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Gargee Ghosh

Gargee Ghosh
  • Category: Presidents’ Alumni Award
  • UVic degree: Bachelor of Arts in Economics, 1997               
  • Current hometown: Washington, DC      
  • Birthplace: Victoria, BC

About Gargee

A quick glance at Gargee Ghosh’s resumé and some impressive names immediately stand out. But the outsized influence of her employers, past and present, shouldn’t overshadow Ghosh’s own achievements and contributions.

As president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Policy & Advocacy team, this UVic economics grad oversees government affairs, economic policy, advocacy and philanthropic partnerships, in support of the foundation’s goals of fighting poverty, disease and inequity around the world.

Gargee previously held senior positions at McKinsey & Company, Google and the Center for Global Development. She served on the board of CAMFED USA and on President Barack Obama’s Global Development Council—advising the Obama administration on global development policies and practices, supporting new and existing public-private partnerships and increasing awareness and action in support of development.

In addition to her undergraduate degree from UVic, Gargee holds a graduate degree in development economics from the University of Oxford and in international relations from Georgetown University. She lives in Washington, DC and is currently exploring the Marvel universe with her children.

What's your favourite memory of being a UVic student?

I still remember sitting in Carl Mosk’s economics classroom and realizing how much the field connected with the issues I saw in the world, my own family history starting in India and immigrating to Canada, and how I thought about challenges and opportunities in the world. For me that was path-determining in a way that I wouldn’t have predicted.

How did your experiences at UVic shape who you are or contribute to future successes?

My undergrad degree gave me a discipline and a language that I have carried with me through my career. Second, it expanded my horizons about the kinds of professional possibilities out there—the kind of role I could play in the world beyond what I had come to think I might do.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I’ve worked at the Gates Foundation for more than a decade in 2 different periods, so I’ve been part of its very early days when we were just getting started to where it is now. I'm proud of helping the organization go from being an incredible scientific innovation organization to one that thinks more holistically about development progress that takes into account economic trends, social trends and cultural trends. Being part of the expansion of the Gates Foundation has really been the privilege of a lifetime.

What skills or traits are needed to be good at what you do?

When you start out in any profession, you use the skills of your discipline. For a long time being good at economics would help me move from role to role. Now as a leader, it’s really about how you inspire people to do their best work. I find I use empathy and psychology of motivation and communication much more than I thought I would sitting in Econ 303, because now my job is really about how you create a vision and set people loose to bring their talents to achieving that vision.

What’s the best advice someone has given you?

Be courageous. When you’re first starting out, it feels like you have to be a certain way or follow a certain mould. In my day, economics was a very heavy male profession and still is in some ways. So you think you have to sound a certain way. Or it would be bad to bring emotion into this conversation. But it has consistently been the people who believe in me telling me to be courageous. To use the strengths and skills and power I have for good. And that has really served me well to keep coming back to that.

What advice do you have for a younger person uncertain about their future?

Find what you love. It’s out there, and it’s worth finding. Whether it’s a profession or a role or a way of spending your time that brings you inspiration, it’s worth finding.

Do you have a mantra that you follow?

Imagine the goal and think about what you need to do to get there. That is from Angela Merkel, so I shouldn’t take credit for it.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

An architect. Hasn’t gone well for me! My father was an architect so it was a profession that was wrapped up in my admiration for him. I still think it’s this incredible combination of creativity and discipline that I think is a lovely contribution to the world.

What food can you not refuse?  

Tropical fruit is my happy place. I will also say that growing up in Victoria and now living in the States, there are some British or British Canadian foods that I can’t find here, like fruitcake and mulled wine. I don’t think it’s as much of a thing in the US and it’s part of my Christmas.

What’s the last great thing you read or watched?

I just read Pachinko [by Min Jin Lee] and thought it was spectacular—an epic drama about family and culture. My 13-year-old has been obsessed with Marvel, and this winter I finally gave in and watched a couple of those. But I’ve now committed to watching the Marvel cinematic universe. It’s a little violent for me, but I figure any invitation from your teenage kids to do something with them must be taken up, so I’m going to do it.

About the Distinguished Alumni Awards

Nominations for the 2024 awards are now closed. Nominations for the 2025 Distinguished Alumni Awards are open through Oct. 18, 2024.