- Mina Chang, a 35-year-old State Department official, prompted a flurry of interest over her credentials in November after she was alleged to have embellished her work history and educational experience.
- Chang resigned Monday. In her resignation letter, she criticized the State Department.
- Here’s what we know about Chang, who joined the Trump administration in April.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Mina Chang, a 35-year-old State Department official who resigned Monday, prompted a flurry of interest over her credentials this week after she was alleged to have embellished her work history and educational experience.
At first glance, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary to the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations appeared to have received extensive training and education from prestigious institutions, but a closer look indicates she may have misrepresented her background.
In a statement from her previous nonprofit group, the executive director Ian Dailey characterized recent news reports as a “classic ‘hit-job'” and said he was “disgusted with the unwarranted attack” against Chang.
“Shame on you every outlet that picked up this story without doing your own research and merely surmised the onerous positions of the original,” Dailey wrote, in reference to NBC News’ original report. “You wonder why the media isn’t trusted? … it’s this, right here.”
Here’s what we know about Chang:
Chang worked as the CEO of a nonprofit group.
Chang was the CEO of the nonprofit group Linking the World for nine years.
“We create broad awareness of America’s unique role in the world,” the group says on its website. “By first helping others recognize why a stable and strong America is vital for global security, we will be able to make the case for a proactive national security, defense policy, and foreign policy rather than the more traditional reactive approaches of the past.”
Linking the World advocated the use of drones in international humanitarian responses, including disaster relief.
“Applying insights gleaned from a broad range of civilian and military data sets, data analytics, social science and geo-spatial intelligence capabilities to identify and assist vulnerable communities, the organization worked to isolate root causes of instability, and direct development initiatives to remove exploitation points used by violent extremist groups,” the website adds.
According to the nonprofit group, $10,000 was spent on overseas work in 2015. The group says the low spending reflects a highly efficient model of “minimal US staff and no local offices or employees.”
In 2019, the group was notified by the IRS of a “potential issue” relating to its previous tax filings. The group stopped taking donations while working to resolve the problem, according to Ian Dailey, the executive director.
Chang was an aspiring musical artist.
In 2014, Chang told The Dallas Observer that she previously had a career in music and recorded albums in Korean and English. She said the 2010 earthquake in Haiti prompted her to pursue a career shift.
“I took a huge chance stepping away from something I thought was safe and such a huge opportunity, but I knew this is where my heart is,” she told The Dallas Observer at the time.
Her works, including a rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” can be found on YouTube.
“My work has given me such a perspective and it’s taught me to walk through a period of my life,” Chang reportedly added. “When you’re in the field you’re stripped of who you are. You’re just existing together in that moment. It’s not about your clothes, or your image, it’s about what you’re giving. This year is just one season on my journey.”
Chang traveled the world for the nonprofit work.
Chang says she has traveled the world for her nonprofit work. Her destinations included Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Nigeria, and the Philippines, where she frequently uploaded photos and videos of her travels.
At least one member of the media scrutinized her work during her trips.
“I spent two days in Mogadishu at the same hotel as her in 2016,” Kevin Sieff, a Washington Post bureau chief, said on Twitter. “A truly bizarre experience.”
“There were photo shoots in front of the city’s ruins and vlogs back at the hotel,” Sieff added. “She talked a lot about ‘stability operations,’ but mostly seemed confused. I remember thinking it was one of the more misguided humanitarian missions I’d seen.”
Chang joins the US State Department.
Chang, who joined the Trump administration in April, was nominated to manage the US Agency for International Development in Asia and its $1 billion budget. Her former nonprofit organization says she formally withdrew her nomination, despite NBC News’ reporting that Congress pulled it.
“Simply, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been rather busy with other activities and all nominees were subject to extensive delays,” the nonprofit group said. “Mina loves her position at State and decided to withdraw herself from the process to focus on stabilization operations.”
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.
Chang’s educational experience is under scrutiny.
Chang’s biography has come under intense scrutiny following an NBC News investigation.
Her information from the State Department mentions she is an “alumna” of Harvard Business School. Chang attended a seven-week course at the college in 2016 but did not obtain a higher-education degree from the university, according to NBC News.
Chang’s nonprofit group says she had “correctly stated that she is an alumnus of the school,” given that she completed the $82,000 course.
As NBC News mentioned, Chang’s biography also described her as a “graduate” of a program at the Army War College that was only a four-day seminar.
It is unclear whether Chang has obtained an associate or bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.
Chang’s educational history on LinkedIn says that she took part in a six-day “Executive Nonprofit Leadership” program at Southern Methodist University in Texas.
Business Insider discovered that Chang’s enrollment information was absent. Her basic information was found in the school’s database, but it never received payment or course records on Chang, according to a course official.
“I wouldn’t understand why somebody would lie about the program,” a course employee said, adding that the course was beneficial for those interested in the nonprofit sector.
According to her now-private LinkedIn profile, she also attended the University of Nations with a focus on “Development” and “Aid Practices.”
The University of Nations, which describes itself as an international Christian learning center founded on biblical principles, claims to have chosen not to apply for accreditation because of “major differences” in national accrediting agencies.
Chang appeared on a fabricated Time magazine cover.
Chang appeared on a fake Time magazine cover, which a magazine representative confirmed to be “not authentic,” according to NBC News.
Asked about the origins of the magazine cover in 2017, Chang told an interviewer her focus on drone work and disaster response “brought some attention to that.”
In the video interview, the interviewer suggested that Chang brought the cover with her to the interview.
Chang’s former nonprofit group said she did not create or commission the work and that an artist created it after a request from a personal friend. The group added that Chang was surprised by the magazine cover during the interview, which was purportedly reflected by her broad response.
“In retrospect, she should have clarified the origins of the cover in that moment, instead, she answered the question she was posed, more broadly,” Ian Dailey, the executive director for Linking the World, said in a statement. “We have never inferred this was a real magazine cover, nor that we were the creator of it.”
Chang says she has roots in the military.
In now-hidden personal blog posts, Chang says she has “come from a Marine family.”
In a blog post titled “Symbols of a Shared Flight” Chang uploaded pictures of a Marine Corps Recon paddle, a ceremonial item, which was purportedly given to her by a special-operations trainer.
“I do not deserve this and am verecund to be given something reserved only for the heroes I look up to,” Chang wrote in the May blog post. “Though we have the privilege of working alongside our military partners in conflict zones, we as a support community have a big needle to move before we can feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in contributing to our national security efforts.”
“I love our country deeply. It stems from the gratitude for all the opportunities our country has given to me and my family, and to so many all over the world,” Chang added. “I’m grateful … just grateful for the opportunities to continue to serve. I will work to deserve this.”
According to a Dallas Observer report in 2014, Chang said her parents worked as Salvation Army officers.
Chang sharply criticized the State Department in her resignation.
“A character assassination based solely on innuendo was launched against me attacking my credentials and character,” Chang wrote, according to Politico, which first obtained her resignation letter.
“My superiors at the Department refused to defend me, stand up for the truth or allow me to answer the false charges against me.”