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Making an Impact

UMD student Jefrina Jayaraj in LSBE
April 9, 2019

Making a difference in the world around her is Jefrina Jayaraj's top priority.

During her four years at UMD, senior Jefrina Jayaraj has been creating change and building connections wherever she goes. Leadership is a skill she values deeply in her life. “Leadership is very important to me, and I truly believe we can all make a difference when we chase our passions. I’m really thankful for UMD because I’ve gotten the chance to explore a lot of my interests, instead of being limited to picking one and sticking to it for four years.”

Jefrina was born in Tamil Nadu, India, and moved to Minnesota when she was eight years old, back in 2005. She grew up in Plymouth, Minn., and graduated in 2015 from Wayzata High School.

When it came time for her to pick a university, she wanted to make sure she picked a college that would give her a unique experience. “I didn’t want to be just a number in a system and that’s what really drew me to UMD. It’s a big school but small enough to chase what you’re passionate about, with a chance to really make an impact,” she explained.

She is a double major in management information systems (MIS) in the Labovitz School of Business and Economics (LSBE) and international studies in the College of Liberal Arts, with a double minor in international business and political science, respectively. “I actually came into college declaring a biology and international studies double major. I thought I might fit in in the medical field. It wasn’t until I truly thought about my strengths and what I wanted to achieve in a long-term sense that I realized I wasn’t meant for the science world. As for international studies, I’ve always wanted to pursue it because I’ve grown up with a global perspective, and I know I want my career to develop with a focus on international business.”

She’d always been interested in business, but it was a matter of finding the major that was the right fit. “As soon as I started taking classes in MIS, I knew I’d made the right decision to switch! I realized very quickly that I could really make an impact on this world through the blend of technology and business. The STEM field is flourishing, and I’m very passionate about being a woman in the field. I think LSBE does an amazing job at introducing MIS students to the diverse opportunities available, and the different paths our careers can take.”

Becoming a Leader

When she came to UMD, she brought with her an organization that is close to her heart. She’s the First is a non-profit organization that sponsors girls’ education in low-income countries worldwide. “I’ve always been passionate about girls’ education and gender equality, and I was involved with She’s the First at my high school. When I realized UMD didn’t have a chapter, I knew I needed to start one. What I didn’t know was how much it would impact me as a person, and how the club would absolutely flourish on campus.”

UMD’s She’s the First began by supporting one scholar. Four years later, they’re up to five scholars, from both India and Nepal. “It’s such a life-changing organization. I have no idea where I’ll be or where my career will have taken me in ten years, but I’m quite certain that I’ll be celebrating our scholars graduating from high school, and that makes me really proud of UMD.”

For Jefrina, She’s the First was a launching pad for the rest of her collegiate career. “It really set a foundation for what I can do around campus, and it gave me the confidence to pursue other organizations.” She has since then been a part of UMD’s Indian Student Association (ISA), Phi Sigma Sigma, MIS Club, the 2018 UMD Entrepreneurship Conference committee, as well as Student Association. She has been on the executive board of ISA, as well as the MIS Club. Currently, she is the systems administrator for UMD’s Student Association.

She is thankful for these experiences as they have helped her grow and learn a lot as a person. “I definitely think that through my experiences, my perspective on leadership has changed and evolved. Having been in different organizations while holding various positions, I’ve learned that everybody has the potential to be a leader, and I strive to bring out those skills and strengths from within my team members.”

A Multitude of Experiences

a photo of jefrina with her teammates in the competition
From left to right: The Duluth Data Dragons - Isaak Lipetzky, Jefrina Jayaraj, Hailey Franklin, Mike Kenyanya, and Shikha Kambil.

Jefrina has really enjoyed the opportunities that LSBE has helped her pursue. “I have gotten a lot of exposure to the business world through LSBE, and they do a great job at helping you craft your experience to align with whatever you’re interested in.”

When she took a Data Analytics course, Jefrina was able to use what she learned in the classroom and apply it at a data science competition called MinneMUDAC, with her peers. “Our professor, Nik Hassan, was really passionate about offering alternative opportunities to learn outside of the classroom, and he introduced us to the competition. I formed a group with some of my fellow MIS classmates, and we became the Duluth Data Dragons! I’m really thankful to my team members who made all the difference in my experience.”

The 2018 MinneMUDAC challenge was to predict voter turnout for the upcoming midterm elections. “After preparing for weeks by analyzing past data of voter turnout, and finally participating, we won a prize in the Undergraduate Division for ‘Best Prediction.’ It was so fun and totally unexpected and was a really unique opportunity that other business schools may not offer.”

LSBE offers many events that bridge business students to the business community as well as the local community. One of those events is the annual Entrepreneurship Conference hosted by LSBE. “I had the honor of being a co-chair of speaker selection for the 2018 UMD Entrepreneurship Conference, and I had an unforgettable time networking and connecting with business professionals. I got to help shape the conference as I focused on finding diverse speakers who would represent all kinds of careers and industries and attract students from all over UMD – not just LSBE.”

She is incredibly grateful for the culture that LSBE has fostered, giving her the chance to meet new people, try new things, and learn more about herself. “I’ve had so many unique opportunities to meet influential professionals, make meaningful connections, and gain useful knowledge and direction as I take steps toward creating my own career.”

Jefrina wanted to make an impact when she came to college. “I wanted to make a difference that was my own, and I’m thankful for UMD and LSBE for letting me explore all my passions. I’ve never felt limited in terms of my options, and that’s really important to me.”

When Jefrina has free time and a moment for herself, she can be found reading books, watching Marvel movies, and enjoying her last semester at UMD with friends.

Photo below: Jefrina alongside her Entrepreneurship Conference team members.

Learn more about the Labovitz School of Business and Economics

Learn more about the College of Liberal Arts.

Jefrina alongside her Entrepreneurship Conference team members.