Ankita Kodali

Intent on being involved, student emerges as a campus leader

Ankita Kodali began Rutgers Business School-New Brunswick as a shy student who sat in the back of the room and listened quietly when she joined a campus organization.

By the second half of her sophomore year, she had served in one or two leadership positions in small student groups and accepted the role of president for the Rutgers Business School Innovation Committee (RBSIC), which works closely with the Office of Career Management. By the end of her senior year, she would be president of two other student groups.

As Ankita was breaking out of her shell, as she calls it, by taking on different opportunities, she was quietly making her mark as a student leader. This spring, as she approached the end of her senior year, she was selected as the 2021 recipient of the dean’s Distinguished Leadership Award, a recognition for the abilities she demonstrated during her time at Rutgers Business School.

Kodali said her shyness started slipping away after she pushed herself to attend a job fair. “A lot of people told me, oh, freshmen don’t get internships. I said okay, but I’m still going to go see what it’s like,” Kodali said. A month later, she was offered an internship. “That experience started to break me out of my shell,” she said.

Kodali, soft-spoken and extremely organized, (“I kind of pride myself on my Google calendar.”) studied finance and accounting as she took on different positions of leadership. She also took on a minor in economics in order to have the 150 credits required to sit for the CPA exam.

"When the opportunities came up to lead, it felt like a natural next step to say I want this organization to succeed so if that means I have to be the leader, I will.”

“Coming into college, I didn’t even see myself on an executive board (of a student organization),” she said. “I just really wanted to be involved in something.” Looking back, she finds it hard to believe she did so much.

In addition to being very active in RBSIC, she became a student worker in the Office of Career Management. She spent a week in the summer after freshman year working at the RBS Summer Business Camp. She also tutored students taking managerial accounting and cost accounting and was a teaching assistant in a financial management course.

After her sophomore year, she hopscotched across the country doing three-day leadership programs hosted by the Big Four accounting firms. (She ultimately decided to do an internship and then take a full-time job offer with Deloitte.) The same summer, she took on the daunting task of re-activating the dormant Rutgers University Business for Youth (RUBY) program.

“There had been a lot of talk about trying to restart it,” she said. “Some people had tried.”

When she approached RBS Senior Associate Dean Martin Markowitz about RUBY, he was ready to give up on the idea of re-igniting the program he had created years before to introduce underrepresented high school students to business school. “Something happened in that moment,” Kodali said, “and I said, no, we can do this.”

Kodali emailed every friend and classmate she knew with an interest in community service. As they began mobilizing, she said she began feeling more leader-like. Still, she resisted calling herself president for months. “Even though I did the groundwork of starting it, I felt we were all in it together,” she said. “It couldn’t have been done without all of the members there.”

Markowitz described Kodali as a concerned, organized, person who can multitask. "Her caring nature was apparent when she approached me to resurrect the outreach Rutgers University Business for Youth," he said. "Ankita organized everything to restart the program in a true demonstration of her  leadership abilities. This was a major undertaking she accomplished while being actively involved in other Business School organizations."

Under Kodali’s leadership, the students did successfully relaunch RUBY. As the entirely student-run program moved into its second year, 65 of the original high school students continued their participation. Another 80 high school sophomores joined.

Kodali said she never planned to be a leader as much as she intended to be active and take advantage of what RBS had to offer her. “When the opportunities came up to lead,” she said, “it felt like a natural next step to say, I want this organization to succeed so if that means I have to be the leader, I will.”’

The Distinguished Leadership Award is given annually to a student from Rutgers Business School’s undergraduate programs in Newark and New Brunswick. A third student is selected from the graduate program.

- Susan Todd

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