Prism Fellow and reality TV star Dillon Patel

Patel’s LGBTQ+ advocacy as a tech worker and former reality TV star has earned him the the distinction as Wharton’s second Prism Fellow, a scholarship to one MBA student who demonstrates leadership in support of the LGBTQ+ community.

When Dillon Patel, was growing up, he didn’t see many people like him on television. Now, at age 27, he finds himself on the other side of the screen on Bravo’s docu-series “Family Karma.” The show, which premiered its second season on June 2, chronicles the lives of Patel and his multigenerational Indian-American family and friends as they balance modern life with their traditional upbringings.

Dillon Patel seated and smiling behind a large television screen filming him.
Behind the scenes: Filming interviews for Bravo’s “Family Karma.” (Image: Courtesy of @dillonpatelme)

Prior to appearing on “Family Karma,” Patel was living a fairly low-profile life working as Senior Manager of Global Operations at Zendesk, a customer support software company, in San Francisco. But he was no stranger to being an outspoken leader and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. Shortly after joining Zendesk he began to lead the company’s LGBTQ Employee Resource Group, Pride ERG, and went on to institute several groundbreaking initiatives.

“I’m most proud of launching a Pride mentorship program where we paired folks across offices internationally who are within our community,” he says. “We also advocated for changes to our benefits that included more trans-inclusive healthcare coverage, mental health services and also support for those who want to start families in less traditional ways such as surrogacy, egg-freezing, or adoption.”

Pride ERG also led Zendesk’s application for the Human Rights Campaign’s “Best Places for LGBT Equality” and earned the company a perfect score of 100. Even as Patel departs Zendesk to attend Wharton, he knows the work will continue. “For me, it was especially impactful because every year or so the HRC will continue to add additional criteria for inclusivity that I’m hopeful Zendesk will continue to meet.”

This advocacy work earned Patel the distinction as Wharton’s second Prism Fellow. Established in 2019 by Jeffrey Schoenfeld, the Prism Fellowship awards a full-tuition scholarship to one MBA student who demonstrates leadership in support of the LGBTQ+ community.

“First, it’s incredible that something like the Prism fellowship even exists. The fact that Jeffrey, Wharton, and so many folks are willing to invest in the community in a substantial way is huge to me,” Patel says. “I also recognize the fact that Wharton is full of stellar applicants and I’m so incredibly grateful that I was chosen to be awarded this prestigious fellowship.”

This story is by Mike Kaiser. Read more at Wharton Stories.