For her work on Asian American issues, she has received awards from the University of Massachusetts, City University of New York, Asian Americans for Equality, and Leadership Education for Asian Pacific Americans (LEAP).
For her leadership in the arts, she has been honored by ArtTable, a national organization of women leaders in the arts, and has received a Gold Medal from the National Institute of Social Sciences.
Dr. Desai was selected by Crain’s New York as one of the “100 most powerful women leaders” in New York, and by India Abroad, the leading national weekly for Indian Americans, as one the “50 most distinguished Indian Americans,” and was honored by Zee T.V. (India) as the outstanding International Woman of the Year.
In 2012, in recognition of her leadership in the museum field, President Barack Obama appointed her to serve on the National Commission on Museums and Libraries.
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