Bryant Alumni Achievement Awards logo 2023
Nirbhay Kumar ’97: The power of paying it forward
May 31, 2023, by Danny Lamere
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Nirbhay Kumar ’97 will receive the Nelson Gulski Service Award on Friday, June 2 on Bryant’s campus at a special banquet. Other award winners include Paul Kelly ’88, Hal Horvat ’91MBA, Joan Waters ’83, Heidi (Verrill) Pickett ’91, Norell Bassett Zable ’11, ’ 12MBA, and Quentin “Q” Williams ’05. The Alumni Achievement Awards are part of Reunion and Alumni Weekend, when all alumni will be welcomed back to campus, including those with class years ending in 3 and 8, who will be celebrating Reunions.   


Nelson Gulski Service Award: Nirbhay Kumar ’97  

“You should be flexible enough to say, ‘I want to try something new.’” 

Headshot of Nirbhay Kumar
Nirbhay Kumar '97

Nirbhay Kumar ’97 had never left his home in India before he came to Bryant, but he quickly built a supportive community of fellow international students. “There weren’t as many [international students] as there are now,” says Kumar. “I think in some ways we were closer.”  

With the help of the tight-knit Bryant community — he even met his wife, Parul, at Bryant — Kumar says he was able to graduate in just three years by taking advantage of summer and winter session courses, entering the workforce early, and beginning a successful, if, as he puts it, “idiosyncratic,” career in finance and fintech. 

Since reconnecting with Bryant in 2019, Kumar has dedicated considerable time and effort to mentoring Bryant students. “My message to the students,” he says, “is that there are very few linear paths. You should be flexible enough to say, ‘I want to try something new.’”

“I learned more in 14 months at that startup than I did in the previous 14 years of my career.”

This advice comes from Kumar’s personal experience: after working in financial asset management with companies like Blackrock for more than a decade, he decided to shift gears and work for a blockchain startup. “I didn’t know anything about blockchain,” says Kumar. “I didn’t know anything about crypto. But I said, ‘Let’s try this.’” That decision provided him with one of the most valuable experiences of his career. “I learned more in 14 months at that startup than I did in the previous 14 years of my career.” Kumar is now an independent advisor to startups and venture capital funds, sharing his expertise with the next generation of changemakers and disruptors. 

Nirbhay Kumar speaks on campus with Bryant students.
Kumar, speaking here at the April 2023 Financial Services Forum, believes in sharing his knowledge and advice with the Bryant community.

In volunteer and advisory capacities at Bryant, Kumar has focused on helping students find internships, gain job skills, and prepare for their careers. He says he has pressed faculty leaders to inject more data analytics into Bryant coursework. “I made the pitch that there’s demand for this across the board,” says Kumar. He has also pushed for a program to help place students with startup companies for internships, which he says can provide invaluable hands-on experience. At a small startup company, says Kumar, “You learn more because you’re forced to do more. You learn to deal with chaos. So, for the rest of your life, you see connections that other people just don’t.”

RELATED: Paul Kelly ’88 and Hal Horvat ’91MBA: Two paths to success

RELATED: Heidi (Verrill) Pickett ’91 and Joan Waters ’83: Empowering the next wave of women leaders

RELATED: Norell Bassett Zable ’11, ’12MBA and Quentin "Q" Williams ’05: Celebrating Recent Grads

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