A Commitment to Camden

Cooper’s Ferry Partnership president and CEO Kris Kolluri SBC’91 speaking at the RCA Pier opening on the Camden Waterfront in 2019.

By Sam Starnes

Kris Kolluri’s career has come full circle—a loop that returned him to Camden. A 1991 Rutgers School of Business–Camden graduate, his first job out of college was as a congressional aide helping Camden residents. Today, thirty years after earning his degree and embarking on a career that took him to Washington and several high-profile leadership positions in New Jersey, he is president and CEO of Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, a nonprofit Camden economic and community development agency. The path back to Camden, Kolluri said, was meant to be. “I believe in Karmic cycles,” he said. “Camden has and will always be my first love professionally. I fell in love with the city when I went to school here, and I’m still in love with the city.”

Kolluri, who was recently honored as one of 25 business school graduates worldwide to be named by AACSB International to its 2021 Class of Influential Leaders, immigrated to America from Coimbatore, India, with his family in 1985 when he was 15. They eventually settled in Voorhees, New Jersey, and Kolluri found Rutgers–Camden to be the perfect college for him. “For a young person who had just come to the country not knowing his way around, it had all the markings of a great small school that pays individual attention to students,” he said, noting that classes with professors Cal Maradonna and Carol Kaufman-Scarborough, among others, had significant impact on him. “They were able to infuse in their lectures the practical applications for the theories we were learning. That kind of learning environment was foundational to everything I’ve done since.”

After serving as an aide to Congressman Rob Andrews of New Jersey, Kolluri moved to Washington where he worked for Andrews and later as a senior legislative aide for Congressman Dick Gephart, a Democrat from Missouri who served in national leadership roles. “To be able to have a seat at the table at that formative age and to have an opportunity to learn the tradecraft of legislation, policy, and the impact laws have on people was an extraordinary life lesson,” said Kolluri, who also earned a law degree from Georgetown University while working on Capitol Hill.

Kolluri returned to New Jersey in 2002 and has served in leadership roles throughout the state, including CEO of the Rowan University/Rutgers–Camden Board of Governors, CEO of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority, and commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation. He took over the helm of Cooper’s Ferry Partnership in 2018. The nonprofit is the largest developer of parks in the city, and is its largest manager of infrastructure projects. Kolluri said another significant initiative is Camden Works, an effort collaborating with five other nonprofits to find jobs for Camden residents. “Camden is a great city with great people,” he said. “The residents want opportunities to build a better life for themselves and the generations to come.”

Kolluri strongly believes that pedigree and privilege, of which he had neither, should not be a determinant of having an opportunity to succeed. For him, it all started with his undergraduate studies. “Everything I’ve done in life harkens back to the early lessons I learned at Rutgers–Camden,” he said.

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