Mike M. Masaoka Congressional Fellowship


The Mike M. Masaoka Fellowship Fund was established in 1988 to honor Mike. M. Masaoka (1915- 1991) for his lifetime achievement of outstanding public service in promoting justice, civil rights, and human dignity.  His service is of unique importance to Japanese Americans and the JACL.  Masaoka served as the JACL’s National Secretary and field executive (1941-1943, 1945-1946), National Legislative Director of JACL’s Anti-Discrimination Committee (1946-1952) and the JACL Washington representative (1952-1972).  He worked tirelessly to advance the cause of Japanese Americans through crucial times when supporters were few and financing was scarce.


During his JACL tenure, Masaoka was the dominant force behind the passage of laws that permitted citizenship for the Issei and the repeal of many local and national laws that discriminated against those of Japanese ancestry.  After his formal ties with the JACL ended, he remained actively committed to the Japanese American community and goals of the JACL.


The Fund and Program

The Mike M. Masaoka Fellowship was established to develop leaders for public service.  The Mike M. Masaoka Congressional Fellowship is for a minimum of six months in Washington, D.C.  The Mike M. Masaoka Congressional Fellow is placed in the Washington, D.C. office of a member of Congress, either the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate.  The Member of Congress and the award recipient will select the term during which the Fellowship will take place. The stipend for the Fellowship is currently $2,200 to $2,500 a month, depending on qualifications.


The Fellow will be involved in a variety of tasks, ranging from substantive legislative duties to day-to-day office routine.  The Fellow will be exposed to all facets of the work of the Representative or Senator and his/her staff.  Precise duties will depend on the Member of Congress with whom the Fellow is placed and on the Fellow’s level of experience with and knowledge of the legislative process.


The program provides an opportunity for the Fellow to understand the importance of public service at the national level.  The Fellow will also gain an inside perspective of how the U.S. Congress functions as well as be part of the process that enables a Member of Congress to serve not only his/her own district, but also the entire country as a legislator.



Candidates must be U.S. citizens, graduating college seniors or students in graduate or professional programs, and a member of the JACL.  Preference will be given to those who have demonstrated a commitment to Asian American issues, particularly those affecting the Japanese American community.  Communication skills, especially in writing, are important.



A completed application form and one letter of reference must be submitted to the National JACL by COB on Friday, May 9, 2014.  Once applications have been reviewed, finalists will be notified for an interview date. 


Complete application (with letter of reference) should be submitted by e-mail to policy@jacl.org and will be reviewed on a rolling deadline.


Click here to download the Mike M. Masaoka Congressional Fellowship application:  [word / pdf format application]


Past Fellows

Dana Nakano and Rep. Mike Honda (2008-2009)

Dana Y. Nakano was the 2006-2007 Mike M. Masaoka Congressional Fellow. Dana received his undergraduate degrees in International Relations, Japanese, and Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, and his M.A. in Asian American Studies from San Francisco State University. He is currently pursing his PhD in Sociology at UC Irvine. 

Dana said of his fellowship:  “I couldn't have asked for a better placement.  Congressman Honda was the chair of CAPAC at the time, so I was able to focus a lot on racial justice issues, particularly as they pertained to Asian Americans.  A typical week for me would include attending briefings on various policy issues, staffing the congressman at various events, attending meetings with staffers from other member offices, meeting with various lobby groups, and making calls to other offices to get co-sponsorship on Honda's bills. I think just knowing how the legislative process works has opened my eyes to a lot of things that I watch on the news.  Knowing the process has also helped me help various organizations in their lobbying efforts since leaving the hill.”


Misha Tsukerman and Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii (2010-2011)

Misha Tsukerman is the 2010-2011 Mike M. Masaoka Congressional Fellow in Senator Daniel K. Inouye’s office. Misha received his degree in Asian American Studies from UCLA in 2009. Misha heard about fellowship in the JACL website, and applied because “it seemed like a great opportunity to get some experience on the hill and see how advocacy looked on the other side of the table.” One of the most interesting experiences Misha has has so far was attending a hearing on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, where both constitutional professors and elected officials presented their thoughts and experiences.



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