Editor's note: This spring, Penn State President-elect Neeli Bendapudi is traveling the commonwealth as part of a listening and learning tour to meet and engage in conversation with students, faculty, staff and community members at each Penn State campus.
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — Penn State President-elect Neeli Bendapudi visited Penn State Lehigh Valley on Monday, April 18, as part of her listening tour to meet with students, faculty and staff across Penn State’s campuses.
During her tour stop, Bendapudi met in three separate town hall-style sessions with staff and faculty, community partners (including advisory board members, alumni, and government and business leaders) and students. In addition, she was given a tour of the recently expanded campus by Chancellor Tina Q. Richardson.
After being given a raucous ovation by the campus community upon her arrival just after 1 p.m., Bendapudi began her first session with a note of thanks.
“Oh my gosh, I could get used to that type of welcome. I’m really overwhelmed with joy and gratitude to be here with you today,” said Bendapudi, who spent the morning hours meeting the campus community at Penn State Berks. She traveled to the campus with her husband, Venkat Bendapudi, as well as Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff Michael Wade Smith, Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses Kelly Austin, and Assistant Vice President for University Development Tina Hennessey.
According to Bendapudi, the Commonwealth Campuses were among the primary reasons she came to Penn State. In the years to come, she plans to make campus retention and growth significant priorities for the University, so that it can truly reflect its status as a land grant institution that is all about social mobility and giving everyone the opportunity to receive a first-rate education, no matter their background.
“In order for us to live out our land-grant promise, we need to emphasize the campuses. There’s no other school like Penn State in the whole country. This is a unique model, and that’s why I’m here,” Bendapudi said. “We have global aspirations, but our focus should be right here.”
In addition, Bendapudi discussed her personal ABCs – academic preparedness, a sense of belonging, and cost of attendance. Those, she said, entail everything from being more technologically nimble in course delivery to helping students feel like they’re fully part of their campus community to making tuition as affordable as possible.
She also stressed the importance of the University’s Continuing Education efforts, which provide professionals with the chance to “re-skill and up-skill.” And she made it a point to emphasize the partnerships that campuses forge with their local business communities, as PSU-LV has done through its Lehigh Valley LaunchBox powered by Penn State.
“The more we can show students that they can stay right here in their own backyard and make a great living, the more it benefits all of us,” Bendapudi said. “I give you my word of honor – I will put my heart and soul into this.”
Bendapudi will begin her tenure as Penn State’s 19th president on May 9. With a nearly 30-year career in academia, Bendapudi previously served as president of the University of Louisville. Among her leadership experiences, she also has served as provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas, dean of the School of Business at the University of Kansas, and founding director of the Initiative for Managing Services at the Ohio State University.
In addition to consulting for some of the world’s largest companies and organizations, Bendapudi was the executive vice president and chief customer officer for Huntington National Bank. With a research background in the study of consumer behavior in service contexts, she has taught marketing at a variety of higher education institutions and been recognized for her leadership, academic and teaching accomplishments. Bendapudi earned her bachelor’s degree in English and MBA from Andhra University in India and her doctorate in marketing from the University of Kansas.