Introducing CASE Scholar Utkarsha Bhardwaj

Utkarsha Bhardwaj

Since childhood, I have been most passionate about exploring and solving the multi-faceted problems encountered by millions in a developing country like India. This is because I have always been around inspiring people who work together to address societal problems and, in the process, contribute to each other’s success. These interactions and experiences have shaped me as an individual and have helped me understand that by building and maximizing human relationships, one can create an impact where it truly matters.

Before coming to Fuqua, I worked as a Strategy and Policy Advisor to Mr. Devender Singh Rana, a three-time legislator representing the Nagrota constituency in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly. Here, I identified and diagnosed different problems and tried to address them by engaging the youth from the community.

However, my journey in the social impact domain started with Swaniti Initiative, an India-based nonprofit social enterprise, where I worked for three and a half years. At Swaniti, I worked with Parliamentarians and policymakers to design and deliver solutions that would strengthen the last-mile delivery of development initiatives for the low-income population. I also had the opportunity to work on multiple projects benefiting more than 5 million people across client locations. An interesting component of my job was that I got to explore so many different places, including local food and culture, because I traveled all over the country. Being an avid traveler and ardent food lover, I could not have asked for anything more.

My work also left me with some humbling experiences. In 2016, I helped provide cooking gas connections to marginalized women in a tribal village. Alka, one of the tribal women, invited me to her small mud hut for lunch to express her gratitude. She thanked me because she didn’t have to inhale firewood smoke anymore. The joy on her face while she serving me fish was priceless, especially considering she went hungry most nights. Instances like these convince me that the opportunity to contribute to the upliftment of underserved communities is unparalleled and I derive happiness from making a positive difference in other people’s lives.

Before my journey into the social impact domain, I worked as a Business Technology Associate with ZS Associates. I hold a B.T. in Computer Science from the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi.

Why Fuqua?

My interest in Fuqua boils down to three key components: 1) the “Team Fuqua” community spirit, 2) the resources available to further my career in social impact space and 3) the opportunity to apply my classroom learnings in an unfamiliar real-world environment.

When I spoke to Udit Anand (Class of 2018) and understood the principles of supportive ambition and authentic engagement that are completely ingrained in the Fuqua culture, I knew that I wanted to attend Fuqua because it offers a community where I can do more than just learn and self-reflect. I can also contribute in a significant manner. The fact that each individual believes in the principles associated with “Team Fuqua” and lives them throughout their life is just inspiring and I am convinced that this is the school where I want to spend the next two years.

Moreover, I wish to continue my journey in the social impact space and I cannot be in a better place than Fuqua to pursue those goals. After all, this is the school where Professor Greg Dees helped define the term “social entrepreneurship” and which houses the Center for the Advancement for Social Entrepreneurship (CASE), one of the world’s best social impact education centers. Researching further and finding more about activities, such as the Business and Social Impact Conference and Fuqua on Board, convinced me that, at Fuqua, I would be able to engage with thought leaders and learn the best practices in the sector.

Lastly, considering the fact that this will be my first classroom experience in business education, I also want to apply these concepts to the social impact sector in the real world through the Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum and the Duke Interdisciplinary Social Innovators program. In the process, I will gain a global perspective on how business principles can be applied to the issues of scale, strategic management and sustainability encountered by social enterprises, public sector entities and foundations.

What impact do you hope your Fuqua education will allow you to have on the world?

Thus far, I have had the opportunity to explore issues at the intersection of government and society. At Fuqua, I will learn the key business principles, such as decision models and return on investment, and how they align with my goal to create social impact for underserved communities. Obtaining a business education is extremely important because I have seen how social enterprises falter at different stages because of the lack of business acumen or absence of good strategies to expand operations. A Fuqua MBA would help me hone these required skills and build stronger business acumen.

Moreover, I wish to gain a global perspective on social impact and this is one of the main reasons why I decided to study outside India, my home country. The opportunity to sit in a Fuqua classroom with peers from across the globe who represent different cultural and professional backgrounds and have done amazing things in the social impact space will be extremely helpful. It will provide me with the opportunity to learn more innovative approaches to create an impact at scale.

By being a part of “Team Fuqua,” I will have a platform to constantly learn and self-reflect, which will help me further strengthen the Fuqua legacy, created by so many Fuquans before me, and work towards my goal of delivering sustainable social impact for countless underserved communities in India and elsewhere.

Share one of your 25 facts from your application essay.

An extremely untalented singer, I once won the award for the worst rendition of the Arabian Nights theme song. Yes, I sang it in front of more than 200 people. (Thanks to our amazing Orientation co-chair, Sam Klein, this number has now increased to more than 450. During orientation, he asked me to come on stage and sing out this classic in my melodious voice.)

Duke’s Fuqua School of Business offers scholarships each year to individuals with social sector backgrounds who are looking to acquire business skills for use in their pursuit of social impact. The CASE Social Sector Scholarship brings in amazing students who add a richness to the Fuqua student body and bring their unique perspectives to the classroom. We are proud to announce our newest CASE Scholars. You can read about our other scholars here.