University of Louisville Magazine

SUM 2018

The University of Louisville Alumni Magazine: for alumni, faculty, staff, students and anyone that is a UofL Cardinal fan.

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Page 39 of 75

The University of Louisville's new president thrives on person- al connections. "I just love people," she said. "In this job that helps me. It's a good job for somebody who enjoys interacting with many differ- ent kinds of people." Bendapudi was named Uof L's president in April, and with the announcement came a sense of forward motion. She sees part of her role as president as re-energizing the students, faculty, staff, alumni and community who believe in Uof L. It's not just social interaction that boosts Bendapudi's effer- vescence, it's her dedication to making sure anyone she engages becomes the best version of themselves. "It's about getting people to see the possibility, getting people to give each other the benefit of the doubt, and to realize that we're all here to serve a very noble purpose," she said. "In higher education, there's a sense that we're do- ing something that impacts the future. We don't know the student we're educating today, what they will go on and do; we don't know the professor we're support- ing today, what great discoveries they'll make. There's that sense of possibility and that sense of excitement, and to me, we will be lifted up when we have that strong sense of why we're all here together." LIFELONG LEARNING Neeli Bendapudi realized the value of education at an early age. "I really believe in the transformative power of higher education," she said. "It's part of my own family story, and so many others' stories." Her story began in Visakhapatnam, a coastal city in southeast India. When she was five, her father traveled to the United States to further his education and make a better life for his family. Her mother stayed in India with Bendapudi and her two sisters. When her father returned to India after four years in America, he began teaching and her mother — while raising three girls — went back to school to earn her own doctorate. So perhaps it's no surprise that Bendapudi followed her parents into the education field. "When I was very little, I would play school," she said. "Even when I was young, I had a very deep love and deep conviction that this is what I wanted to do." When she was 20, her father introduced her to one of his stu- dents, Venkat Bendapudi. Venkat gave her books about education, women and women's rights, and she was smitten. The couple were married three months later and have supported each other as they worked their way through graduate degrees, doctorates and professional careers. The couple has one daugh- ter, Sirisha. Early on, Sirisha Bendapudi saw the empha- sis her mother placed on ed- ucation. "My mom always made learning feel like so much fun," she said. "She used to make up tests for me to take as a reward. Six-year-old Sirisha would beg her for another math test because I was just so excited to know more about the world. That's all her doing. Without a doubt, her intellec- tual curiosity and love of learning is always an inspiration." After earning her undergraduate degree and MBA in India, Bendapudi came to the United States to earn her doctorate at the University of Kansas. She went on to teach marketing at Texas A&M and The Ohio State University and spent two years in the private sec- tor before returning to Kansas as business school dean in 2011. Bendapudi was made provost and executive vice chancellor of Kansas in 2016. She became famous at Kansas when, as pro- vost, she provided her personal cell phone number to the entire T here's an undeniable energy that follows Neeli Bendapudi wherever she goes. Everyone who meets her notices it. You feel it the second she walks into a room, greeting as many people as she can with a handshake, a hello and a huge smile. You feel it when she's snapping selfies with students for them to share on Twitter. The leader's job at every level is to look at the people reporting to you and say, 'Am I doing everything I can to make you be your best, and do your best and live up to your potential?' 38 UOFLMAGAZINE.COM

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