The Department of Psychology recently honored Indira Ahluwalia, a 1990 graduate of the bachelor of arts program, as their winner of the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Awards Ceremony, hosted by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. The ceremony recognizes and celebrates award recipients selected by their department for their professional accomplishments, philanthropic work, and support of alumni and community engagement with George Mason University.
“I am most grateful and humbled by the recognition from the university,” Indira said of the award after the December ceremony.
Also a graduate of the University of Chicago’s master’s program in international relations, in 2002 Indira founded Development & Training Services, Inc. (DTS), an international development firm that has provided expertise in 90 countries in gender and social inclusion, program monitoring and evaluation, and training and capacity building across multiple sectors. Indira said the psychology degree she earned at Mason was “very instrumental” in providing a foundation of understanding for her in her career.
“I had been in this country for two years before I had started my undergraduate work at George Mason,” she recalled. “The psychology program provided me with both theory and practicums. I spent a lot of time with professors getting to understand the workings of the subject matter, but also of life in general. I enjoyed being an advocate for multiculturalism and international students at George Mason, and that provided me a different type of education, both of which have stood me in good stead.”
DTS has worked in a wide variety of fields including "climate change, natural resource management, water, energy, agriculture, economic growth, civil society development, counter terrorism, counter violent extremism, governance, education, and health." Indira served as president of DTS until July 2015, when she facilitated the acquisition of DTS by Palladium, which provides services in international development and strategy execution. In addition to serving as a senior advisor at Palladium, she sits on the board of directors of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
“I really enjoy being with the people,” said Indira regarding her work. “My job relates to interacting with people, and looking at how to create solutions that work both for the individual and the system in international development and at the corporate level. The energy that I get from understanding how to make things better is very exciting for me.”
She also offered advice to current Mason students regarding developing careers, saying that a job is “very different from a career.”
“A job helps you pay the rent,” she says, “and one should never forget the value of paying the rent, and standing on your own two feet, and thus building your education to allow you to get a job. A job, however, leads to a career in my mind. A career is where you fulfill your passion. I don't think you lose your passion when you're doing your job, instead you build on it while paying the rent. It's about building a balance between your passion and your sustainability.”