Sandhiya Karunagaran (BBA ’18) strives to be an inclusive, authentic leader—someone who influences others through personal engagement, based on their own core beliefs and values. She has given this a lot of thought over the past four years at the Wisconsin School of Business.
On December 16, she’ll celebrate commencement alongside roughly 1,300 University of Wisconsin–Madison undergraduates in the Kohl Center. As she completes her BBA with majors in actuarial science and risk management & insurance, she’s eager to discover how her focus on leadership as a student will affect her success in the real world.
Karunagaran will graduate with both an undergraduate degree and a certificate from the Accenture Leadership Center (ALC). Earning that additional credential required extra classroom work, 40 hours of volunteering, 20 hours of experiential learning, special workshops, and a capstone essay. It was worth it, she says.
“Leadership is super important no matter where you go, especially in the business world. Through my experience with all these activities, I definitely have grown so much as a leader and as a person in general,” says Karunagaran.
She measures her growth in many ways, including her ability to trust others and delegate.
“I used to micromanage tasks or do most of the work myself, because I was either afraid to give others too much responsibility or I just wanted things done my way. I now realize that those are the qualities of a poor leader. My focus has shifted to the growth and development of all my team members, not just my own or the organization’s. Good leaders don’t create followers. They create more leaders.”
A native of Malaysia, Karunagaran knew she wanted to study actuarial science, so she went looking for universities with highly regarded programs. She found her way to Madison, and is the first in her family to travel so far around the globe—it takes more than 24 hours to get home for a visit—for a college education.
She traveled even further to complete her civic engagement requirement, teaching English with a nongovernmental organization in Córdoba, Argentina, for six weeks. In addition to learning more about the local culture, lifestyle, and economy, she formed close bonds with other volunteers from all over the world. Next month, she will bring that wealth of experience to her new job as an actuarial consultant with Deloitte Consulting in Chicago.
“When I start, I obviously will not be holding leadership positions right away, but leadership is not positional. I can be a leader by showcasing good values, encouraging and inspiring others, and being a good team player,” says Karunagaran.
“All those experiences definitely made me the person I am today. I’ve seen a bigger picture of the world, and I’ll be able to contribute all those different perspectives I’ve gained from other people, looking at the world as a whole.”
Karunagaran leaves Madison with few regrets and a well-earned feeling of pride.
She adds, “I’ve spent every moment of my time in Wisconsin trying to be a better person, trying to do all these different things to enrich my experience. I think I’ve done everything I can and everything I wanted to do, so I will feel very grateful for those opportunities.”
The Accenture Leadership Center opened in September 2006 with the help of generous funding by active and retired senior executives at Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing firm. The center is run by students, providing fellow students with transformational learning opportunities that develop their leadership capacity and challenge them to grow in their leadership journey. The ALC leadership certificate signifies a student has acquired the skills and experience to grow into an effective leader.