Indian American brand and digital marketing expert Rupal Gadhia returns to her alma mater, Harvard Business School (HBS) in October as the next managing director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid.
In her new role, Gadhia (MBA 2004), will partner with a variety of internal and external stakeholders including current HBS students, alumni, faculty, and administrators, the Boston based top business school announced.
She will oversee an admissions process that aims to deliver a high-quality, MBA class with wide-ranging talents and experiences. She is also tasked with building upon previous efforts to increase access and affordability and remove financial barriers for applicants and students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, according to a news release.
Gadhia’s post-HBS career began in brand management with Sara Lee and Campbell Soup Company, followed by a move to Booz & Co as a management consultant.
Leveraging her passion for brand and consulting, she joined the Brand Union, managing North American strategy and research for consumer and corporate clients and was recruited to Interbrand to lead the relationship for two of their largest clients.
In 2017 she was recruited to Genpact as global vice president of brand and digital marketing and helped guide the company through a brand transformation, leading a global team made up of the creative, editorial, talent marketing, digital, social, and brand groups.
In her most recent role, Gadhia was senior vice president and global head of marketing for SharkNinja’s robots and home environment categories, where she was focused on bringing new innovations to market.
“We are thrilled to have Rupal take on this pivotal role at this pivotal time, when the need for leaders of competence and character has never been greater,” said Matt Weinzierl, senior associate dean and chair of the MBA program.
“Her authentic belief in—and experience with—the transformational experience of the HBS MBA, combined with her superb analytical, marketing, and strategic skills, will inspire the world’s most promising young leaders to join the HBS MBA community of which she has been such an engaged and active member.”
“Returning to HBS in this role is the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Gadhia. “The School had such a profound impact on my life and career that leading the admissions effort was the unquestioned next step for me.”
“Business, and business leaders, are integral to solving the world’s most pressing issues, including significant global macroeconomic, social, and political challenges” said Jana Pompadur Kierstead, executive director of the MBA program. “Through her work Rupal can ensure that our MBA program is accessible to all and grow the pipeline of leaders who will one day make a difference in the world.”
Gadhia succeeds Chad Losee (MBA 2013), who had headed the School’s MBA admissions and financial aid office since
Gadhia’s parents were in Uganda when Idi Amin was in power and left Africa as refugees and settled down in Rochester, New York. Gadhia was born and raised in Rochester.
“I spent my weekdays in public school as one of the only Indian kids in the classroom and my weekends surrounded by Indian families that were like family to me—because my real grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles were continents away,” she recalled in an interview published by HBS.
“I was born to Indian parents and was given two choices for a career: a doctor or an engineer. You can imagine the conversation when I told my parents I thought my calling was interior decorating. That did not go over well!” Gadhia said
“So, I picked the shortest path and became an engineer to check that box. After graduating and working as an engineer for a year, I went to HBS, where most of my elective classes were in marketing and social enterprise,” she said.
“Upon graduation, I was torn between working in social enterprise or brand management—so I called my mentor and asked her for advice. She told me to first get some skills that could actually benefit a nonprofit. That led me to Sara Lee and the Campbell Soup Company in marketing/brand management,” Gadhia said.
Asked what she saw as the greatest opportunity for MBA Admissions, Gadhia said, “I’m very excited about the opportunities ahead. Younger generations are contemplating the benefit of the MBA, so we have to showcase how the HBS MBA can provide students with the skills, relationships, and opportunities that can help them throughout every chapter of their career.”
“We also have the opportunity to excite prospective students about the important role that business is playing in addressing some of society’s most complex problems. There are so many examples to point to in terms of faculty research and initiatives and ventures being led by students and alumni,” she said.
“And while there is a lot of scrutiny on college admissions these days, I am confident that we can maintain our community values of being respectful and accountable to the law while continuing to strive for the diversity and inclusion that is so critical to educating leaders who will make a difference in the world,” Gadhia said.