Samir Mayekar ’06, ’13 MBA has had no shortage of purple pride since his days as a drum line captain in the Northwestern University “Wildcat” Marching Band. He began volunteering for the Northwestern Alumni Association more than a decade ago and was elected as the NAA’s youngest president in history in September. Northwestern Magazine caught up with him to learn more about his University experience and the future of the alumni association.
What brought you to Northwestern?
My parents grew up in Mumbai, India, and my dad came to graduate school in Texas. I was in the marching band in high school and wanted to be in a city, to keep playing music and to go to a great university with a good marching band. Northwestern checked all of those boxes.
What were some of your favorite moments as a student?
I took classes that were not a part of my [political science] major, including a dance class and a slew of Russian literature classes. I also loved being in the marching band. I know every word to “Go! U Northwestern” and the “Alma Mater.” After being in that band for four years, I bleed purple.
How did you go from working in the White House to earning your MBA at Kellogg to starting your company, SiNode Systems?
When I worked in the Obama administration [see "The White House Goes Purple," summer 2010], I learned that energy security is good for national security and realized that I cared about the environmental implications of fossil fuels too.
I came to Kellogg with a desire to get into clean energy and took the NUvention class, where interdisciplinary teams try to commercialize a Northwestern innovation. My teammates and I wanted to make a product that could help tackle the problem of climate change, and we leveraged engineering professor Harold Kung’s battery research.
Our company makes chemicals that enable batteries to last longer and charge faster. If our technology contributes to moving vehicles from fossil fuels to electricity, we’ll be very happy.
You began volunteering for Northwestern in 2007. Why do you give so much time to your alma mater?
My family immigrated to the United States. When you’re an immigrant, you don’t have a powerful network that you can rely on. Northwestern gave me that foundation in this country. In addition to meeting my wife [Emily Haak Mayekar ’07] here, my first two jobs came from Northwestern connections, and my business started here. I have a deep sense of loyalty and gratitude to Northwestern, and I view my responsibility to pay it forward.
What are your priorities as the new president of the Northwestern Alumni Association?
We want to continue to adapt to today’s digital world, stay relevant to alumni who live around the globe and make sure the NAA serves the alumni of today and tomorrow. We have 20 other amazing leaders on the board who care deeply about this institution, bring senior leadership experience and reflect the demographics of today’s students. These are the people who will help the alumni association chart a new path for the future.
Learn more about Mayekar and the new NAA Board.