2013 Forty Under 40: Una Osili

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“I feel very strongly being in higher education that to make Indianapolis the global city of the future, we need to strengthen our educational system. There is a lot of emphasis on how we can improve our elementary system.”

Age: 37

Director of Research, Center on Philanthropy; Professor of Economics and Philanthropic Studies, IUPUI

Una Osili has one foot in the global community and the other in Indianapolis. A renowned researcher on philanthropic trends, she also is a wife and mother who serves on St. Richard’s Episcopal School board and helped her husband, Vop Osili, campaign for public office.

As director of research at the Center on Philanthropy at IUPUI, she oversees projects that offer not-for-profit leaders insight into giving.

“The Giving USA report is called the Bible on charitable giving,” said Osili, who also is a professor of economics at IUPUI. “People can look at trends going back to 1956.”

Other projects include studying high-net-worth donors and looking at donations of $1 million and up. Another area she’s studying is immigrants and their charitable giving habits.

Born in New York, she grew up in Nigeria, where her parents were college professors. Her Nigerian father taught pharmacology and her mother, an American, was a historian.

Her interest in public service can be traced to her undergraduate time at Harvard University and an inspirational letter from then-president Derek Bok urging students to make a difference in someone’s life while they were at Harvard. She volunteered to tutor children in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. During the summer, she lived in the projects.

The summer after graduating with a degree in economics, she worked at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., which she credits with helping her understand the relevance of economics. She went on to earn master’s and doctorate degrees in economics at Northwestern University, where she met her husband.

Vop Osili is an architect and a member of the City-County Council. They have two children.

Settling in Indianapolis, Una Osili helped found the Immigrant Welcome Center, which helps newcomers connect with the community.

She is on the board of the Association for the Advancement of African Women Economists.

Between her family responsibilities, work obligations and board positions, Osili has a full plate.•


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