AKHIL IYER was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. His parents, who emigrated from India, taught him the importance of giving back to the nation that gave them so much. This fostered Akhil’s initial passion to pursue military service, which grew further as he learned about the great examples of leadership set by ancient warriors from Hindu mythology. So did events of 9/11, after which Akhil witnessed his Indian-American community come together to help raise funds for New York City firefighters. These experiences led Akhil to enroll in ROTC while studying at Stanford University.
In college, Akhil was exposed to the nation’s civil-military divide and the role that he and his fellow ROTC students could have in helping to bridge that gap. One of Akhil’s most memorable experiences was his involvement in campus and faculty discussions on reinstating on-campus ROTC at Stanford. During his undergraduate studies in international relations and Arabic, Akhil also researched the challenges of crafting comprehensive solutions to national security problems through Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation as well as the Hoover Institute.
After graduating, Akhil was fortunate to work with a remarkable group of Marines, Sailors and Soldiers while serving as a Marine Corps infantry officer and special operations team commander. Through his deployments, Akhil also began to recognize the need to better connect private sector expertise and technologies with front-line operators tackling evolving threats. As a joint degree candidate at Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School, Akhil hopes to foster this connection as he continues to give back to the nation in ways that transcend the uniform. Currently, Akhil is exploring issues surrounding technology, innovation and civil-military relations as a Black Family Fellow with Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, as well as the Pat Tillman Foundation.