Committee Members

Kumi Alderman
Executive Director

Kumi Alderman worked as a Tour- Conductor based in Tokyo, Japan. She took many Japanese groups to all over the World. Kumi really enjoyed learning diffrent arts and cultures through this job. Kumi realized that people are same even they have different skin color and cultures.  Kumi has discovered a passion to educate and share Asian culture through organizing the Asian Festival and other educational events. She believes the festival and events inspires the public, especially younger generations, to learn about and appreciate the richness of traditional Asian arts and culture. She believes mutual understanding is the base of World peace. Kumi has a big DREAM to create Asian Culture Center in Knoxville which provide the out-reach program for K-12 schools and Universities. On November 20th, Consul-General Kobayashi presented the Certificate of Commendation to Ms. Kumi Alderman, Executive Director of the Asian Culture Center of TN, in recognition of her distinguished service in contributing to the deepening of mutual understanding and friendship between Japan and Knoxville through the Asian Festivals and various cultural activities.

Samuel K. Lee


Samuel K. Lee is the Chief Deputy at the Knox County District Attorney General’s Office. He has called Knox County home since 1988 and is proud to serve our community. Sam believes that we need to be tough on crime and also compassionate toward victims and the mentally disabled. He actively supports the efforts of the Family Justice Center, the Sexual Assault Crisis Center, the YWCA, and is grateful to serve with our local law enforcement agencies.

Dr. Rachel Rui

Director of Marketing and Communications

Dr. Rachel Rui is a communication and international affairs expert who is now serving as the assistant to Chancellor of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Rachel supports the Chancellor in his day-to-day operations including strategic planning, project management, communication management, producing briefings, reports, and presentations, managing constituent’s relationships, meeting planning and scheduling prioritization. Rachel is a proud two-time UT alumna. She obtained her Master’s degree in Communication and Information in 2009 and her Ph.D. degree in the same area in 2014, with expertise in areas of social media and cross-cultural communication. Rachel is passionate about culture and art. She is a member of Young Professionals of Knoxville, and has served on the board of A1LabArts, participated in Knox Asian Festival and hosted Chinese New Year Gala for 10 years.

Dr. Javiette Samuel


The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Office of Research & Engagement
Office of Community Engagement and Outreach

Leroy Kautz

Board Member

Leroy Kautz, a Sifu (Kung Fu teacher) under Great Grand Master CHAN PUI

After studying various styles of Martial Arts since the early 1970’s, Leroy was introduced to the WAH LUM system in 1987, training nearly five years as a professional student in Tampa, FL. He then continued his training under the strict guidance of Grand Master CHAN PUI at the Wah Lum Temple in Orlando, FL.

Leroy was granted the opportunity, privilege and honor to open his own school and propagate this system and in August of 1994 Leroy began establishing the Tennessee based Wah Lum School in Knoxville.

Mahagi LaCure

Japanese Leader

Ms. LaCure has been teaching Japanese at the University of Tennessee for more than 20 years. She also works with students as advisor for the university’s Japan Club. Before becoming a teacher she worked as a tapestry weaver, selling her works through galleries. She is proud to be part of the Asian Festival in promoting and celebrating cultural diversity in Knoxville. When she has free time, she enjoys coordinating and wearing kimono and playing the shamisen, a Japanese three-string banjo.

Jula Connatser

Thailand Leader

Jula Connatser is a leader of One Community Services, Inc. Her company is a certified minority and women own business enterprise in Tennessee (MWBE).

Living outside of Thailand is keeping us away from our cultural activities with friends and families. The Knox Asian Festival brought Asian people in town together. Now we have opportunity to bring back our fun cultural environment. At least once a year we can wear traditional outfits, sing, dance, and share our cultural wisdom at the festival with everyone in Knoxville community.

Jill Song

Festival management advisor

Hsiaoman (JIll) Song,she obtained a MBA from Texas Women University (TWU) in 2011. She moved to Knoxville for a job after graduation. She was the President of Taiwanese student association at TWU, and the President of Taiwanese association of America and East Tennessee chapter (TAAET) in 2015. During that time, she joined the 2nd and 3rd Asia festival, and continuing promoting Taiwan culture ever since.

Mrs. Silavong

Board Member

Hailing from Ipoh, Malaysia, Mrs. Silavong immigrated to the United States in 1999. With her, she brought extensive knowledge of Malaysian and Chinese cookery. In 2007, she acquired ownership of the Plum Tree Chinese Restaurant, and in 2013, she branched out and opened Thai’an, located in the food court of West Town Mall.

Yuika Yamada

Volunteer Coordinator 

Yuika is from the Nagoya area in Japan. She graduated from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in 2006 and moved to the United States in 2017. She graduated High school in Melbourne, Australia. She also lived in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam in 2004 for Vietnamese study. For her career, she also lived in Hong Kong,  Shenzhen China, Tokyo Japan, Chicago IL, Knoxville TN, and Atlanta GA. She adopted cosmopolitan thinking. She hopes her knowledge/background supports expounding the Knox Asian Festival and community to understand Asian cultures.

Amudha Vaz

Indian Leader

Ling Hidalgo-Catuncan

Philippines Leader

Ling Hidalgo-Catuncan is a licensed Physical Therapist with 24+ years of experience & is currently working at Shannondale Retirement and Assisted Living Centers. Originally from Navotas, Metro Manila & migrated to Knoxville, TN in 1994. Affiliated with Filipino American Christian Community of East, TN (FACCET) whose mission is to promote charity through service, time, talent and assist in realizing spiritual potential in our community. Ling is also an active member of Philippine American Association of East TN (PAAET) & assists with Fil-Am activities supporting the community. Enjoys dancing, singing, hosting and playing the guitar. Married to Paul Catuncan, also a physical therapist, with two smart kids, JP & Jos

Elena Sonbok Lee

Knoxville Area Korean Association President

Elena Sonbok Lee grew up in Seoul South Korea and came to the United States in 1994 to pursue graduate studies. She obtained her Masters of Education in 1997, Master of Arts in Painting in 2005 , and Master of Fine Arts in 2007. She currently is an Art Professor at Crown College and has operated her own art studio for 10 years. She is a member of the Temple Baptist Church. She is the founder of the Christian Art Association and travels internationally delivering her seminar “Brain and the Bible”. She is now the 20th new president of the Knoxville Area Korean Association.

Michael Smith

Chinese Leader

Michael Smith has produced the East Tennessee Chinese New Year Festival for the past 7
years. Held each February on the UTK campus, this event gives the audience the experience
of new year celebrations in China. Michael is also the coach of the East Tennessee Wushu
Team and East Tennessee Tai Chi team, has won 9 gold medals in martial arts competitions
in China, and has been teaching Chinese martial arts to kids and adults in Knoxville for 12
years. For more information, visit him at the knoxvillechineseculture booth at our Festival!

Dave Alderman

Board Member

Dave Alderman works as a lead auditor at UL DQS Inc. He participated in founding Asian Culture Center of Tennessee (ACCTN) and assisted in organizing the Knoxville Asian Festival. Dave frequently travels to Asia to support ACCTN’s mission. Dave is an avid runner and competes in local and national marathons.

Katie Hutchinson

Music Producer

Katie Hutchinson is a native of Loudon, TN. She was graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with a Master of Music degree in instrumental education. While earning her Master’s degree, she worked for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and Knox County School System to develop an orchestra program with fifth-grade students in the Farragut and Cedar Bluff Intermediate Schools.

     After earning her degree, Katie taught orchestra and choir to seventh and eighth grade students at Maryville Middle School in Maryville, TN. She then taught orchestra to sixth, seventh and eighth grade students at West Valley Middle School in Knoxville, TN. She has presented seminars on “Being Prepared as a First Year Teacher,” “Bows and Arrows:Managing Student Behavior in the Orchestral Rehearsal,” and “How to Develop Tone and Intonation in the Middle School Orchestra” with Dr. David Royse from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville music faculty. She is dedicated to helping students learn all they can while learning  to appreciate the value of a well-rounded musical foundation.

     Katie was a rehearsal assistant for the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra for 4 years before she was named the conductor of the Philharmonia for 11 years before moving to  Cookeville, TN.

    Once Katie moved back to the greater Knoxville area with her husband and three children, she became the Strings Director at Clayton-Bradley Academy in Maryville, TN. She is entering her 5th year in this position where she conducts approximately 100 strings students in grades 5 through 12 and general music classes for grades K-2. She continues challenging herself to become a stronger educator while sharing her love of music with her students.

LayKoon T. Huang MD

Educational Program Advisor 

I grew up in Penang, Malaysia and came to the US in 1967 to start college at the U of Pennsylvania, followed with medical school at Vanderbilt University. I have been a native of Knoxville since 1982 and retired in 2012 after 30 years of private practice in Occupational Medicine and Family Medicine.

I am an active member of the East Tennessee AARP volunteer leadership team. We promote livable and age-friendly communities, support caregivers, inform and educate the 50+ community about frauds and scams, conduct driver safety, car-fit and home-fit programs. My particular interest is reaching out to diverse and minority populations and groups while we go about promoting our programs. That is why participating and being a sponsor of the Asian Festival has been important to the ET AARP team. And for me, the opportunity to spearhead the Asian Film Festival, a new event during the 2019 Asian Festival week, brings promoting diversity full circle – now we are showcasing the diverse cultures of Asia in films and documentaries to the people of Knoxville and the surrounding communities.

Hana Akimoto

Community Outreach

Hello!! My name is Hana Akimoto. I have participated in Asian Festival, along with my mother and sister, throughout the last five years. I currently teach science at Bearden High School. I enjoy providing a safe, loving environment for my students so that they can grow into critically thinking, civic participants of their local and global community. My goal as a Youth Coordinator is to encourage young people to learn new cultures and share their experiences. In this way, they can help develop innovative ideas that lead to a thriving community.

Azsha Treanor

Director of Community Outreach

Azsha Treanor was raised in Memphis, TN on a family farm with her parents. She graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2017 with a degree in Global Politics & Economics. Her mother, being from Korea, helped inspire her to get involved in the Asian community. She continues to act as the main Show Host for the yearly event. She also serves as the Director of Community Outreach for the Asian Culture Center of TN which puts on the Asian Festival of Knoxville. Additionally, Azsha works as Co-Host with Rachel Rui in the yearly East TN Chinese New Year Festival. She currently lives and works in Knoxville with her fiancé and two pup children.

Lieutenant General Lawrence D. Nicholson

USMC, Retired
Volunteer Security Manager

Lieutenant General Nicholson was born in Toronto, Canada, and is a 1979 graduate of the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. He holds a MS degree from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. From 1980-1982, Lieutenant General Nicholson served as a Platoon and Company Commander in 3d Battalion, 1st Marines at Camp Pendleton, California. From 1982-1985 he was assigned to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, where he served as a Series and Company Commander.

Following Amphibious Warfare School at Quantico, Virginia in 1986, Lieutenant General Nicholson served as a Platoon Commander at Officers Candidate School until joining 3/7 in the fall of 1986. He then served as a Rifle Company Commander for Lima 3/7 and subsequently Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines until May of 1990. From June 1990 to July 1993, Lieutenant General Nicholson served as a Company Officer and Instructor at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Following completion of the US Army Command and General Staff College in 1994, he was assigned to the Middle East as a United Nations Observer for UNTSO Palestine. In 1995, he reported to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina as the Executive Officer of the Wolfpack, 2d Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.

In 1997, Lieutenant General Nicholson assumed the duties as the 2d Marine Division, G-3 Operations Officer until taking Command of the WARLORDS of 2d Battalion, 2d Marines in 1999. Following a deployment to the Balkans with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, he was re-assigned in 2001, as the Executive Officer of the 2d Marine Regiment. Upon graduation of the NATO Defense College in Rome, Italy in 2002, he was assigned to NATO HQ in Brussels, Belgium where he served as the Ground Forces Planner for the U.S. Military Delegation to NATO. In July 2004, Lieutenant General Nicholson reported to the 1st Marine Division HQ at Camp Blue Diamond, Ramadi, Iraq, where he served as the Division G-3. In July of 2005, he assumed command of the 5th Marine Regiment and deployed with them to Fallujah, Iraq in 2006.

As a General Officer, he has served as the Deputy Commanding Generalfor Marine Corps Combat Development Command at Quantico; the Commanding General of the 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade in Helmand Province Afghanistan; the Senior Military Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense in Washington, DC; the Operations Officer for the ISAF Joint Command in Kabul, Afghanistan; the Commanding General of the legendary 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California; and the Commanding General of the III Marine Expeditionary Force in Japan and the Pacific region.

LtGen Nicholson now calls Knoxville Tennessee home, is active in local Veterans affairs organizations, serves on the advisory board for the Spirit of America, Still Serving Inc, and is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow for the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, and the Asia-Pacific Institutes’ Military Statesman’s Forum. He has been married to Deborah for 41 years and has 3 sons, 2 on Active-duty USMC, and 9 grandchildren that he and Debbie enjoys spoiling at every opportunity.

Dr. Kathie Shiba

Volunteer Coordinator

Dr. Kathie Shiba is Assistant Dean of Institutional Equity and Professor of Psychology at Maryville College. I moved to Tennessee in 1994 after graduating with my Ph.D. from the University of California, Riverside. As a Sansei whose parents, grandparents, and other relatives were incarcerated during WWII, I have been interested in understanding the impact of racism, especially across generations. I study the impact of microaggressions on college students’ lives, focusing on racial, sexual, and gender microaggressions. In addition, my research examines student and institutional characteristics that promote positive outcomes such as resiliency, coping skills, and mediation. I appreciate the opportunity to volunteer at the Asian Festival each year and have been impressed with the tremendous growth over the years. It is exciting to see so many people who
are passionately learning about Asian cultures.

Ivy Zhang

Ivy Zhang is a rising senior from the Farragut High School Class of 2023. From volunteering as a teacher’s assistant at Chinese language schools since middle school, participating in Asian-culture related activities at local universities, and performing traditional Chinese songs and hosting at local cultural events, to leading the Farragut High School Asian Culture Club, organizing community activities and fundraisers, and donating to the Knox Asian Festival, Ivy actively encourages the promotion of Asian cultures and diversity. She is grateful to serve as the co-emcee for the 9th Knox Asian Festival.

Alan Tan

Alan Tan, Class of 2023, is a rising senior and the Founder and President of Origami Club at Farragut High School. Being born and raised in a Chinese household, Asian culture has always played a quintessential role in his upbringing and self identity. In addition to being President of Origami Club, he is the 2022-2023 Vice President of Asian Culture Club. He helped organize various fundraisers and activities at his school to raise awareness and promote ethnic inclusiveness. Alan embraces cultural diversity and hopes to spread his passion and enthusiasm for Asian culture across his community. He is excited to serve as co-emcee for the upcoming 2022 Knox Asian Festival.

Yuriko Biles

Yuriko Biles is a senior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville studying English & Non-profit Management. She participates in Model United Nations and is active as a senator within UT’s Student Government Association. When not studying, she volunteers at Beardsley Farm and Bridge Refugee Services. She works with Americorps in the summers, and hopes to continue working with them after her graduation. Yuriko spends her free-time with her friends — whether it be hiking, shopping, or “studying” at local coffee shops. Yuriko is proud to be of Zainichi Korean descent, and cannot wait to share her heritage with Knoxville!