Prior to joining USDA Rural Development, Karama Neal served as president of Southern Bancorp Community Partners, a nonprofit community development loan fund and financial development organization promoting economic mobility in rural Arkansas and Mississippi. She spent twelve years at Southern and led their small business, consumer and other development lending, consumer and savings focused public policy work, and a variety of financial development services to help low and moderate wealth families and communities build wealth.
In 2013, Dr. Neal started a statewide grassroots organization promoting passage of the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act in Arkansas which was passed in 2015. This work was inspired by her family’s ownership of rural heirs property in the state. Before joining Southern, she had a career in the biosciences and worked for a period in biofuels informatics with a focus on feedstocks and balancing food and fuel priorities. For six years, Dr. Neal served on the board of the Little Rock Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
After completing her undergraduate degree in biology at Swarthmore College, Dr. Neal later earned a doctorate in genetics from Emory University and a master’s in bioethics and health policy from Loyola University Chicago. She also completed executive education in impact investing at the University of Oxford Said School of Business.