She had me from he-L-lo.
From the moment Neeli Bendapudi took the podium at the press conference introducing her as the newest president of the University of Louisville, she radiated enthusiasm and energy and positivity. But when she threw up the L, well, that just sealed the deal.
Bendapudi was announced as the U of L’s 18th president on April 3rd, which happened to be the 220th anniversary of the institution’s founding.
Bendapudi leaves behind deep roots at the University of Kansas, where she has served for the last several years as provost and executive vice chancellor. Her father came to KU from India to study, and Bendapudi made her way back. She did her Ph.D. work in marketing there, and she and her husband served as hosts in the then-KU Chancellor’s guest house. She went on to serve as an assistant professor of marketing at Texas A&M and a professor at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business before returning to KU once again to become dean of the business school and eventually provost and vice chancellor. Along the way, she has also consulted for companies like Procter and Gamble, Deloitte and Touche and Cessna.
After a long, tumultuous season filled with scandal and uncertainty, it’s going to take someone with moxie to take the helm of U of L and steer it towards a bright new future. Does Bendapudi have that moxie? If her introductory press conference was any indication, she does. Here’s what I saw:
People with moxie believe.
Bendapudi believes, and not with a sense of naiveté. She’s done her research, and she is well aware of the scandals that have plagued U of L. She believes in U of L. Citing the quality of the faculty, the location and the community, she said the best days for Louisville are yet to come.
“I’m a recovering banker and I know value,” said Bendapudi, likening U of L to a diamond that’s been sullied with a bit of dirt or a house that needs some work but has good bones.
Like the marketer that she is, she’s ready to sell that vision to her friends and colleagues in academia and donors around the world.
People with moxie do their work in the bright light of day.
At a meet and greet with students, Bendapudi issued an unusual command.
“Take out your cell phones. This is my personal number,” she said. She invited them to text her if they ran into challenges.
It’s something she’s done since she was dean of the business school at the University of Kansas. She’s setting an early tone as a transparent leader who is tuned in to the concerns of students.
That’s important as U of L continues to clean up in the wake of scandals where murky dealings muddied the waters and made boundaries and relationships unclear.
People with moxie have energy.
David Grissom, chairman of the University of Louisville’s board, said he was worn out after interviewing Bendapudi.
“When she left the room, we were all exhausted,” he joked in an interview with the Courier-Journal. “She’s very dynamic and has a passion.”
People with moxie might exhaust you, but in the best possible way. Their energy tends to charge up those around them, and push them to shine and little brighter and work a little harder. Bendapudi brings that kind of energy, and it’s exciting to consider the possibilities when she’s fully plugged in to the University community.
I’m hoping to get a chance to sit down and talk with Bendapudi in the near future. If you had a chance to talk with Bendapudi, what would you ask?