If not for a mechanical engineering professor who gave him a much-needed shot of confidence, Neel Kashkari might not have gone on help America regain its financial footing as the overseer of the U.S. Treasury’s TARP program.
Or run for governor of California, serve as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for International Economics and Development, or get tabbed as president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve.
“Professor Bob White of mechanical engineering was the faculty advisor on a student project to build and race a solar-powered car in an intercollegiate competition,” says Kashkari (BS '95, mechanical engineering).
“I was an undergraduate team member my senior year and Bob noticed me and took interest in me. Up until that point, I wasn’t finding much success in college and didn’t have a lot of confidence.
“Bob took me under his wing, so to speak. He was not a warm and fuzzy man — he was no-nonsense. But he wanted results and he saw that I was results-oriented. We were a good fit for one another.
“He encouraged me to stay for my master’s degree as graduate team leader on the next generation project. This is where I found my interest and strengths in leadership. It was a big, positive turning point for me.
“By the way, I never could have gotten into the masters program in mechanical engineering without Bob. I had a B average in undergrad. He made it happen just based on his confidence in me.”