Carnegie Mellon University
April 30, 2010

Operajita (MAPW'95) Works for Global Sustainability

Operajita (MAPW'95) Works for Global Sustainability Alumna Oopali Operajita is dedicating her talents to a good cause: global sustainability.

In 2007, Operajita (MAPW '95) created the Al Gore Sustainable Technology Venture Competition, of which she is chair and founder, in honor of Nobel Laureate Al Gore. Held in apex educational institutions across India, it is Asia's first and most prestigious sustainable/clean technology business plan competition. 

The competition draws teams of students from India's leading institutions, including its fabled Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), National Institutes of Technology (NITs), and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). 

Operajita's motivation behind creating the competition was to stimulate the thinking of an entire generation of India's remarkable students in engineering, science, technology, and management into thinking sustainability. Her hope was that these students would come together to create sustainable technology solutions "for the future of the imperiled planet." 

"Indians are known as some of the world's greatest innovators and entrepreneurs, and I wanted to tap into this incredibly rich resource pool with one stroke," she adds.  

Operajita is the CEO of Cicero, a Trans National Advisory, which organizes the competition. Cicero aims to foster understanding and partnerships between nations and cultures and top international political and business leaders, with a special focus on education, the environment, sustainable development and climate change, and women's empowerment.  

The second installment of her competition was held last fall, with the finals on November 6-7, 2009 at the legendary Indian Institute of Technology IIT, Kharagpur. The focus was on climate change and energy security. Eight teams were selected for the finals, which were judged by a panel that included venture capitalists, industrialists, entrepreneurs (including a co-inventor of Blackberry), and academics. The team from IIT Bombay-IIM Bangalore took first prize, with the team from IIT Kharagpur taking second. One of the finalist teams, Greenext Technology Solutions, from IIT Madras, won New York City's first ever "NYC 'Next Idea' Prize" from Mayor Bloomberg on January 7, 2010.

Operajita holds three MA degrees, including her MAPW, which she earned here at Carnegie Mellon University. Operajita values the skills she gained while in the MAPW program. 

She says she "valorizes the MAPW" because of "its versatility, its creativity, its scope, and its terrific and unique juxtaposition of technology, organizational management, and the written/spoken word." 

Additionally, she appreciates the way the MAPW "finesses your capabilities as a problem solver to make you both an ubiquitous-and concomitantly, indispensable-communicator." 

"I've taken many of the skills I acquired during my study there to Parliament in India where I am now an adviser to several prominent leaders," she explains.  

Oopali was a Distinguished Fellow in the College of Fine Arts at CMU for several years, at the instance of President Richard Cyert, and brought in Indian ambassadors and cabinet ministers to visit campus. A renowned classical Odissi dancer, she is also the first classical Indian artist to have performed at Carnegie Music Hall, Pittsburgh.

She also received an MA in English from India's Delhi University and another MA from Canada's Dalhousie University where she was a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar.  

The third installment of her competition will be held at IIT Madras on April 1-3, 2010.

View photos of last year's competition here.