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Member Spotlight on Meeta Kothare

Meeta is a truly International woman, with a global perspective in all of the work she does.  We caught up with Meeta recently and asked how she heard about, and came to join the women philanthropists of Impact Austin.

“In 2005, Melissa Gray sent me an invitation to a membership coffee in the neighborhood. It couldn’t have come at a better time. I had recently given up my job as a finance professor at the McCombs School at UT, and had been thinking about how to put my skills to use in a way that allowed me more time with my young family. Little did I know then that not only would I become a member of Impact Austin, but that it would soon turn into a full time job! The best one I ever had!”

Meeta joined the Education Focus Area Committee (FAC) that year. The following year she chaired the Health and Wellness committee and joined the Impact Austin Board as Director of Operations & Strategy.

“It was a working board that did everything. We did not have a separate operational organization. As the board began to focus more on governance and we separated operations, I became VP of operations while also remaining VP of the board. I did a stint as Board President before ending my term in 2010. Last year, I was on the Grants Innovation Committee and I continue to serve as an informal advisor from time to time,” Meeta said.

What do you do in your non-volunteer career?

“I own a management consulting firm, Neeva Solutions, through which I assist nonprofits in a range of capacity building efforts. I have also returned to my roots in academia as an adjunct professor at UT. I teach a graduate level finance course at the LBJ School of Public Affairs that deals with financial innovation in the social sector, and am in the process of developing other courses at UT. It is the perfect marriage between my past and current lives.”

What other nonprofits do you volunteer with?

“I engage with many nonprofits through my consulting, occasionally doing pro bono work. I served on the Mayor’s Task Force on Aging. I am currently working on increasing Asian American representation on nonprofit boards in our community. I also teach a leadership class for nonprofit leaders and volunteers at the Texas Association for Nonprofit Organizations (TANO).”

We have heard that you have an “Impact Austin Family!” Tell us a little about them.

“I emigrated from India thirty years ago, the first in my very large extended family to venture more than a couple of hundred miles from Mumbai. Most of them still live there. I live in Austin with my husband, Rajiv, and my daughters, Sonali and Maya, who are carrying on the family tradition of community service and philanthropy.

Maya, my high school junior, is the current vice president of Girls Giving Grants (g3). Sonali is in college now, but she too held leadership positions at g3 during her high school years, and continues to be active in the community.”

What is the most important thing you have learned by being an Impact Austin member and what is your favorite thing you have done with the organization?

“Growing up in India, I had witnessed extreme poverty and deprivation that have no parallel in the U.S. I found it hard to understand why folks with running water, electricity, free education - things that I at times did not have in my childhood - should need services. It was through Impact Austin that I was able to see the needs of our community up close and why we needed to address them. I realized that unless every one of us has the opportunity to become a productive member of society, we not only fail those in need, but we are all worse off eventually. It’s a lesson I try to convey to my friends and especially to my students. Young minds want to change the world, but that world must include home.”

“I think the most fun part for me at Impact Austin was being surrounded by smart, caring women with whom I had the good fortune to work on some very complex issues as the organization was growing. My interactions with them and my friendships with them continue to nourish me to this day.”

What would people find surprising to learn about you?

“Because of my profession, people assume that I am a numbers person, but very few know the artsy side of me. I especially love calligraphy, an interest I developed when I was very young. I wasn’t quite four when I entered Kindergarten in an English language school in Mumbai even though I did not know a word of English. I was supposed to join pre-K, but that class was full and the principal told my parents that I was so tall that I would fit in better with the older girls! In the beginning, I would come home crying every day because I did not understand what the teacher was saying. My brother, who was seven at the time, said to me one day that the only way to learn English was to keep writing out the alphabet over and over again. I believed him. My mother did not speak much English then, so she focused on teaching me math in our native language, Marathi. By the end of the year, I had won the class prizes in Math and Handwriting - neither one needed a knowledge of English! Both would become my interests later on.”

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