2019 Best & Brightest: Dhanushka Kadawatharatchie, Cornell University (Dyson)

Dhanushka Kadawatharatchie

Dyson School of Applied Economics & Management, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University

“Free-spirited, adventurous, Netflix addict who loves exploring new cultures and enjoying life’s experiences.”

Fun fact about yourself: I once high-fived Jimmy Fallon during a taping of his show.

Hometown: Colombo, Sri Lanka

High School: Bishop’s College, Colombo 03, Sri Lanka

Major: Applied Economics and Management, Concentrations in Marketing and Strategy

Minor: N/A

Favorite Business Course:  My favorite business course at Dyson has been “Food Marketing Colloquium,” taught by Professor Rod Hawkes. This course taught me how to embody Dyson’s motto of “Our business is a better world” through immersing myself in the culture of another country in order to learn about the food industry. It also highlighted how marketing principles vary in the U.S. and in Spain despite sharing some common ground. Unlike other courses where you need to listen to lectures in class, we went on a series of field trips in upstate New York and in Spain to get hands-on experience and learn about the food industry and marketing principles. This course gave me a focused perspective on the food industry and the ability to engage and interact with a different way of doing business.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

Extracurricular Activities and Leadership Roles:

  • Dyson Undergraduate Council – Executive Vice President and Vice President of Faculty Engagement
  • Head Teaching Assistant Management Communication, Teaching Assistant Marketing, Teaching Assistant Organizational Behavior
  • Cornell Marketing Organization – Project Manager
  • Dyson Ambassadors – Vice President of Training and Development
  • Food Marketing Fellow 2018/2019 – The food marketing fellows is an honors program for students with food industry interests and career aspirations.
  • CALS ambassador
  • Cornell Annual Fund
  • Sri Lankan Students Association

Community Work:

  • Volunteer for Women In Need, a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing issues of Gender Based Violence faced by women and girls in Sri Lanka.
  • Fundraising for the National Cancer Hospital in Sri Lanka to help support operations in the hospital.


  • Ho Nun De Kah Honor Society
  • Dean’s List
  • Dyson School Research Assistant

Where have you interned during your college career?

  • FF Creative Community; New York, NY – Account Management and Intern
  • Nestlé; Colombo, Sri Lanka – Brand Management Intern
  • Linea Aqua (MAS, Brandot USA, Speedo UK); Colombo, Sri Lanka – Lands’ End Merchandising and Marketing Intern

Where will you be working after graduation? I am currently considering two opportunities that I have received and haven’t yet decided which option I want to pursue post-graduation.

Who is your favorite professor? This is a very difficult question to answer because all the professors at Dyson are truly incredible and passionate people. But if I had to choose, there are three professors who have helped me grow and develop as a person and I would like to acknowledge all three of them. Associate Professor Jura Liaukonyte has been my mentor and advisor throughout my college career. She has been a strong influence on my Cornell education and has guided me through many tough decisions that I had to make. Professor Jura taught me the value of pushing and challenging myself. Her mentorship, friendship, and support have been one of the highlights of my Dyson career. In addition, Professor David Lennox and Rod Hawkes have also been extremely influential. Professor Lennox always encouraged me to take on great opportunities that have helped me grow personally and never fails to make me smile with his quirky sense of humor. Similarly, Professor Rod Hawkes has had a strong influence on my college life. He constantly opened my eyes to new paths when I faced hurdles. He is also always willing to give me his time and listen to me rant on about things for hours. I am extremely grateful to the three of them for making my college experience infinitely better.

What did you enjoy most about your business school? One of the things I love about the Dyson School is how diverse we are as a student body. We come from different backgrounds and have vastly different interests in life. I have been able to learn many life lessons from my peers through the incomparable opportunities presented. Dyson is a place that provides us with the opportunity to learn about the world and each other. Most of us will work in firms, which are diverse, and we will need the ability to step out of our comfort zones and become worldly students who embrace our school motto “Our business is a better world.”

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? The biggest lesson I gained from studying business is that there is an infinite number of different paths one can take as a business major. When graduation comes around and you don’t feel like pursuing a traditional business-related field, studying business sets you up with the skills to be able to work in many other fields. A business background provides you with the foundation needed to be successful in many other fields.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? What surprised me the most about majoring in business is the power of collaboration and working in teams. The Dyson School has a collaborative environment among its students and encourages students to work in groups through group projects in many courses. Therefore, I had the ability to gain valuable knowledge from my classmates and generate better ideas in a team setting.

“If I didn’t major in business, I would be majoring in or studying…Photography. I truly love to view the world through the lens of my camera. The world has such wonderful places to see and experience and because we lead such busy lives we forget to stop and just take it all in. Taking pictures always lets me do this and appreciate the beauty in the world.”

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I have to say the greatest influence in choosing to pursue business is my dad. Seeing him run his own business made me aspire to be an entrepreneur running my own business someday.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? I have a fear of falling (very different from a fear of heights) so I decided to go sky diving and jump out of a plane at 10,000 ft and overcome this fear. I was pleasantly shocked at how therapeutic jumping out of a plane was and am now looking forward to planning my next sky diving adventure

Which classmate do you most admire? I would pick Angela Lee. From the first day, I met her during orientation. I admired her friendly and infectious personality, capable of making any person she talks to smile. She is an extremely driven and hard-working student. Angela will also go out of her way to help anyone who needs help. For example, she once drove a friend all the way to Philadelphia because she needed to catch a flight and had no way of getting there. I also admire her ability to truly embody the words “be the change you want to see in the world”. She cares deeply about environmental sustainability and believes in the impact of an individual person to make the world a better place. She’s truly an exceptional person and I am very lucky to call her my friend.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My family. My parents and older sister have been my cheerleaders from day one. Their love and constant support have allowed me to pursue my goals and dreams. They encouraged me to always reach for the stars and to always remember to be humble at the same time. The three of them have inspired me in different ways, my father with his admirable work ethic, my mother with her compassionate heart, and my sister with her knack of having the best advice no matter what the circumstances are.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? To travel to all 195 countries in the world (I have 168 left to go) and to start my own personal institute for mental health awareness in Sri Lanka.

What are your hobbies? Bikram yoga, Kayaking, traveling, watching way too many Netflix originals, spending time with friends and family, going on food tours in different cities, Photography, Sky diving, watching Friends reruns (I know the script of all 10 seasons by heart!) and swimming.

What made Dhanushka such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?  

“Dhanushka Kadawatharatchie is a great candidate for the Poets & Quants’ Best and Brightest because she embodies what I think makes Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management unique amongst the world’s business schools.  Of course, Dhanushka is a great student, but she is also a global citizen who sees connections between global issues and solutions that the business sector can provide to do good while doing well. Dhanushka is a member of our Food Marketing Fellows program this year which involved a field study trip to Spain, which I co-led with a colleague, in January. During that trip and the programs’ preceding regional field trips in New York State, Dhanushka proved to be a natural leader, an inquisitive learner and very well-liked by her peers in the program. She has an ebullient personality, a positive, proactive approach to life, a strong sense of place, personal priorities that put others first, and a wonderful sense of humor! I know that I will be telling my grandchildren someday that I knew Dhanushka Kadawatharatchie before she was world famous!!!”

Rod Hawkes
Senior Extension Associate
Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management
Cornell SC Johnson College of Business
Cornell University

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