An exceptional match
Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson June 01, 2023
Couple from India found what they were looking for in UD and Lerner College
The lives of Double Dels Urvashi Jain and Neetek Kumar did not seem on track to end up in Newark, Delaware.
But life is full of the unexpected, and they graduated this spring from the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, Jain with her MBA in business analytics and strategic leadership, and Kumar with his in business analytics.
A lot has happened since they moved from India to northern Delaware to pursue their degrees. They got married (in Iowa, and also in another ceremony in India), resurrected the dormant MBA Student Association at Lerner, coached undergraduates, helped other international students adjust to campus, and even got in some traveling (notching four countries in a two-year span, Jain said).
Going to UD, Kumar said, “was one of the most important decisions I’ve made in my life. I’m really happy about it.”
Jain is direct and outgoing, Kumar more reserved. They complement each other well and have good leadership skills, said Andrea Hartman, their academic adviser. “They’re both very ambitious and have tenacity,” Hartman said. “I think that whatever they end up doing as a career, they’re going to be really successful at it.”
Jain wants to be a CEO someday, the public face of a company and making key decisions. “I really admire Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo,” Jain said.
Jain described herself as the kind of person who wants to do everything – she’s not only trained as a lawyer, but has a black belt in karate and a diploma in classical Indian dance, among other pursuits.
Kumar said he is aiming to build a career in analytics but is flexible on which particular branch of the field he ends up in.
From India to Delaware
UD caught their attention when they were an engaged couple living in India, seeking a new start.
Jain had practiced law in India, then came to the U.S. to study law at the University of Georgia. Kumar had a degree in fashion technology, and after working in merchandising shifted to working as a business consultant in technology.
While she was in Georgia, Jain endured a painful time, dealing with searing grief after her father died in an accident. She earned her degree, but had to return to India before she could pass the bar exam in the U.S. In India, she said, it’s difficult for first-generation lawyers to break into the trade.
It gave her a chance to reflect on her career path, and she decided against continuing in law.
Jain and Kumar eventually settled on pursuing MBAs in the United States. UD shot to the top of their list for several reasons.
They weren’t fixated on attending the same university, Jain said, because, “We never thought we would actually be getting an admission in the same college.”
They both took part in the MBA Tour, an event connecting college recruiters with prospective students, and were impressed with their meeting with Denise Waters, Lerner’s director of recruitment and admissions. Jain had already reached out to Waters, and got a handwritten note in reply laying out potential scholarships. It was a personal touch Jain still remembers.
UD made financial sense for both of them, including the affordable cost of living in the area and the price of tuition. They also liked that UD is close to large cities like New York, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, places with good job opportunities.
After analysis, UD was the best option, Kumar said.
And when they got to Newark, they wanted to make the most of the experience.
An impact on campus
At Lerner’s Convocation on May 22, Jain was recognized with the MBA Alumni Leadership Award for going above and beyond in her efforts at the University. (This award is not presented every year; only when a student is deemed exceptional enough to merit it.)
It’s a formal recognition of the way she has embraced student life. She and Kumar have been very active.
Until her recent graduation, Jain served as the president of the MBA Student Association, and Kumar as the vice president.
It was a defunct association until they got here, derailed by COVID and never restarted.
Jain was the one who spearheaded the effort, Kumar said.
She noticed something missing, she said — an opportunity for graduate students to network and socialize. “I was really craving for some social activities,” Jain said. Her chance came when she connected with administration while serving as a career coach, and raised the idea of filling this need.
When administrators mentioned the association. “I was like, yeah, why not?” Jain said, surprising them a little with her willingness to take it on.
“She stepped right up and did everything that we asked her to do,” said Amy Estey, the adviser for the MBA Student Association, calling Jain’s initiative impressive.
The networking group meets regularly, including a First Friday event every month with free food.
“You can talk, network, make connections, talk to the faculty members, and just have fun,” Kumar said.
They also organized a food drive for Thanksgiving, and worked on starting a professional development speaker series. As part of that, Jain served as a moderator in a “fireside chat” with outgoing dean Bruce Weber.
Jain can get a little nervous about events like that, although you wouldn’t know it, Hartman said. “I think Urvashi did a phenomenal job … I was very proud of her.”
Other highlights for Jain and Kumar have included helping with research, serving as graduate assistants, and helping other students. As a career coach, Jain was able to help undergraduates work on their resumes and cover letters and train for interviews. They also both took part in a mentorship program, helping international students adjust to life in a new culture, find housing, connect with campus activities, and even learn where the grocery stores are and how to get to them.
Help is all around at UD, Jain said. “I love the people and the culture here. The culture is very inclusive.” All she needed to do was ask, and people pointed her in the right direction.
“UD has a great community, and international community as well,” she said.
Kumar said he’ll always cherish his experience here. “I think (the) opportunities which I received from the University are impeccable and unmatchable.”