2023 Best & Brightest Business Major: Neliya Nyirenda, Indiana University (Kelley)

Neliya Nyirenda

Indiana University, Kelley School of Business

“Fiercely dedicated to living authentically, loving those around me, and learning as much as possible.”

Fun fact about yourself: I am a diehard Manchester United fan and on my only visit to Old Trafford I got to see Cristiano Ronaldo’s last United hat trick.

Hometown: Denver, Colorado

High School: Cherokee Trail High School

Major: International Business, Law, Ethics, and Decision Making, and Operations Management

Minor: History

Favorite Business Course: The Business of Medicine

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

Awards and Honors

  • William R. Fry Scholar (Full ride merit scholarship)
  • Kelley Honors Program
  • Hutton Honors College
  • Hudson and Holland Scholar
  • Stahr Senior Recognition Award
  • Provost’s Founders Scholar

Community Work and Leadership Roles

  • Career Prep Program Fellow – Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT)
  • President – Phi Gamma Nu Business Fraternity
  • Vice President – Board of Aeons
  • Director of Academic Affairs – IU Student Government
  • Director of Rush – IU Student Government
  • Tour Guide – Kelley School of Business
  • Peer Tutor – Kelley School of Business

Where have you interned during your college career?

  • Growing Future Leaders Program Summer Associate – Boston Consulting Group, Denver
  • Summer Associate – Boston Consulting Group, Denver

Where will you be working after graduation? Boston Consulting Group, Associate, Denver

Who is your favorite business professor? One of the things I was not expecting during my time at IU was how much I would come to admire and respect my professors. Obviously, I knew they would be incredibly talented and intelligent, but I did not expect for them to become role models for who I intend to be in life. The professor that really sticks out to me is Kelly Eskew. I have had the privilege of taking multiple classes with her and every time I am struck by her commitment to furthering her own knowledge and her honesty with the class.

Her dedication to moving IU’s progress with sustainability is inspiring. The way she speaks about the topic and recognizes the roles that society’s inequities will play is so refreshing. She is always advocating for those around her and truly trying to leave the best impact on the world that she can.

Having a class with Professor Eskew does not just mean doing readings and turning in assignments. It means that you will truly reflect on what is happening in the world around you and the role you play in it. In addition, she takes time to seriously get to know every single one of her students and invests in their lives in a way that is second to none. While taking her classes I have gained- so much from her course work and grown even more as a person. She is an incredible educator.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? It can feel like there is a lot of pressure to do what everyone else is doing, or that you have to follow the path that everyone else is taking in order to achieve success. My big piece of advice would be to remember that is not true. There are so many different varieties and ways to be successful that, as long as you follow the path that is most authentic to you, you will accomplish great things. Do not let yourself be pigeonholed into following the status quo when you can define what greatness looks like in your own life. When you look at the most successful people out there, the thing that unifies them all is not having taken one specific class or studied one thing. Rather, it is being gritty and working hard.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? The thing that surprised me most about majoring in business is how much people in business want to be forces for good in the world. I was really nervous when I started school that the people I met would only care about profits and financials; they would only see business only as a vehicle for enriching themselves rather than a tool to better the world. While not everyone is in it to make a profound change, people are at least having the conversation and trying to understand the externalities of their business model.

The business world is changing. There are so many avenues for innovation and growth that can improve the world for everyone in it. From my classes to conversations during recruiting throughout my time in college, it has always been shocking how many people are in business to change the world for the better. Everyone recognizes that business can be a vehicle in society to have positive externalities rather than just thinking about the bottom line. It makes me feel excited about the future of business.

Looking back over your experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently in business school and why? One thing I would do differently is exploring more organizations outside of the business school. In the beginning, because I did not know anyone else at IU and I just wanted to make friends as fast as possible, I joined a lot of organizations within Kelley that I am so grateful to still be a part of. Looking back, there are definitely other opportunities or organizations that I wish I would have learned more about. Generally, the lesson here is about not pigeonholing yourself into opportunities based on what others around you are doing and instead being willing to take risks and follow your passions. This is reflective of one of the most important lessons I have learned: Life may feel like it always has to be go-go-go, but in reality it is okay to pause and take a step back to reflect on what you want and create a plan from there.

What business leader do you admire most? The business leader I admire most is Beyonce. While she may not be seen as a traditional business leader, she has taken music and performing and made it a billion-dollar empire. With all aspects of her career whether it be music or her fashion line she is elevating the voices of those often ignored and marginalized by society.

She goes out of her way to ensure that people get the credit where it is due and even though it results in people taking away from her success because “she has too many people on her songs” or “she relies so much on others”. She ignores the critique and continues to do what she knows is right. With her fashion line for Adidas, she diligently selected a brand that she knew would allow her to have autonomy and uplift the designs and styles of Black women. Everything Beyonce does changes the game, and she continues to find ways to be innovative in a world where it feels like monotony is becoming more and more common.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? My proudest academic accomplishment is the breadth of the academic experiences I have had during college. At IU, it is easy to get siloed into your major and not experience the wide range of courses that are offered here, but I did not let that stop me from learning as much as I could. Even within the business school, I have chosen majors that are vastly different. Taking classes in international business, operations management, and law and ethics has caused me to look at problems with a very layered and nuanced perspective. It forced me to be dynamic in my thinking and constantly reflect on how the new knowledge I gain fits together.

Not only that, I added a history minor to my course load as well. While business and history may seem incredibly different, they actually work very well in tandem. Business is about filling the wants and needs of society, while history is about studying people and civilizations to better understand who they are. Learning both forces me to look at situations and contemplate the future while considering how the past has gotten us where we are.

I got to expand my academic horizons while at IU and abroad. My junior year I was fortunate enough to spend an entire semester in the UK, where I got to apply all my knowledge and critical thinking skills to a brand-new culture. This forced me to challenge my thinking skills and grow as a person. By going abroad, I forced myself to learn so much and open up to an experience I would not have had otherwise. It was yet another way that I got to learn about the world around me and continue to diversify my perspective.

Overall, throughout college I selected majors, minors, and academic experiences that allowed me to learn more about the world, so that I can be a better citizen. I understand that I have been given the privilege to have access to some of the best knowledge and knowledge development in the world; I would be remiss if I did not take advantage of it.

Which classmate do you most admire? Answering this question is hard because I have had so many amazing peers during my time here at Kelley. I immediately thought of my fellow Fry scholars as every single one of them is extremely kind, talented, and beyond intelligent.

More specifically though, the classmate I most admire is Angie Ramirez. She has taught me so much about being authentically yourself and living the life you want to live. She also works so hard to stay aware of the news around the world and learn about other people. She has always been supportive of me while pushing me to take risks and achieve goals that I was not even sure I could do. Whether it be watching movies together, binging Game of Thrones, or traveling the world together, she has always been there to encourage me and be by my side. She challenges my perspectives and compels me to think deeper. I am forever grateful for the friendship she we have built over these past four years, and I cannot wait for it to continue. She is an incredible person, and I am better because I know her!

Who would you most want to thank for your success? There are so many people I could thank for helping me get here. They include my entire family who supports me in all my dreams no matter how big they are; my friends who have laughed and cried with me and supported me through everything; and professors like Dr. Lucy Lepeau and Dr. Clark Barwick who have challenged me to think more critically. I also must thank the entire Kelley Office of Diversity Initiatives for giving me countless opportunities and being my biggest cheer leaders.

That being said, the person I want to highlight here is my dad, Swirvine Nyirenda. My dad is incredible. He is truly one of the smartest people I have ever met. He also approaches every situation with the perfect balance of emotional and intellectual intelligence. He has taught me so much about how to manage a career and a family. Not only that, but he is also the life of the party and every time I talk to him, I know I will end the conversation laughing. He is the best and I am so glad to have him in my corner.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  • Write a book
  • Get my doctorate

What are your hobbies? I love going out to eat and exploring new foods with friends any day and any time. 90% of my free time I am at home watching a documentary about anything from the space race to sports scandals to world history. I love cooking and baking because they help me feel in touch with my family even when I am so far away. To know me is to know that I truly will shop until I drop. I love seeking out experiences with my friends and traveling the world.

What made Neliya such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“Neliya has been pivotal is the culture change process that is happening at the Kelley School. Our school is innovative, dynamic, growing in diversity, and on the cutting edge preparing our students for a world of work in the 21st century. Neliya has been at the forefront of all these areas, pushing students who have never contended with issues of equity, justice, inclusion, in a growth mindset. Everything that she has done over the last four years has prepared our school for the change that we want to happen. Her legacy will live on here in the many students who have followed her lead.”

Carmund White
Kelley School of Business
Executive Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging


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