Founder/Board Chair, AUM Foundation USA
Originally from India, Alka Bhargav has become an integral figure in the Huntsville community. She first obtained her Bachelor of Science and an MBA from the Birla Institute of Technology & Sciences in India. When Alka immigrated to the United States, she earned her Master of Arts in Communication from Washington State University and worked as a vocational rehabilitation counselor in Seattle. After moving to Huntsville in 2000, Alka began a career in human resources. Her years of HR experience gave her keen insight into what companies look for in high-potential employees.
In 2014, her dreams became a reality when Alka and her husband started a nonprofit organization called the AUM Foundation. Serving as Founder and Board Chair, Alka has provided 145 young women with invaluable resources for their futures. The Foundation’s program, Pathway 2 Success rests on three pillars: Mentorship, Leadership and Workforce Development. Private and small group ACT tutoring helps increase their ACT scores and subsequently their financial aid. At the end of the program, they receive a scholarship towards higher education and a laptop computer.
Alka is chair of Women’s Business Council for the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber. In her free time, Alka likes to dive into a good book, cook delicious meals, or try out the latest interior decorating trends.
When you were little, what did you dream of being when you grew up?
There were two competing desires, interior decorator and doctor. Ended up being neither.
What circumstances or people helped shape you in your career?
My mother, getting divorced, being a single mom, my husband. Immigrating to the US.
What do you love most about your job?
Seeing the girls in the program literally “bloom.” I get testimonials almost every day of the impact the program is making on the lives of our participants.
What differentiates you from your peers or competitors?
I think the passion I have for what I do and the capacity for hard work are two characteristics that set me apart. The passion comes from my unique experiences in life and hence the program is built upon learning from each of life challenges, education, experiences. I am also an innovator and a strategic thinker.
What’s your favorite thing about living in the Huntsville/Madison County area?
I think the community in Huntsville is amazing. Diverse and philanthropic, they truly care about causes and will stand with you for just causes.
What civic organizations or nonprofits have you been involved with, and why have those been important to you?
I am currently serving as chair of the Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce and truly enjoy promoting women-owned businesses in the area and providing opportunity and resources for them. I have also led the WEDC Foundation, that addresses needs of college-going under resourced women. WEDCF serves my population at a later stage and it’s all about getting these women to financial stability. I love that. I have volunteered extensively with North Alabama Society of Human Resources and love my HR colleagues in town. Just recently, they have provided support to the Foundation kids by doing mock interviews. I was on the Madison City Disability Advocacy Board and served as their Workforce director. Folks with special needs have a special place in my heart. I worked as a vocational rehabilitation consultant prior to my career in Human Resources. Additionally, I enjoy giving back to the community through volunteer work for Habitat to Humanity, the American Heart Association, Asha Kiran, and more.
What awards, accolades or accomplishments are you proudest of?
My most significant achievement in life is this Foundation and the program within. To have already impacted 145 young women in a life transformative manner is beyond any words. However, I am proud of having been the Woman of the Year 2020 award from Psi Beta Zeta sorority.
What is your foundation’s mission statement?
To empower under resourced individuals and groups for success by implementing programs that address systemic barriers to personal and organizational growth and development.
How has the business community changed for women since you began your career?
There have been a lot of changes since I joined the workforce. The ability to work remotely is a real boon when your child is sick and can’t be sent to day care. The changing perceptions of women and their roles is also significant. Being assertive is no longer a negative.
Do you have a favorite quote about powerful or strong women you’d like to share?
This is my own quote. “You don’t need permission to be empowered. You are empowered.”