Neela Rajendra, Chief Inclusion Officer
Neela Rajendra builds and strengthens bridges from science to action in behavioral and organizational environments, with a focus on identifying and maximizing the ways that diversity, equity, and inclusion help organizations excel. She has advised Fortune 500 companies, scientists, scholars, NGOs, and universities to help them harness insights from cutting edge research to advance the frontiers of social innovation. Bringing these creative thinkers together, she helps build coalitions to transform organizations to be more inclusive and more productive places of work and learning.
Neela has forged partnerships with entrepreneurs and local governments in countries such as Benin and Nicaragua to accelerate urban economic development, advised C-suite executives on their talent development needs, and worked with faculty and university administrators to develop social entrepreneurship programs on campuses across the country, such as Cornell, Tulane, University of Maryland, Babson, and Claremont McKenna.
As Executive Director and co-founder of the Science of Diversity & Inclusion Initiative (SODI, sodi.org), Neela built an organization of over 100 social scientists and 15 partner companies, including BlackRock, GE, and Google, to advance evidenced-based approaches to diversity, inclusion and belonging. Through her facilitation and leadership, SODI launched 12 research projects with 8 companies in 4 years, leading to publications in esteemed journals such as the Journal of Human Resources.
In her new role as Chief Inclusion Officer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), she is combining her experiences in higher education and the corporate sector together with her expertise in designing high-impact methods to create scalable interventions to advance DEI across the Lab.
Neela earned her B.A. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and her M.B.A. from Wake Forest University. In another life, she was a professional violinist, and still occasionally plays with her D.C.-based Indie-Americana band, The Riverbreaks, with whom she got to check off a major bucket-list item of hers: playing on stage at the Kennedy Center when they released their second album, Wildfire. She is also the mom of two children, ages 16 months and 6 years.