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Spotlight on Walden // May 19, 2015

International CEO Adds New Title: PhD

Dr. Ricky Gujral ’14, PhD in Psychology graduate and international businesswoman, is no stranger to a fast-paced life. “I'm usually up at 4 a.m. because I'm talking to people in London,” she says. Dr. Gujral is the CEO of the Gujral Group, a global family business with multiple divisions all over the world that provides research in alternative and green energy, mines precious metals, and develops real estate. Headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, the firm also finances start-up companies, entrepreneurs, and new business ventures, and has a charitable arm that is active in Canada, the United States, Kenya, Zambia, and India.

Education has always been a key value in her traditional Indian family. Dr. Gujral had earned her bachelor’s and master’s, and was enjoying a fulfilling and successful career without the advanced degree—her decision to pursue a PhD was personal. “I wanted to show my children that you really can do anything that you set your mind to and I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.” She notes that her entire board of directors has PhDs. “The added credential carries a huge level of importance in the business and academic community.”

As a professional who travels extensively, Dr. Gujral was thankful for the option to pursue her doctorate through an online university. She made the decision to enroll in Walden’s PhD in Psychology program. Although she’s spent her career in business, her bachelor’s degree is in biopsychology (a subject she’s always been fascinated with), and she wanted to return to the sciences. And she’s using her education to address an issue she sees in Indian culture—her dissertation explores alcoholism. “It is very prominent,” she says. “You can't turn on an Indian song without hearing a reference to alcohol. And I started thinking about what children learn when they see their parents and friends of their parents drink and sometimes to excess.” She plans to present a poster on her findings at Walden’s 2015 summer commencement.

With much of the Gujral Group’s work occurring in developing nations, Dr. Gujral came to Walden with keen understanding of the need to be a good corporate citizen and was particularly attracted to its mission to create positive social change. In Zambia, where the company was engaged in cobalt mining, she and her team rebuilt an abandoned town in Kabwe, Copperbelt. They opened two schools, sponsored youth sports teams, and sent students to the London School of Arts. They did the same thing in India. “We’ve always opened up schools and systems to support the workers and families that work in our businesses. We believe in social change through education.”

While completing her PhD, the busy mother of two continued to work and travel extensively—she never had to take time off from her career or her family, and still managed to volunteer at her children’s schools. When she walked across the stage in Orlando, Florida, to receive her diploma, both her mother and father sat proudly in the audience. Her father traveled from India to attend. “I am the first doctor in our family, which means a tremendous amount.”

“All my life, my family wanted me to pursue higher education. To finally achieve a doctorate is a gratifying experience which I can say without hesitation I would not have been able to do without the support of Walden University.”