Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation Appoints Aura Sunada Newlin As Executive Director | Big Horn Basin Media

Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation Appoints Aura Sunada Newlin As Executive Director

Written by on March 20, 2023

Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation appoints Aura Sunada Newlin executive director

She’s going to need new business cards as the term “interim” is being taken off her title.

Aura Sunada Newlin, the new executive director for the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation. Photo courtesy of Ted Brummond

The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation is announcing the appointment of Aura Sunada Newlin as its permanent executive director. She is a fourth-generation Wyomingite, fourth-generation Japanese American, graduate of the University of Wyoming and former anthropology professor at Northwest College in Powell.  The Foundation says they arrived at their decision after a months-long, nationwide search.

Sunada Newlin was the longtime Heart Mountain board secretary before agreeing to serve as interim executive director.

A descendant of Heart Mountain incarcerees, Newlin became the foundation’s interim executive director last June 1 when the former executive director, Dakota Russell, left to become the executive director of The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association in Salem, Mass.

Newlin was selected after a search committee led by Heart Mountain board vice chair Douglas Nelson and board member Lia Nitake reviewed applications from candidates from around the country, according to the Foundation’s press release. After interviews were conducted by the committee, the committee selected Newlin because of her intense knowledge of Heart Mountain history, academic credentials and “desire to build the foundation into a leader for education and social justice.”

Shirley Ann Higuchi, the foundation’s chair, said Newlin’s “selection will take our museum and the Mineta-Simpson Institute to a whole new level. Aura’s family incarceration history, her commitment to Wyoming, and her credentials make her the obvious choice to lead our foundation.”

“This is an exciting time for the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation as we grow to new heights and continue to establish ourselves as a nationally relevant institution,” Newlin says. “I am humbled to continue as Executive Director for this foundation that means so much to me.”

Sunada Newlin, when asked about being the permanent executive director, says, “As someone who identifies strongly as both a Wyomingite and a mixed-race Japanese American, what we are building at Heart Mountain is beyond meaningful for me. Our creative energy is electric right now as we leverage our power of place to advance civil discourse and promote healing for our communities.”

The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation preserves the site where some 14,000 Japanese Americans were unjustly incarcerated in Wyoming from 1942 through 1945. Their stories are told within the foundation’s museum, Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, located between Cody and Powell.

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