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Urmila Venkatesh

Urmila Venkatesh

Assistant Dean of Career Education & Associate Director of Career Communities - PhDs & Postdocs in Social & Natural Sciences

Tell us something interesting about your background?
I've lived in four different countries before I turned 21. This privileged opportunity, coupled with being raised by immigrant parents, are my foundation for appreciating the diversity of experiences of our students and postdocs. Each of these different perspectives holds deep wisdom and useful tools - everything from a well-calibrated inner compass to a unique combination of strengths. I help our student and postdocs surface this invisible toolkit, so that they can tell compelling stories of past experience, chart many possible futures, and make the most of the present moment.

What has led you to your current role?
Raised in an academic family, the campus was my backyard. I developed an early love and appreciation for the people and purpose of academia. I took a different route, first training in architecture and photography, and then working in the labor movement, graduate education, and communications. I draw from these experiences, along with lessons from design thinking, appreciative inquiry, and social justice movements, in my current (dream!) job: supporting graduate and postdoctoral scholars in their career exploration in and beyond academia. My work centers on a commitment to show our students and postdocs that no matter where they land, they are highly skilled, brilliant, thoughtful - and often undertapped - agents of meaningful change.

In your spare time, what do you enjoy doing?
I love asking questions. I love asking people what they’ve done, what they’ve learned, and who they are now. I also love to draw, visit beautiful buildings, sing karaoke, make new friends and appreciate old ones, and sing in harmony with others. But send me to a desert island with only one hobby, and I would choose asking questions. Every time.