Uma Srivastava was born and raised in Meridian, Mississippi. She attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and started volunteering for KultureCity in 2015 where she now operates as the Executive Director. Aside from KultureCity, Uma is a member of the Rotary Club of Nashville and Junior League of Nashville and serves on the board of Progress Inc. During her time in Birmingham, she was recognized in 2018 as a Trailblazer for her commitment to Birmingham and most recently was honored as a Nashville Emerging Leader in summer 2023. Uma has spoken about the importance of acceptance and inclusion at several conferences such as Collision, GuestX, and ALSD.
Soul of the South Q&A
1) What was your “aha” moment/When did you decide that this was the industry for you?
I always knew that I wanted to live in Birmingham. I was born and raised in a small town in Mississippi called Meridian where the population was always under 50,000. So when I visited my family in Birmingham, I knew this was the city for me. I moved to Birmingham as a 17-year-old freshman in college. I was already living my dream. One door opened another door and I realized that my passion lay in serving those within the neurodivergent population. I didn’t realize that I would end up in Birmingham advocating for those with sensory needs.
2) How did your upbringing/time spent in Alabama shape your career?
My parents always instilled the value of giving back. Even as early on as middle school and high school we always found ways to give back, whether it was through school societies or other community work that we did. I knew that Birmingham had such a special place in my heart, and I wanted to make sure that I gave back to Birmingham.
My journey at KultureCity started about eight years ago as a volunteer. I found out about the nonprofit and I wanted to learn more about sensory needs. With the mindset of prioritizing volunteering and giving back, I decided to jump in per my mentor’s advice. One thing led to another and eight years later, here I am, serving as the proud Executive Director.
3) What keeps you moving forward in the industry? Do you have a quote or motto that you find resonates?
What drives me when I wake up in the morning is the fact that we’re truly able to shape lives and shape experiences. One of our mission statements is that we make the nevers possible. Oftentimes when families receive a diagnosis, the clinical or medical team will say they will never be able to do certain things. We take that as a challenge and say that we’re going to make those nevers possible.
My favorite quote that really resonates with me is “Always remember you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”
4) How has your nominator made a positive impact on your idea of/relationship to the industry?
I always say that Michele is not only an amazing boss but a fabulous mentor. Michele has gone through her own set of challenges and physical limitations, but she turned that around and she completed an Ironman. Seeing Michele take her situation and say, “No, no one going to stop me. Nothing is going to stop me,” really inspires our team even on our toughest days.
5) What would you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?
I am truly lucky in the fact that I get to relive my greatest accomplishment probably once a week. Every time we have a family or an adult who’s able to go through the experience of making their never possible, it fuels me to keep going and help out the next person in line.
6) What would you like to see more of in Alabama as it pertains to your industry?
We always say true inclusion can never be achieved. There’s always something we can do or another experience or tool we can provide. We may never get to a hundred percent, but I would love to see us try.