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P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans

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Five Questions with Entrepreneur and Newly Appointed Northwestern Trustee Samir Mayekar (2011 Fellow)

  • samir mayekar

Samir Mayekar’s summer started with news that his lithium battery startup, SiNode Systems, would receive a $4 million contract with the United States Advanced Battery Consortium. The summer ended with the news that he had been appointed to Northwestern University’s board of trustees. For Samir, a 32 year old Chicago-based entrepreneur, it’s been a good summer.

After working for the Obama presidential campaign in 2008 and later the Obama White House, Samir co-founded SiNode Systems in 2012. He serves as the company’s CEO.   

Here’s what Samir had to say about his newest role:

1. What perspective do you bring to Northwestern’s board of trustees?

It is an honor to serve on the board of trustees of my alma mater, an organization which transformed my life. Via Northwestern I met my wife, made best friends, founded a technology company, and landed a job on President Obama’s campaign in 2008 which led to the White House. I bring four major perspectives to the board of trustees. First and most importantly is the lens of an alumni volunteer. As the President-elect of the Northwestern Alumni Association, my role is to represent the over 200,000 alumni around the world. Secondly is the perspective of an entrepreneur. I started a company while finishing my MBA and understand the opportunities and challenges faced by students and alumni seeking to build companies or nonprofits with a nexus to Northwestern. Third, as a “young alum,” I will represent the perspective of young alumni whose engagement with the University is critical to our future success.  Finally, as a New American, I will bring empathy to the issues faced by immigrants and other minority groups in the context of higher education. 

2. Looking back, what stands out to you most about your education at Northwestern?

The curriculum at Northwestern enables and encourages experimentation, and my deepest learnings were born from classes unrelated to my degree. An advanced choreography class tested my physical abilities and taught me the importance of improvisation, a Russian literature course changed the way I read and interpret books, and an innovation lab connected me with future business partners. 

3. How did your appointment to the board come about?

I have served as an alumni leader with the Northwestern Alumni Association for 10 years, and this year I was elected President-elect of the organization. As the President-elect I serve as an ex-officio member of the board of trustees. 

4. Are there any issues that you’re hoping to champion as a trustee?

Access to higher education is an area for which I have great passion. Northwestern has made significant investments in boosting financial aid for students and has expressed a goal of having 20 percent of the entering class be Pell-eligible by 2020. I look forward to assisting in any way possible to help achieve that goal. 

Additionally, as President-elect of the Alumni Association, alumni engagement is a major focus for me.  Universities in the social media era face new challenges and opportunities in connecting with their alumni base, and as a trustee I will champion initiatives to help broaden the Northwestern-alumni connection and deepen the engagement between members of the Northwestern alumni community. 

5. What’s the one thing that visitors to Northwestern’s campus have to see?

When you visit Evanston, make sure to go for a walk on the lakefront path on campus. You will see the vastness of Lake Michigan along with a highlight of Northwestern’s diverse architecture. That walk sealed my decision to attend Northwestern many years ago.