Maryam Mortazavi M.B.A. ’14, discusses her previous education in Iran and her life as an international student at William & Mary.
1. What was your childhood like in Iran?
My childhood was in Tabriz, one of the ancient cities of Iran. I was the first grandchild of a large family. We all lived in a very historic neighborhood with lots of friends and relatives. There was always an event going on in that neighborhood — a marriage, a birthday, a festival. I very much enjoyed those days of large parties and gatherings. I had a unique passion about that old neighborhood, a very strong sense of curiosity to discover all its hidden corners, old doors, secret porches, colorful glass windows and the turquoise tiles of mosques. Those days my entire world was that neighborhood and its stories, and my dream job changed frequently, from an elementary teacher to an archaeologist and even an astronomer.
2. What led you to decide to become an international student in the United States?
Since I became interested in history and geography in the elementary school, the United States was always an exciting destination for me. When I decided to study business I became more interested in becoming an international student in the U.S. because I was very curious about the way business takes place here. I believe the United States truly has the best infrastructures and schools in which to study and understand business. It is the world’s largest economy, and it has been a pioneer in achieving economic goals and in developing new methods for doing business. Becoming a student here allowed me to have access to a top-notch education as well as to meet and learn from people who are leading the world’s most successful companies.
3. How did you first hear about the Mason School of Business at the College of William & Mary?
I first read about William & Mary in a history-related article a few years ago. I became very excited about the story of this school, and I planned to visit it one day. When I decided to study in an MBA program in the United States, I discovered that William & Mary has an outstanding Master of Business Administration program at the Mason School of Business. I wanted to study in a program with both breadth and depth, and the MBA program at Mason was exactly tailored for this. I quickly applied, and I was overjoyed when I was officially admitted.
4. What was your education like prior to William & Mary?
Prior coming to William & Mary, I studied civil engineering. In high school my studies were mostly focused on math. I choose to study math and later civil engineering because I was very interested in solving problems. Especially in engineering, when we mix physics and math, we should usually come up with more than one solution for a situation. Later, I added the element of human science to my passions, especially sociology.
5. What was your professional experience prior to coming to W&M?
I worked in the oil and gas construction industry for about five years. I was involved with multi-functional teams, and have worked with international clients. I also have special interest in development and have established a social entrepreneurship project for 18 women.
6. What was this social entrepreneurship project?
A few years ago, I met a friend who was helping children of a small, poor village in Iran to participate in formal education. We were thinking of possibilities to economically empower their families, and found out that there is a traditional art craft in that village, suzan douzi (needle-weaving), that was going to become extinct. It was done by women as a hobby, and produced beautiful cloths and home accessories. We defined a project to make this craft a source of constant income for those families. We raised funds and introduced this craft to people living in urban areas and established a market for it. A sustainable income opportunity was created for those ladies, and this positively affected the village’s economy and culture.
This was a joyful work experience for me.
7. What are your career plans for the future?
After earning my MBA at William & Mary, I plan to pursue a career in strategic planning, corporate finance or development. My priority in choosing a career is how it will positively impact the lives of others.
My long term goal is to become an entrepreneur in Iran, so it is very important that I work with successful companies and experienced people today. Being an Iranian is a very strong part of my character. Every day I think about developing a business in Iran. In my first year as an MBA student, every time I learned about something new my first thought was “how can this become helpful for my country?”
8. What do you miss the most about Iran?
I miss the people very much. I have traveled to many parts of Iran, including small towns, large cities, grand bazars and turquoise mosques. Everywhere I traveled within Iran, I met people. They have suddenly invited me to their houses for tea, have told me their stories and made life-long friendships with me. There is a unique charm, and warmth in Iranian people that I miss very much.
9. What would you like W&M to know about its international student community?
I believe we should expand dialogue among cultures as much as possible to broaden each other’s visions. International students have many events that build this dialogue. For example, this year some of our international students in the MBA program held special sessions to introduce their countries and cultures. Those sessions helped us all to gain new perspectives and have a better understanding of different countries. Some of our American classmates also held an American Football session, and introduced us this exciting sport.
10. What do you think you’ve learned at W&M that you will carry with you for the rest of your life?
W&M has taught me a lot so far, but one thing very valuable to me is the meaning of leadership. “What is leadership?” and “How I can be a leader?” are key questions for me, and I know I have William & Mary’s support in finding my answers to these questions and developing my skills in this regard.