College of Arts and Science economics major Mansi Prakash, an NYU leadership fellow, recently won the 2015 grand prize—$20,000 cash—in Glamour’s top 10 college women competition, an annual contest that has also honored such greats as Martha Stewart and Diane Sawyer over the course of its 58-year history. The hundreds of college juniors who apply each year are evaluated on academics, leadership, extracurricular activities, and community service before 10 finalists are chosen to receive $3,000 cash prizes—and to be profiled in the magazine.
Prakash wowed the judges by founding the nonprofit Brighter Today, which uses eco-friendly lightbulbs to alleviate poverty in developing nations. And as part of the festivities, Glamour paired her with mentor Dave Gilboa, founder of Warby Parker, to discuss—oh...you know, changing the world.
NYU Stories caught up with Prakash to talk about her star turn—and what she does in her downtime. We know this isn’t the last time we’ll be seeing her name in headlines.
Proudest moment so far:
Taking the risk to start my own nonprofit organization, Brighter Today.
How the idea for Brighter Today came about:
In 2010, I visited a small rural Indian town called Behlana Village with my grandparents. I noticed that the families in this town, while they had incandescent bulbs, avoided utilizing lighting due to exorbitant electricity costs, which in turn prevented students from studying and inhibited women from working at home. I was stunned that this issue had become such a severe roadblock to the villagers. After interacting further with the community, I learned that the high costs stemmed in part from the use of incandescent bulbs. I decided to make a change that summer by implementing CFL bulbs in 12 households. This figure eventually multiplied to 530 households (about 80% of the village) by early 2014 due to increased awareness around the community.
How did it feel to win the Glamour contest?
Both exciting and overwhelming. I am truly honored to be recognized part of such an incredibly passionate group of women. I am humbled by their work, by how impressive they are each as people, and by the ways I know they will create a significant impact and change the world.
What was it like meeting Warby Parker co-founder Dave Gilboa?
Speaking with Dave Gilboa was very inspiring: he shared personal experiences, and gave motivating advice on running a company, creating an impact in the world as well as growing as a person and taking advantage of all the resources around you.
Favorite place to grab lunch around Washington Square:
The dosa cart!
Your shameless New Yorker habit:
Eating a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast almost every morning.
Dream job when you were 5:
Dream job now:
The next Sheryl Sandberg.
Most influential NYU professors:
Selin Kalaycioglu for elevating my life long love for mathematics and for always believing in me, and Sarah Durham for giving me direction when I first started my nonprofit.
Best advice you've ever received:
Learn from your mistakes.
Favorite TV show to binge watch:
Favorite junk food:
What brings you peace:
Painting, writing poetry, and remaining cozied up in bed.