Neeli Bendapudi, the Indian American president of Penn State University, will receive this year's prestigious Immigrant Achievement Award for her contributions to higher education in the US.
The award is presented each year to an individual or organisation that exhibits a commitment and dedication to America's heritage as a nation of immigrants and advocacy for humane immigration policy.
The award would be presented to 59-year-old Bendapudi at the DC Immigrant Achievement Awards reception on April 28, according to a statement.
For nearly 30 years, Penn State President Dr 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.
Terming her a "values-driven" leader, Robbins said Bendapudi 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. 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,” Robbins said.
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 colour to serve as Penn State’s president, where she oversees the university’s modern land-grant mission of teaching, research, and public service across 24 campuses and the online Penn State World Campus.
Bendapudi said she was deeply honoured 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 the US.
"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,” Bendapudi said.
“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.
"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,” she said.
Bendapudi, who was president of the University of Louisville from 2018 to 2021, has been recognised for contributions in her field and has been honoured at the national and university levels.
Diverse Issues in Higher Education referenced Bendapudi as one of the 25 women “who have made a difference in the academy” (2021).
Enterprising Women recognised her among a select group of women who “are making a difference in business and in the community” (2021), and Louisville Business First named Bendapudi among 25 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.
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