Dr. Sumun L. Pendakur

Dr. Sumun L. 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 transformational 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. 

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.


Yong, D., & Pendakur, S. (September 2017). Advocating for diversity and inclusion in faculty hiring. Notices of the AMS. Retrieved from http://www.ams.org/publications/journals/notices/201708/rnoti-p897.pdf.

Pendakur, S.L., & Pendakur, V. (2016). Beyond boba tea and samosas: A call for Asian American race consciousness. In Museus, S.D., Agbayani, A., & Ching, D.M. (Eds.), Focusing on the underserved: Immigrant, refugee, and Indigenous Asian American and Pacific Islanders in higher education. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Pendakur, S.L. (2016). Empowerment agents: Developing staff and faculty support students at the margins. In Pendakur, V. (Ed.), Closing the opportunity gap: Identity-conscious strategies for retention and student success. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Pendakur, S.L. (2014). Going against the grain: Higher education practitioners countering neoliberalism and postracial ideology. In Kumashiro, K. & Ngo, B. (Eds.), Six lenses for anti-oppressive education (2nd edition). New York: Peter Lang.

Lee-Nichols, M., Pendakur, S.L., & Uy, P. (2014). Complicating the complications: A conversation. In Kumashiro, K. & Ngo, B. (Eds.), Six lenses for anti-oppressive education (2nd edition). New York: Peter Lang.

Pendakur, S. & Pendakur, V. (2012). Let’s get radical: The theory and praxis of being a practitioner-ally for Asian Pacific Islander American college students. In D.M. Ching & A. Agbayani (Eds.), Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in higher education: Research and perspectives on identity, leadership, and success (pp. 31–50). Washington, D.C.: National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

Pendakur, S. L. (2011, October 19). “Insider/Outsider: Authenticity in the Academy” by Sumun L. Pendakur, Ed.D. - Women in Student Affairs Post. Retrieved January 05, 2017, from https://www.naspa.org/constituent-groups/posts/insider-outsider-authenticity-in-the-academy-by-sumun-l.-pendakur-ed.d