P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans


Keerthana Hogirala, 2024

MBA/MPP, University of Chicago

Keerthana Hogirala is an immigrant from India

Fellowship awarded to support work towards an MBA/MPP in Business Administration and Public Policy at University of Chicago

Keerthana Hogirala was born in Tirupati, India and immigrated to the United States with her parents and younger brother when she was six. From the outset, her parents worked long hours through multiple jobs to maintain the employment and finances required to extend their immigration and keep their family secure in their new home. To alleviate some of the pressure her parents felt, Keerthana took on responsibilities for her family’s well-being and her and her brother’s education from an early age. After over a decade of persistent effort, uncertainty, and anxiety, her family finally gained citizenship. This experience taught Keerthana to take nothing for granted, always be prepared for the unknown, and do something meaningful with the opportunities her parents made possible for her.  

That last motivator in particular pushed Keerthana to study neuroscience at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign where she focused on child development, trauma-informed care, and social welfare. She also led Volunteer Illini Projects, one of the largest student-run, student-staffed volunteer organizations in the country, and helped scale local non-profits serving marginalized populations. Eventually, during field research for her senior thesis, she realized she felt far more energized and hopeful about working directly with children than pursuing academia.  

After graduating, Keerthana became a special education teacher for early childhood students at a Title 1 school in the District of Columbia Public Schools (DC Public Schools). She was confronted daily with the structural failures that prevented her vulnerable students from receiving necessary wraparound supports. To develop systems-level solutions for students, she transitioned to DC Public Schools’ central administration to work for the chief operating officer. 

In central administration, Keerthana was one of the core leaders managing DC schools’ COVID-19 pandemic response, overall operations, and eventual city-wide school reopening. To meet the city's urgent needs during an unprecedented crisis, she introduced innovative new approaches system-wide in operations, strategy, design, and technology. This led to her subsequent role as chief of staff for the chief technology officer where she oversaw the school system's technology strategy, data governance, and multi-year digital transformation initiative.  

Building off her professional experiences, Keerthana is pursuing an MBA and MPP dual degree at the University of Chicago to explore how technology and cross-sector collaboration can be leveraged to create effective, integrated systems of essential services. Her hope is to address critical public needs and advance social development, particularly for underserved populations. In recognition of her commitment to public service and leadership, Keerthana was one of three full-time students selected by the Booth School of Business to be a Neubauer Civic Scholar and given a full-tuition merit scholarship to pursue her MBA. Within the Harris School of Public Policy, she is a Harris Merit Scholar and the sole recipient of the Knas Family Scholarship which together awarded her a 90% tuition merit scholarship to pursue her MPP. Outside of school, she is a member of Leadership Now Project, a government advisor for US Digital Response, a Chicago fellow at New Leaders Council, and a long-time supporter of progressive political and advocacy campaigns.  

  • BS Neuroscience | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 2016
  • MBA Business Administration | University of Chicago
  • MPP Public Policy | University of Chicago
  • Neubauer Civic Scholar, Booth School of Business
  • Knas Family Scholarship, Harris School of Public Policy
  • Chicago Fellow, New Leaders Council
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