Making Her Voice Heard

By Yillah Natalie Rosenfeld

From a very young age, Parisa Pirooz understood the power of speaking up.

“I grew up with relatives who, in their home country, either held executive seats in government or were detained for arguing against unjust government policies,” she said. “Both extremes taught me that if a desire for political change exists, then one must act as a political force that elevates the ability to be heard.”

It was this influence that prompted Pirooz to seek out a graduate degree. Bearing in mind the obstacles she might face as a woman and a minority, she knew that a solid understanding of political affairs could best position her to be the loudest and most persuasive voice in the room.

As Pirooz began her search for the right master’s program, she came across a report by the Princeton Review citing George Mason as the third most diverse university in the country. This, in addition to its proximity to the nation’s capital, cemented Mason as her top pick.

“I knew that one way I could expedite my personal growth was to be around people from all over the world who were raised with different beliefs, cultures, and religions.”

Pirooz enrolled as a political science graduate student at George Mason’s Schar School of Policy and Government and promptly began delving into a host of challenging assignments. Her curriculum afforded her opportunities to explore specific avenues that piqued her interest while learning about political structures at their source, including several courses that required her to sit in on Congressional hearings.

“This was one of the most valuable elements of my experience at Schar, and it made my studies more distinct than those of several of my friends who were pursuing the same degree elsewhere,” she said of the government events she attended. “Becoming physically present in the field is an experience that is unobtainable in the classroom.”

Pirooz honed in on the topic of combating gender inequality during her master’s quest and augmented her coursework with trips abroad to study and work on specific issues pertaining to human and women’s rights. Upon graduation, she began pursuing a career track with the goal of advancing the lives of women around the world.

Today, Pirooz co-facilitates a gender-empowerment course through Empowered Women International. Her efforts aim to aid low-income American, refugee, and immigrant women to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors that allow them to become financially stable. As a self-proclaimed “passionate human rights advocate”, the job is right in line with the objectives Pirooz set for herself in grad school.

“I have used my experience at Schar to learn more about politics both locally and internationally and am using this knowledge to solve problems of gender inequality within the system,” she said.

True to her upbringing, Pirooz is certainly making her voice heard. In fact, news of her fruitful work with marginalized groups even reached the White House, where she was named a “trusted voice and leader in the community” – an accolade she credits partly to the lessons she learned at Schar.

“I attribute a lot of my success to George Mason for providing the opportunities to enhance my passion and to amplify the voice that I was taught to elevate from childhood.”