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Krish O’Mara Vignarajah

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah

President and CEO
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

When Krish O’Mara Vignarajah’s parents arrived in Baltimore from Sri Lanka, they rebuilt their lives from the ground up. This and her parents’ perseverance, she says, taught her the importance of resilience and ingenuity — attributes at the core of her leadership style.

“I’m grateful to the many others I’ve encountered throughout my career – mentors, peers, mentees, clients – who have only further inspired me to embrace that where there is challenge and doubt, there is also great opportunity,” she says.

Throughout her impressive career Vignarajah has served as policy director for then-first lady Michelle Obama and as a senior adviser under both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry when they served as Secretary of State. She currently serves as president and CEO at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, one of the largest faith-based national nonprofits dedicated to immigration and refugees.

Vignarajah says she learned the importance of pushing for change when she canvased for Barbara Mikulski with her mother. That drive pushed her through roles at the State Department, White House and as the sole female CEO running a national resettlement agency.

“Neither influence nor the ability to effect change are concepts reserved for C-suite executives,” she says. “I encounter people every day driven to make a difference, and they can all impact their communities.”

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Vignarajah says she also earned the importance of adaptability. When COVID-19 began, her team established an emergency fund, which in less than four months provided financial assistance to more than 360 at-risk families.

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