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Looking to the Past when Investing in the Future of Diversity and Inclusion

In 2020, the MIT Sloan School of Management strengthened its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion by establishing the Endowment for Enduring Diversity and Inclusion—a fellowship program that aims to encourage and empower students from underrepresented populations. The MIT Sloan community has since responded. Here is one of their inspirational stories... 

Dr. Tamara Rajaram, MBA ’01

For Dr. Tamara (Lucero) Rajaram, MBA ’01, and Gokul Rajaram, MBA ’01, the MIT Sloan MBA program was the jumping off point not only for their impactful careers in medicine and technology, but for their personal relationship as well.  

Gokul and Tamara first met at an MIT Sloan admitted students’ event—and then again at an idea contest where their proposals won first and second prize, respectively. From there, a bond formed around their shared esteem for education, impactful innovation, and strengthening the communities that have helped to define and strengthen them. Twenty years later, Tamara and Gokul continue to look for ways to improve by at least 1 percent every day. “To always search for ways to make whatever you’re doing better, that’s where MIT Sloan really helped me,” says Tamara. 

Tamara, who was raised not far from MIT Sloan in Cambridge, had a powerful role model in her mother. Tamara’s mother was the first in the family to attend college, at Harvard, where she opened the school’s first Office of Minority Affairs. Other educational figures in Tamara’s life encouraged her to lead with curiosity. “I met amazing people,” she says. "But unless you’re going through a program in education with your mind open to experiencing other people’s stories, I don’t think you will ever get the true benefit of learning.” 

Now, especially, is a time when adjusting your own perspectives is critical, Tamara emphasizes: “You cannot look through the eyes of another person because everyone is unique, but you can have an open mind. When you lead with that framework, talking about inclusion and what it means to create impact becomes easier.”  

What Inclusion Means in Education and Entrepreneurship 

“What I find impressive is the evolution of entrepreneurship at MIT,” says Tamara, reflecting on the experiences she and Gokul have had engaging with the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and helping to increase access for underrepresented students. “It's grown to be a common language throughout the school.”  

Similarly, in her work as an advisor to medical companies, Tamara encourages leadership to ask, “How do we enable segments of our communities that haven’t had equal opportunities or that have been overlooked?”  

Tamara and Gokul also look to invest in companies that have prioritized diversity and inclusion from within. “I constantly challenge companies by asking where their diversity is. Whenever I see board seats opening up somewhere, I try to find a woman to fill that spot,” says Gokul. “We lead with that model because that’s the right thing to do. Without it we will never get diversity throughout all areas of business and society." 

On Paying It Forward 

“I think alumni should be constantly turning around and figuring out how to get involved,” says Tamara. “There’s a myriad of ways to take your own knowledge and help others.” Tamara and Gokul are passionate about supporting the younger generation and have chosen the MIT Sloan Endowment for Enduring Diversity and Inclusion Fellowship program as a way to make an immediate and lasting impact. 

Gokul Rajaram, MBA ’01

"MIT Sloan was a life changing experience. It gave me the tools and frameworks I use to solve problems in both business and life," says Gokul. Graduating from MIT Sloan during the dot-com boom, Gokul has led a dynamic career in the tech space. After honing his product director expertise at Google and Facebook, he went on to partner with several startups including Square, Pinterest, and now DoorDash. He also sits on the Boards of tech companies Pinterest and Coinbase. Gokul credits MIT Sloan with the problem-solving skill set that has served his career as a leader in a developing industry. 

Tamara pursued her MBA after earning an MD, and she was the recipient of fellowship support at MIT Sloan. “I would not be here without my education,” she says. “It was pivotal. Without all the scholarships that I had, I couldn’t have gone to the schools and earned the degrees that I did.” 

When asked what advice she has for current and future Sloanies, Tamara channeled her mother’s pioneering spirit and says that as a student, this is the time to be unafraid of failure. “Ask always,” she says. “Use dogged determination to put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t be afraid to try to open the doors. You will never know until you take that risk.” 

Tamara and Gokul feel especially proud to be MIT Sloan alumni in the wake of how the school has responded to the pandemic and to the social justice events of the past year. “The school is doing so much,” says Tamara. “MIT is able to be a leader, and it’s going to be institutions like MIT that aren’t just trying to change with the times—they’re leading the future.”