American Courage Awards

Rohit Kataria: Dedicated Youth Advocate

The 2023 Norman Y. Mineta Spirt Award Honoree is a shining example of young civil rights leadership


As we count down the days until Asian Americans Advancing Justice — AAJC’s annual American Courage Awards event on October 6, 2023, we take a moment to highlight each of our honorees. The occasion pays tribute to the individuals, groups, and corporations who have pioneered significant civil rights progress. Among the awards presented, the Norman Y. Mineta Spirit Award is a shining commendation of young advocates who epitomize unwavering dedication, boundless compassion, and remarkable resilience in their leadership to uplift their communities. This honor is a heartfelt homage to the exceptional legacy of former Secretary of Transportation, Norman Y. Mineta.

This year, we proudly announce Rohit Kataria as our Norman Y. Mineta Spirit Award recipient.

Rohit, a senior at Vanderbilt University, stands as a shining example of the young leadership this award aims to celebrate. Hailing from rural southern Ohio, Rohit has made it his life’s mission to create inclusive educational spaces that empower all students to flourish.

His passion for improving higher education outcomes has led him to contribute significantly to education initiatives in both the United States and India through collaboration with government agencies and nonprofit organizations.

In his hometown Ohio, Rohit began his journey of addressing educational inequities, a passion that has since expanded to national and international platforms. At the outset of his career, Rohit made significant strides in addressing educational disparities through his internship with the South-Central Ohio Educational Service Center. Through targeted programs and initiatives, he helped develop resources to provide quality education enrichment opportunities for students in the region. Building upon his foundational efforts in Ohio, Rohit extended his efforts to enhance educational excellence in Tennessee. Working for the Tennessee Department of Education, he logged relevant education bills passed in the 113th General Assembly and codified the development process for a novel funding formula for Tennessee public K-12 schools. Rohit’s early collaborations with the South-Central Ohio Educational Service Center and the Tennessee Department of Education highlight his deep-rooted commitment to education and excellence.

On the larger front, he has taken his passion for education even further by championing national educational initiatives at the National Science Foundation AI Institute for Engaged Learning. Rohit has been at the forefront of our understanding of how artificial intelligence can be infused into education, creating richer, more immersive learning experiences. Rohit’s passions were nurtured through collaboration with his grandfather’s institute, the Kakdwip Manorama Tilottama Society. This society, which focuses on empowering the less privileged sections of India, has found a zealous advocate in Rohit. Through this partnership, he developed instructional materials for academic competitions ensuring that underserved communities receive opportunities for quality education. These commitments emphasize his genuine commitment to elevating the educational landscape for marginalized groups in India and internationally.

Currently, Rohit’s groundbreaking efforts at Vanderbilt University underscore his profound commitment to championing Asian American representation and academic advancement in higher education. Currently, Rohit acts as the founding Co-Director of The Asian American Advocacy Project, a student-led organization dedicated to fostering inclusivity for all Asian American students. Through his tireless efforts, he has played a pivotal role in establishing Vanderbilt’s AAPI Fund, which supports future projects for the university’s Asian American community. Rohit’s persistent pursuit of academic excellence and equality also involved continuing the Vanderbilt Asian American Studies Initiative’s push for Asian American Studies (AAS) at the university. Realized as a major and minor in January 2023, this milestone marks a historic moment as the first AAS program nationwide to include a language requirement. Expanding the push for AAS beyond campus borders, Rohit founded the Asian American Studies Collaborative, where he now serves as the Executive Director. This initiative, recently selected for support from the Clinton Foundation’s global youth social impact program, connects AAS student advocates from across the nation, creating a platform for them to learn from one another and collectively advance the cause.

Beyond his commendable advocacy efforts, Rohit’s talents cross various artistic and intellectual realms. As a Hindi poet, he uses language as a tool to represent his dual-faceted Indian American identity, exploring themes of heritage, home, and duty. His rhythmic prowess finds another avenue of expression as he has danced for Vanderbilt’s premier Bollywood-fusion team, not only competing but also celebrating the vibrant choreography that fuses traditional and contemporary styles. Demonstrating his intellectual depth, Rohit has also twice graced the screens as Jeopardy! contestant, proving his vast reservoir of knowledge and quick thinking. These myriad achievements, however, are not the endpoint for Rohit Kataria. His professional vision reaches far and wide, aspiring to eventually influence federal-level policies and programs. His ultimate goal? To ensure that students, regardless of their background, have equitable opportunities in education.

This ambition underscores his undying dedication to ushering in transformative and positive change in the world of academia and beyond.

In celebrating Rohit Kataria, we honor not only an exceptional individual but also the spirit of resilience, compassion, and dedication that defines the Norman Y. Mineta Spirit Award. Rohit’s journey reminds us that transformative change is within our reach, and with passionate advocates like him, the future holds the promise of a more inclusive and empowered society for all. Congratulations, Rohit, for your outstanding contributions and your well-deserved recognition as the recipient of the Norman Y. Mineta Spirit Award.

Our 2023 American Courage Awards signature event will honor individuals and those in the corporate sector who have shown extraordinary commitment to civil rights on Friday, October 6 at The National Press Club in Washington, DC. Register to attend here.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice — AAJC has a mission to advance the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all. Visit our website at



Advancing Justice – AAJC
Advancing Justice — AAJC

Fighting for civil rights for all and working to empower #AsianAmericans to participate in our democracy.