- The Indian American Muslim Council has criticized the newspaper for appointing her “despite her well-documented links with Hindu supremacist groups.”
Social impact and innovation leader Sonal Shah is named chief executive officer of the Texas Tribune, effective January 2023. She previously served as deputy assistant to President Obama and created the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation. This March she was named to a new Homeland Security Advisory Council to “strengthen the department to better meet the increasingly dynamic and rapidly evolving threat landscape, and harness technology and innovation to modernize the programs it administers,” according to a Department of Homeland Security press release.
Announcing Shah’s appointment, Jim Schachter, chair of The Texas Tribune’s board of directors described her as “a leader with both a deep understanding of the functional and financial needs of a mission-based organization and a track record of high-impact leadership.” In her new role, Shah “will drive strategy and oversee fundraising, operations and business development, ensuring the financial health and independence of the Trib,” Schachter wrote. She will be “a collaborative partner” with editor-in-chief Sewell Chan, “ensuring that the operational and financial needs of the newsroom are well-supported.”
The Houston-born-and-raised Shah is the founding president of The Asian American Foundation (TAAF), a convener, incubator, and funder committed to accelerating opportunity and prosperity for Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. A social impact and innovation leader, she previously founded and led Georgetown University’s Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation, providing students a first-hand opportunity to work on social impact projects in the public, private, and social sectors.
She served as deputy assistant to President Obama and created the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation. Shah also has significant experience working internationally as an economist at the Department of Treasury, setting up the central bank in Bosnia, working for post-conflict reconstruction in Kosovo, and implementing poverty reduction strategies in Africa. She also served as the chief of operations for the Center for Global Development She was the National Policy Director for Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign.
Shah has been on the receiving end of criticism from Indian American groups like the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) for her close relations with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Her family, especially her father, Ramesh Shah, has been involved with the Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP), and has served as its president.
“We are disappointed by The Tribune’s decision to appoint Shah as the next CEO despite her well-documented links with Hindu supremacist groups,” said IAMC executive Director Rasheed Ahmed. “If her appointment is not rescinded, it will demonstrate a total disregard by The Tribune for the sentiments of the American Muslim community, especially Indian American Muslims and Indian minorities who are facing an onslaught of hate and violence from violent Hindu extremist groups like VHP and RSS in India.”