Why Diversity is More Than Just a Buzzword in the SCU Leavey MBA

Irshad Fardan, a Muslim, found acceptance, support, and friendship at a school famed for its Catholic Jesuit traditions.

Why Diversity is More Than Just a Buzzword in the SCU Leavey MBA

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m originally from Los Angeles, California. I moved to the Bay Area in 2008 to go to San Jose State University and then I got my Masters at Santa Clara University. After I got my undergrad degree in Psychology in 2012 I pretty much moved up the nonprofit world. I had a couple of different positions and then I was the director of a special needs rehabilitation centre, based in Santa Clara as well. My old office was actually across the street from Santa Clara University and that’s why I started to go around the campus and eventually applied for their MBA.

Why the Evening MBA?

I did the Evening MBA at SCU Leavey because I was working full-time. With the Evening MBA you’re most likely taking two classes from 5.30 to 9.30 PM, so you’re getting off work and you’re coming straight over to class. Everyone had a similar schedule, everyone was a full-time employee, and they came to Santa Clara to finish their MBA.

How did you manage the workload?

For me the biggest challenge was figuring out my schedule. I had an “uncommon” job, so working for my non-profit I was working about 60 to 70 hours per week for my employer – which is not normal! For me it was about having that balance, being able to find the time to study and figuring out my schedule.

I was very fortunate in that the people I met on the first day all kind of pushed each other through depending on our schedule. So it actually ended up being less challenging than it seemed on paper.

How would you describe the MBA experience at SCU Leavey?

I would describe it as a one-of-a-kind in my situation for sure. Going to a school in Silicon Valley, you know everyone raves about Santa Clara, and tells you that it’s going to benefit you in the professional world. You’re going to get those business skills, you’re going to get that network. But what I found is that it helped me way more personally than I ever thought possible – gaining confidence, knowing that I’m capable of doing anything I want.

I got a very unique experience that you can’t trade. You can’t take that back.

Would you recommend the SCU Leavey MBA?

I highly recommend Santa Clara. Not only are the classes very challenging but it gives you a really good perspective into the opportunities out there. 

Going into it, especially with my background (Irshad was born Muslim), you hear about it being a Jesuit school, but I got so much support. [There is] so much diversity, they definitely welcome all different cultures and I felt so accepted going there. It was quite a beautiful experience.

What is so special about the Jesuit values at SCU? How does Leavey School of Business embrace diversity?

Growing up, at least in America, you get a little nervous about being in a different environment or a different culture. I had personally never been around so many Christian people, so I was a bit nervous at the beginning. Am I going to get accepted? Am I going to make friends? But it ended up working out quite well. They actually have different resources on campus that support all different ethnic backgrounds or religions, which was really cool.

What did your MBA teach you? 

It taught me what I was capable of. From my background it was definitely rough. I was often being told I can’t do something or asked “why are you doing that?” One thing my dad always told me was that if you get your education then that’s something they can’t take away from you. So for me the MBA was always a personal connection. Above all, I’d like to inspire other people who are often not perceived to be the kind of applicants to get a Masters.

Looking back, how did the MBA change you as a person?

It definitely changed the way I thought, especially coming from my small, non-profit mindset. Now I think more of the big picture. It helped me understand – especially leadership-wise – what I need to do to be able to get over the hump and become the leader that I want to be. 

[Pre-MBA], one of my biggest fears was failing, I never wanted to make a mistake. The MBA taught me to listen to all those different entrepreneurs who had to go through failure in order to find success.

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