by Southern California’s three chapters in Anaheim in August 2014.

NAAAP’s ongoing commitment to professional and leadership development will help NAAAP and its partners continue to succeed in years to come. However, the successes do not happen without the enthusiasm, innovation and hard work of NAAAP’s members and sponsors. Be a part of NAAAP’s future as an active member, sponsor or officer, and help write the next chapter of NAAAP’s history!