Picture this. You come to the US from India as a college dropout without much money. You try to go to college again, but the tuition is constantly rising. Barely scraping by and having multiple jobs at once, you work hard to get your Master of Business Administration. Fast forward, you’re a millionaire, a successful entrepreneur and an investor. Sanjay Singh doesn’t have to imagine this—it’s his life. Now, he’s investing back into the community of Birmingham—the city that invested so much into him.
Meet Sanjay Singh
He has an incredible, American dream story. Originally hailing from India, Sanjay eventually found himself in Milledgeville, Georgia. Working during the day at McDonald’s, he would spend his evenings taking MBA classes at Georgia College. Looking around the classroom, Sanjay saw his colleagues—who were married and had kids—working really hard. They were business people and crushing it. That’s when Sanjay realized that was the kind of environment he wanted to be in. Next, he got his PhD in information technology and strategic management from the University of Georgia.
In 1993, Sanjay planted his roots in Birmingham. By day, he pursued his entrepreneurship aspirations. At night, he was a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business.
“The insight I had was to create a universe where you’re in meetings and in rooms with this corporate America and you try to understand what the problems are. Then, you can come back to your classroom where you have students and try to craft a solution.”Sanjay Singh
His success continued to soar. Sanjay became the Vice President of Community Relations at Computer Technology Services, the biggest privately-held commercial software engineering services company in the state. He has also worked with other successful Birmingham companies, such as Pack Health, Bimal Properties, CS Equities and Alabama Capital Network.
Sanjay and his wife Dora—who’s from El Salvador—are a dynamic duo. Together, they are working to make Birmingham a more inclusive place for people all over the world. Not only do they want to help people find the same opportunities they did, but they want to help more people call Birmingham home.
Investing in education
It’s no secret that college isn’t cheap. In fact, there are many students at UAB every semester who are just $1,000 shy of having enough money for their tuition, according to UAB. This is one of the reasons Sanjay and Dora have become so laser-focused in their giving to education.
They’ve set up a $1 million endowment with a goal to eventually support 100 of these UAB students. The Singhs are investing in these students with great hope that they will later make a difference.
“These are students working hard to pay bills and for some reason, something happened in their life and are $1,000 short. It’s students from across the board. The focus around this scholarship is to fill the gap to empower people as they’re working hard.”Sanjay Singh
Investing in art + cultural opportunities
Bringing talent to Birmingham from all over the world can be challenging. A major obstacle is people from different places feeling like they can’t relate to Birmingham’s local culture and community. Sanjay knows one of the keys to changing that is to bring art and cultural opportunities that reflect the world to The Magic City.
Over the past 30 years, Dora and Sanjay have worked hard to bring pieces of their home countries to Birmingham to fill the void of being away from where they grew up. Art can be a representation of who we are, and Sanjay and Dora want everyone to be able to experience their culture and heritage through brushstrokes on canvases.
So, they began working with the Birmingham Museum of Art (BMA) to bring art from all over the world. For instance, the last three events at BMA—Indian, Chinese and Hispanic focused—attracted over 1,000 families. Also, they’ve helped translate and display BMA’s recent Chinese exhibit signs in English, Spanish and Chinese, enabling more people to experience the exhibit.
Recently, the Singhs donated $1.5 million to the BMA to help fund the director of learning and engagement position, according to the Birmingham Business Journal. The goal of this generous gift is to ensure the BMA’s capability of hosting events and exhibits that reflect people and cultures from all around the world.
“We have to to tell the people of different cultures, religions, backgrounds and histories that we understand who they are.”Sanjay Singh
What can you do to help attract talent to Birmingham?
You don’t have to be a millionaire to make a big difference in our city. Every week, Sanjay gets calls from companies asking for tips on how to recruit people to Birmingham from different backgrounds and places.
For example, Sanjay talked about Katherine Paul, who is the Virginia and William M. Spencer Curator of Asian Art at the Birmingham Museum of Art. She gave a presentation on different holidays around the world. Sanjay said it could start as something as simple as this—recognizing and talking about different culture’s celebrations.
He encourages us to take that step to be open to discussions about faraway places and cultures that may not look like our own. While we love a good Saturday football game in Alabama, Sanjay hopes to diversify the interest and opportunities here so people all over the world can call Birmingham their home sweet home.