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Neeli Bendapudi has been named the new President of Penn State. Photo credit: Michelle Bixby/Penn State.
Neeli Bendapudi has been named the new President of Penn State. Photo credit: Michelle Bixby/Penn State.

Penn State names Neeli Bendapudi as its new President

She will be the first woman and person of color in the role when she starts in the spring 2022 semester. 

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On Thursday, Dec. 9, Penn State announced that Neeli Bendapudi would become the university’s next president.

She is the first woman and first person of color to be appointed president in the university’s 166-year history. She will be replacing Eric J. Barron, who announced he will be retiring after more than 30 years at Penn State in various roles, including serving as president since 2014. 

Bendapudi is a seasoned leader in higher education with nearly 30 years experience in academia, and specializes in marketing and consumer behavior. 

In 2018, she was appointed president of the University of Louisville. In this role, she helped bring in more diverse students, balance the school’s finances, and got corporate and donor support for university initiatives. These successes are part of the reason why she was selected by Penn State.

Penn State’s satellite schools have seen enrollment drop nearly 30% in the last 20 years. This is in stark contrast to the main campus, whose numbers are up.  

Her time at the University of Louisville wasn’t all smooth sailing, however, and she has been caught in a few controversies. Most have revolved around the athletics department. 

Most recently, an article in the Courier-Journal critiqued her handling of the then-potential resignation of athletic director, Vince Tyra. The article hit on the fact that when she became the University’s president she pledged to be transparent with her decisions. However, she was silent when questions arose as to why Tyra was let out of the non-compete and 30-day notice clauses in his contract. 

This controversy is very fresh in the minds of those at the University of Louisville since it has been unfolding in the days leading up to and after Penn State announced its decision. 

Prior to joining Louisville, Bendapudi taught at Ohio University and Texas A&M University, before heading to the University of Kansas as the dean and H.D. Price professor of the business school. 

Bendapudi was born and raised in India, where she earned both a bachelor’s degree in English and master’s in business administration from Andhra University, in Visakhapatnam, India. She then moved to the states and attended the University of Kansas, where she earned her Ph.D. in marketing. 

In addition to her achievements in academic leadership, she has also published research on consumer behavior. The specific topic was “customers’ willingness to maintain long-term relationships with firms and with the brands and employees that represent them.” This research has been published in prominent journals, such as the Harvard Business Review. 

She also sits on the boards of several nonprofit organizations and is a member of the International Women’s Forum.  

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