During her senior year at Wellesley, Seema Arora ’00 and seven of her friends spent an entire day by the lake. They hung out, someone brought music and it was a fun and relaxed time. Arora still has pictures from this day, which was “just a really warm memory that encapsulates my experience [at Wellesley],” Arora said.
Arora grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a younger brother and two supportive parents. Her counselor suggested she apply to Wellesley. She applied on a whim and didn’t visit the school until after being accepted. Visiting Wellesley with her parents helped her make her decision.
“Everyone we talked to seemed to have a really good experience, and that was really powerful,” Arora said.
After graduating with a degree in psychology, Arora was not sure what to do next. The Center for Work and Service suggested she try consulting, so she worked in management consulting for L.E.K. Consulting, a global management consulting firm, for two years.
“It was a really good two years for me; I learned a lot of skills I rely upon today,” Arora said, and named engaging with clients and general professionalism as two of the most important skills.
After consulting for two years, Arora felt that the private sector was not for her. The Harvard Kennedy School had the elements which she was looking in a graduate school, including a diverse class and the teaching of practical skills. Arora earned a master’s in public administration/international development. While at Harvard, Arora did an internship with the United Nations Development Programme and worked in South Africa with their Community Capacity Enhancement Project. She helped to address the AIDS epidemic at the local level and worked directly with the people most impacted by the it.
“It had a powerful impact on me, to meet people who were directly, personally impacted by this disease,” Arora said.
In 2005, Arora started working for the Clinton Health Access Initiative (C.H.A.I.). She began working for the drug access team to help foreign governments get more people treated for AIDS. Then, she turned to the issue of childhood severe acute malnutrition for a short period of time.
“It was a really incredible experience working across a number of different governments,” Arora said.
Today, Arora works mostly from her home in New York. She is on the development team for C.H.A.I. and works mainly on proposals and other donor related projects. Arora begins her work at around 8 a.m., answering emails that come in overnight from global offices. Later in the afternoon, she goes to a coffee shop to write proposals, donor reports and other documents.
“Knowing that the hard work and effort put into all that we do will ultimately make an impact directly on people’s lives around the world is a great motivator for me,” Arora said.
In addition to her work for C.H.A.I., Arora is an advisor for Vatavaran, a nonprofit grassroots organization founded by Arora’s aunt, who has always been passionate about the environment. The organization works to increase recycling efforts, and Arora’s job involves higher level strategic aspects, such as determining how best to approach an issue from a publicity standpoint.
“It’s really, really interesting for me,” Arora said. “It’s been a really great experience.”
In the little free time that Arora has, she cooks and is constantly trying to get her Indian food to turn out as well as her mother’s. She keeps in contact with her friends from Wellesley mostly through social media, and they try to meet up at least once a month.
Although her work now is not close to what she planned to do coming into Wellesley, she finds that being open to where the path takes her has been very important in her life.
“At this point, I’m really enjoying the work at C.H.A.I., and I don’t have any immediate plans to change that,” Arora said. “I’m happy where I am.”