Penn State’s India-born President honored “for embodying the diverse contributions generations of immigrants bring to this nation”
The American Immigration Council will honor Pennsylvania State University’s Indian American President Neeli Bendapudi with its Immigrant Achievement Award at a reception on April 28 in Washington, DC.
The award recognizes individuals or organizations that exhibit a commitment and dedication to America’s heritage as a nation of immigrants and to the struggle for fair and humane immigration policies in the United States.
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“For nearly 30 years, Penn State President Dr. Neeli Bendapudi’s career in higher education has been committed to student success, fostering inclusive excellence, and creating opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to thrive,” said Jeremy Robbins, executive director of the American Immigration Council.
“She is a values-driven leader who believes strongly in the transformative power of higher education and its impact on individuals and communities.”
“As an immigrant and trailblazer, she has spent years navigating the lack of diversity in leadership and the challenges confronting minority groups,” he said.
“This year we are thrilled to commemorate Dr. Bendapudi for embodying the diverse contributions generations of immigrants bring to this nation and as a testament to the enduring power of our country’s immigrant history.”
Raised in India, Bendapudi moved to the United States to pursue her doctoral studies at the University of Kansas and to launch her career as an academic leader and educator.
She is the first woman and the first person of color to serve as Penn State’s president, where she oversees the university’s modern land-grant mission of teaching, research, and public service across twenty-four campuses and the online Penn State World Campus.
“I am deeply honored to be named the recipient of this year’s Immigrant Achievement Award and equally humbled to be among such prestigious past honorees, each of whom reflects the importance and impact of immigration within our nation,” said Bendapudi.
“The United States is a nation of immigrants, and I am merely one of many who have come to this country in search of America’s ‘golden door’ to opportunity and prosperity’.”
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“As the president of one of our nation’s renowned land-grant universities, I am committed to expanding access to the transformative power of higher education for all students who are ready to learn — including those who, like me, have come to this country to seek their degrees in the hopes of building a better life for themselves and a brighter future for their families,” said Bendapudi.
“Immigration, truly, is a cornerstone of the American dream, and I am grateful to the American Immigration Council for its work to help make this dream a reality for immigrants from across the globe.”
Since assuming the role as Penn State’s president, Bendapudi has focused on five major goals for the institution, including enhancing student success; growing the University’s interdisciplinary research excellence; increasing Penn State’s land-grant impact; fostering diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging; and transforming the University’s internal operations, according to a press release.
She is guided by a commitment to academic preparedness that equips students for life-long professional and personal success, a dedication to fostering a sense of belonging for all members of the Penn State community, and a focus on access and affordability as a key component of the University’s land-grant mission.
Bendapudi was president of the University of Louisville from 2018 to 2021. Under her leadership, the university recruited its largest and most diverse freshman class, reached record enrollment levels, improved four-year graduation rates, increased annual sponsored research, improved the university’s financial stability, and stabilized its health system.
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Bendapudi has been recognized for contributions in her field and has been honored at the national and university levels. Diverse Issues in Higher Education referenced Bendapudi as one of twenty-five women “who have made a difference in the academy” (2021), Enterprising Women recognized her among a select group of women who “are making a difference in business and in the community” (2021), and Louisville Business First highlighted Bendapudi among twenty-five local leaders named to the publication’s annual list of “Most Admired CEOs” for strong leadership exhibited during a year of unprecedented challenges (2020).
Bendapudi earned her bachelor’s degree in English and MBA from Andhra University in India and her doctorate in marketing from the University of Kansas.