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Celebrating Public Service: Mridul Gautam

Why I Serve

By: Mridul Gautam

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I serve because…

I’ve seen what happens when people who are at a disadvantage and face an uphill battle, for whatever reason, come upon an opportunity to pursue a path that allows them to achieve so much more than they might have imagined possible. My career has been in higher education and specifically in the development of research, creativity, and innovation within public institutions. Making the passage to higher education more accessible, affordable, equitable, meaningful, and achievable for all is a value I hold dearly. I also view my role as enabling our faculty to conduct internationally competitive research which will have an impact on people’s lives. Because our research enterprise is interwoven with the educational experience, this, too, immensely contributes to the development of our students. Ultimately, all of this is about the delivery of a positive and transformative impact on individuals, communities, and society.

An individual who has inspired my career in public service is my father, Om Prakash Gautam, who came from humble beginnings and went on to conduct research as a professor and Head of Agronomy at the Indian Agriculture Research Institute, where he helped build one of the world’s largest agricultural research and higher education systems (outside of the US and some other developed countries), served in the World Bank to help several countries develop their own research systems, and later served as the Director General of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research and Secretary of Agriculture in India. He came to the U.S. for his doctorate in genetics and agronomy at U.C. Berkeley, then again in mid-career to work for a few years at the World Bank. On both occasions, he could have stayed, but chose to return to India because he wanted to make a difference in a country that so deeply needed public servants willing to lend commitment, innovation, and leadership. Even when he retired from the Government of India, he was approached to consult in the private sector, but instead, he chose public service and went on to play an integral role as the Chairman of the Board for Education Consultants India Ltd., a public sector undertaking that focused on advancing all areas of education and human resource development in India and beyond. As so many others have done, he devoted his life to science and public service.

I want to recognize Fellow Betsy Fretwell for her example of community service and commitment to collaboration. She did great things as Las Vegas City Manager, during a dynamic time for a vibrant, rapidly growing city. In that role and in her current role as Vice President of Switch Cities, she always takes a phone call from the university and engages in ways to advance technologies and communities through partnerships.

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