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Alumni Excellence Awards: Rising Terp Award Winner Khalil Pettus '15

Alumni Excellence Awards: Rising Terp Award Winner Khalil Pettus '15

Khalil Pettus '15

By Dilshad D. Ali

Khalil Pettus’s mother pushed all eight of her children to go to college so that they would not have the career setbacks she experienced.

“For more than 20 years, my mother worked in the same position,” Pettus says. “Oftentimes a younger, inexperienced college graduate would join the company as a ‘green’ professional. My mother would be responsible for training that person … and eventually watch that person pass her by for promotions because he/she received a college degree.”

Pettus, who majored in finance at the University of Maryland, and all of his siblings went on to earn bachelor’s degrees.

After graduating from UMD, Pettus went straight to New York City to work as an investment banker with Goldman Sachs for two years before joining his former boss, who (along with other former Goldman Sachs colleagues) formed Ardea Partners, a boutique investment banking firm providing strategic advisory services to global enterprises. He is now a vice president at Ardea.

While he grew professionally through those experiences, it was his time at the Robert Smith School of Business that solidified his desire to give back through the power of facilitating education.

During his freshman year, Pettus worked part-time to help pay for school, and while “it was enjoyable, it was also tough to balance things,” he says. In his sophomore year, he received a scholarship that alleviated his financial burden and helped him become a full-time student and focus more on campus activities.

He served as president of the Smith Undergraduate Student Association and was active in the Smith School’s Dean Student Advisory Council as well as University Senate. His tenure as president of Omicron Delta Kappa Sigma Circle, a nationally recognized leadership honor society, made one of the biggest impacts on him.

Just two years after graduating, he established a scholarship fund recognized by ODK, within the Division of Student Affairs, to support students who are “leaders among leaders.” The Kiyomi D. Harper ODK Scholarship Fund, named after Pettus’ mother, is his love letter to his mom as well as a lasting expression of his appreciation for his leadership and educational experiences. As of last year, the fund has helped award scholarships to six student leaders.

Pettus takes his mom to every annual awards and induction ceremony where the scholarship is presented to meet the students and chat with them. “My mom looks forward to it so much,” he says.

Pettus stays connected to UMD and the Smith School in a variety of ways. He was recently selected as an inaugural member of the Student Affairs Alumni Group for Engagement. At its inaugural meeting, he quickly learned how much mental health post-COVID has impacted young alums and students.

“I consider myself a young alumni, but my experiences are different from those who have very recently graduated. There’s so much for all of us to learn from each other.”


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