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Yasmin Bhatia: Charter CEO

Yasmin Bhatia

From the fall 2016 issue of McCOMBS, the magazine for alumni and friends of the McCombs School of Business.

Closing the opportunity gap for all kids is the challenge Yasmin Bhatia, BBA '98, took on when she assumed the role as CEO of Uplift Education, a chain of Dallas-area charter schools. After nine years with McKinsey & Co., and on the brink of partnership, Bhatia stepped back to consider a new direction for her career after meeting with Uplift's founder.

"I thought, 'What if I could work professionally for an organization that really makes a difference in the lives of kids?" she recalls. Bhatia had mentored with Big Brothers, Big Sisters at UT, and was also active with Make-a-Wish Foundation and a children's program through the North Texas Food Bank. So Uplift seemed a perfect fit. Eight years later, she hasn't looked back.

"I think sometimes there's this perception that if you go into nonprofit leadership that that's a lesser career," Bhatia says. But she tells new UT grads, "there are really high-performing, high-quality nonprofit organizations out there."

As for Uplift, which now serves 16,000 students in 36 schools, "We've maintained a track record of 100 percent of our kids being accepted into college, and 70 percent are the first in their families to do so," Bhatia says.

To those who criticize charter schools for robbing public schools of students, Bhatia says, "Competition breeds innovation and makes everyone raise our game." She says the success of charter schools calls to question longheld assumptions. "The broader community is starting to see that it is possible to send large numbers of first-generation kids to college. And that's a really powerful thing."

-Selah Maya Zighelboim

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