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ANUJA'S IS AN AMERICAN STORY
INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY BUILDER
“Anuja makes everyone feel like they are welcome and equal. She lets everyone have a voice, not just the loudest person. She involves even bystanders in whatever capacity they can. She never plays favorites or has an inner circle closer to her that she prioritizes. She never cherry picks who is allowed to have opportunities and who doesn’t. Everyone has a place.”
A daughter of immigrants, a mother, a small business owner, and an activist, Anuja Rajendra’s unique life experiences speak to the fabric of Washtenaw County’s vibrant community.
Her father came with little other than a dream of a better life for his family. Her parents struggled to make ends meet, something that many working families still know all too well today. The first in her family to be born in America, she was soon separated from them due to economic pressures. Anuja’s grandparents cared for her in India for the first six years of her life. She returned to Michigan with enormous gratitude for what this great state and country offered to her family.
Anuja Rajendra was born and raised after age six in Okemos, Michigan. She and her husband, Vijay Sankaran, have lived in Ann Arbor for over two decades. Their family includes two sons and two adopted daughters. A proud student of Michigan public schools, she earned both an engineering degree and her MBA from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
Anuja has built diverse communities where people of all ages, races, socio-economic levels, and gender have come together to find common ground and raise each other up. She will bring her focus on inclusion to bridge and heal the often segregated communities in Washtenaw County.
COURAGEOUS COMMUNITY LEADER
“Anuja doesn’t have to follow groupthink. She always pushes for ideas that are new and incorporates a 360 degree perspective.”
Anuja has overcome many struggles in her lifetime, including her own near post-partum death due to poor maternal care. Each time, she emerged stronger and more determined to provide support for other people going through similar challenges.
Her first company, which she started two years after graduating from the University of Michigan, followed the untimely death of her sister. She used this experience to help people engage using art as therapy to improve mental health and community connections.
As a Ross MBA student, Anuja established herself as a student leader respected by her peers for her contributions to the program. From serving as president and co-chair of multiple organizations, she galvanized elite business schools across the country in a massive food collection effort. She co-authored a Wharton published case study on public-private partnerships to help alleviate public health crises. She was chosen to deliver a commencement speech for her graduating MBA class at Crisler Arena.
Anuja enthusiastically seeks out opportunities to expand her knowledge and the efforts of her community.
Anuja has long-standing roots in Michigan and an outstanding record of community service. Her life work has been to decrease the toxic stress prevalent in society today and improve the lives of the underserved, immigrant, and mainstream populations in Michigan. She has focused on empowering women and children to be healthier mentally and physically, and to realize their untapped potential. She has taken her work one step further by training other men and women how to teach these skills so they can improve the health of their own communities.
Anuja was appointed to a Governor’s statewide council and also has a regional appointment focused on the health and nutrition of Michigan’s youth and underserved populations. She has volunteered for many schools and community service organizations. Anuja received a Congressional Award and was inducted into the Michigan Indian Women’s Hall of Fame for her contributions to health and wellness in Michigan. Meanwhile, her Ann Arbor based company mobilizes thousands of Michiganders to feel healthier through grassroots community organizing. She helped the U.S. win a silver medal for ice dancing at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics with a program that bridged cultures and brought acclaim to Michigan and Team U.S.A.
Anuja has collaborated with nonprofits, small businesses and schools, such as Beaumont Hospital and Mitch Albom’s S.A.Y. Clinic to serve Michigan communities. Anuja mentors for Walker’s Legacy to assist women entrepreneurs and is also an Ambassador for University of Michigan’s LEAD Scholars Program to support diversity and minorities.
RELENTLESS PROBLEM SOLVER
“Anuja never speaks in a harsh tone even when things are going rough - both to people on and off her teams. She can easily diffuse tension. An example is when I botched a situation, I was not blamed. Anuja clearly told me the steps for rectification. Also, when a goal doesn’t seem like it is going on track, she sits down at the beginning of a meeting and discusses the mentality everyone needs going forward and, as a result, the team follows.”
Anuja never gives up. She believes in the best in people and is action-oriented on that philosophy.
Anuja has a depth of experience across many sectors. She has been a successful leader at a Fortune 500 company where she created a customer satisfaction program that was implemented nationally. As Development Director for the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, Anuja achieved a record-breaking sponsorship rate, expanding not only the base but also diversity of donors. She is Founder & CEO of an Ann Arbor company with a global presence based on empowerment skills training. She has delivered inspiring presentations including a TEDxDetroit speech to a commencement address for Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility.