Dr. Su McKeithen-Polish named AAPI Heritage Month Game Changers honoree

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT — Dr. Su McKeithen-Polish never thought she would be living in the United States.  

“When I was around 10 years old, my mom remarried an American diplomat,” said McKeithen-Polish, who was born and raised in Thailand. “He was stationed in Laos. But when the Communists took over in 1975, the American families left — including us.”

McKeithen-Polish said while growing up, because of her father’s job, she lived in several countries and traveled all around the world. This ultimately inspired her to pursue a career in education.

“I’ve always had empathy for those who are immigrants or have a second language that is different because I went through it myself,” McKeithen-Polish said. “It was difficult, but I saw the path. When there was a teacher who spent time teaching me, it made such a huge difference.”

The Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers and Comerica Bank are continuing to celebrate Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month by recognizing McKeithen-Polish as a Game Changers honoree for her dedication to create an inclusive environment in the classroom and community.

“For her ongoing support of students in classrooms at Wayne State University and tireless leadership in bringing communities together, we’re honored to celebrate Dr. Su McKeithen-Polish as a Game Changer,” said Kevin Brown, director of community impact for Ilitch Sports + Entertainment. “Through her work with the Council of Asian Pacific Americans, the lives of countless metro Detroit residents are positively impacted each day.”

McKeithen-Polish, who is a bilingual English consultant and professor at Wayne State University, said she strives to have the greatest possible impact on her students.

“Every day that I come to work, I want to make a difference,” McKeithen-Polish said. “If I can help a student in any way, not just in education but beyond, that is what keeps me going. That is what keeps me getting out there to support my students, their families and the community at large.”

Helping students reach their full potential is rewarding for McKeithen-Polish, who often leans on her own experiences.

“Being from Thailand and being raised in a biracial family, I truly can see from both perspectives,” McKeithen-Polish said. “I’m like a bridge. From that perspective, I really know I am helping people who might be walking in the same path that I did.”

Outside of the classroom, McKeithen-Polish is the president of the Council of Asian Pacific Americans (CAPA). Established in February 2001 and headquartered in Sterling Heights, Mich., CAPA unites Asian Pacific Americans and the community at large through culture and education.

“I love it,” McKeithen-Polish said. “It is an opportunity to work and help all Asian communities, I’m also reaching out, networking and collaborating with other organizations and communities that are not just Asian.”

CAPA works to promote a “positive” team-oriented mindset, according to McKeithen-Polish, through initiatives like an annual leadership summit and educational webinar series.

“We all need each other,” McKeithen-Polish said. “We want to work with each other, but the key is we all need to come together with positive energy. Always look at things with a positive perspective. When you approach people with a smile, being genuine and wanting to connect with them, a wall drops.”

McKeithen-Polish said she is grateful to be a Game Changers honoree because the recognition helps shine a light on a unique segment of the population.

“It was so unexpected,” McKeithen-Polish said. “I don’t consider myself a Game Changer or anything. I just do what my passion and heart tell me to do. It means that I’m representing a lot of us out there.”

To learn more about how to support CAPA, visit CapaMi.org.

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