2012 Woman of the Year finalists selected

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INDIA New England is proud to announce the 20 finalists for the 2012 Woman of the Year award. After a record shattering year for nominations, the editorial staff is pleased with what is the most impressive list of Woman of the Year finalists yet. And it comes at a great time, as this year will mark the 10th winner of the Woman of the Year award.

“With so many impressive nominations this year it was a real challenge for the editorial staff to choose the 20 finalists for the INDIA New England 2012 Woman of the Year award, but we all are extremely satisfied with this tremendous collection of accomplished, respected and influential women,” said Upendra Mishra, publisher of INDIA New England. “While there are so many women that proudly represent the best and the brightest of the South Asian community in New England, it is hard to imagine finding a more successful group of women, from a variety of professional and volunteer backgrounds, than these 20 finalists for INDIA New England 2012 Woman of the Year.”

The following finalists were chosen based on their contributions to their community, culture, organizations, business and their personal achievements:

Jaya Asthana, clinical social worker with Care Alternatives; director of Bal Vihars and youth camps for Vishwa Hindu Parishad. She has been dedicated to public service over the past three decades with social issues, particularly dealing with next generation children.
Sorboni Banerjee, morning anchor for FOX25. Often honored for her professional and civic work, including work with groups such as the American India Foundation, she was honored earlier this year as part of “Women Who Rock” by Get Konnected!
Sangeeta Bhatia, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-founder of Hepregen Inc. She is widely known for her nanotechnology efforts focusing on tissue repair and regeneration. In 2003, she was recognized as one of the top 100 innovators in world under the age of 35.
Anu Chitrapu, president of Vision Aid and senior vice president at Bank of America. She has extended her compassion and dedication across three continents, helping teach technology skills to the visually challenged.
Jyoti Datta, head of lower school at the Bancroft School in Worcester, Mass. She is the first Asian American to hold an academic leadership position at the 100-year-old private school.
Neela Gandhi, general practice dentist with Rofe Dental Associates and president of the United India Association of New England. She has been a driving force behind the very active UIANE and is involved in a number of dental industry groups.
Monica Jain, researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. A passionate researcher, she has already published numerous abstracts, papers and presented research at medical conferences. Founder of the award-winning BU Jalwa Dance Team.
Aliya Khalidi, assistant district attorney in the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office. Prior to her 2012 assistant district attorney appointment she spent a year teaching constitutional law to high school students and is part of the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project.
Deepa Krishnamurthy, partner and chief financial officer at Linear Retail Properties LLC. She has 20 years of finance and accounting experience, mostly within the real estate and investment industry.
Shilpa Lawande, vice president of software engineering at Vertica. An Oracle veteran she is credited with being a driving force behind innovations in “Big Data” analytics and is listed on close to a dozen technology patents in the sector.
Mandakini Pahooja, senior executive and startup veteran, most recently vice president of engineering at Bridge Energy Group. Received a global Chief Information Officer 100 award in 2011 for her work in the energy sector.
Rina Patel, executive director and co-founder of Cents of Relief, an organization that provides access to health care and support for women and children who are victims of prostitution and human trafficking. She started Cents of Relief while a student at the University of Florida and continues to run the organization while working as a senior business productivity analyst at PTC.
Jothi Raghavan, founder and artistic director of bharathanatyam dance school Nrityanjali. As a performer and choreographer she has received many awards for her efforts and has been teaching dance in New England since 1977.
Sanam Rastegar, a senior at The Hopkins School in New Haven, Conn. She was named as the state’s top female volunteer and honored with a 2012 The Prudential Spirit of Community Award. She held a jump-roping fund-raiser that raised more than $100,000 for Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for children with serious diseases, prompting Newman to visit the school and thank her.
Ranjani Saigal, a senior educational technologist at MIT and co-founder of Lokvani. She is involved in numerous nonprofit organizations and is also founder and director of the Eastern Rhythm Dance School.
Parul Singh, co-founder of Gradeable, an education-based startup focusing on helping teachers correct tests and assignments in a faster and more efficient manner. She has a diverse background in venture capital, multimedia and video, as well as Web development and design and product marketing.
Eshani Shah, co-founder S4 Inc., founder and head of Dhoom Entertainment, president-elect of Gurjar. A successful entrepreneur with several companies to her name, Shah has also been dedicated to many community and cultural organizations and a big promoter of Indian drama, theater and music in New England.
Sipra Shah, principal of Shishu Bharati School of Languages and Culture of India. A long-time teacher with Shishu Bharati, Shah is credited with having impacted the lives of hundreds of students and being a driving force behind the school’s growing popularity.
Upma Sharma, head of the materials science and engineering department at Arsenal Medical, a medical device company focused on the treatment of cardiovascular disease, the management of pain and the stasis of wounds. An award-winning chemical engineer, Sharma is part of the team responsible for developing the company’s main product, a biodegradable stent.
Usha Vakil, founding member and president of Saheli. Vakil is one of the main forces behind the women’s support organization Saheli, which has become one of the main nonprofit organizations in New England working with South Asian women.

INDIA New England will honor the top 20 finalists and the 2012 Woman of the Year winner at the 2012 Woman of the Year Banquet & Awards Ceremony on June 28 at Lombardo’s Conference & Function Facilities in Randolph, Mass. For more information and to register for the event, go to www.IndiaNewEngland.com/woman.

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