Top 100 Women of Impact: Karama Neal, Ph.D.

Karama Neal, Ph.D.

Administrator, Rural Business Cooperative Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture

About me: My personal mission centers on promoting equity with attention to place. I advance that mission by drawing on my recent work in economic mobility and rural development finance informed by methods developed during my first career in research genetics and bioethics. The common thread is service to the public good, and I’ve been fortunate to serve through the academic, corporate, nonprofit and government sectors. After graduating from Little Rock Central High School, I earned a B.A. in biology at Swarthmore College, and later a doctorate in genetics from Emory University and a master’s in bioethics from Loyola University Chicago. I also completed executive education in impact investing at the University of Oxford Saïd School of Business.

Lives in: Little Rock • Works in: Washington, D.C.

Lesson Learned the Hard Way: In my 20s, I read a memoir by a woman of a similar age and background. I thought I could write a better book, but that was irrelevant. She’d written a book, I hadn’t. Now, whenever I have an idea, the memory of that book drives me to action.

Proudest Moment of Impact: I started a statewide grassroots organization to advocate for passage of the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA), a law that helps families retain ownership of their land and use it more productively for current and future generations. My family’s land in southwest Arkansas was the inspiration for the work done with the state’s Uniform Law Commissioners. In 2015, Arkansas became the fifth state to pass the UPHPA, which is now law in 21states.

Call to Action: In my experience there are fewer than six degrees of separation in Arkansas. We are all connected, and to ensure we all can thrive, we need to invest in our communities, increase opportunity and improve outcomes for all. Start by asking, “So, what can I do?” Then live the answer and push to do even more. It’s what’s needed for fair and just treatment and the communities we all deserve, every single one of us.

A Women’s Foundation of Arkansas Initiative

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