Milad Moghaddas’ journey from the Ted Rogers School to Columbia University

Fall 2018 Ted Rogers School Student Awards Reception

Ted Rogers School of Management Entrepreneurship & Strategy student Milad Moghaddas will be graduating soon and heading off to Columbia University in New York to pursue his  Master of Science in Strategic Communication degree in the Fall.

His path to the Ivy League school wasn’t always an easy one, however. As a first-generation university student, Moghaddas saw his mother make tremendous sacrifices so he could pursue post-secondary education, and had to find a way to support himself financially. Thankfully, the diverse help he received from the Ted Rogers School community enabled him to persevere and achieve great success.

Here is what Moghaddas had to say about his time at the Ted Rogers School, the challenges he faced, the support he received and his plans for the future:

Tell us about your time at the Ted Rogers School of Management.

My five years at the Ted Rogers School included immense passion, joy, adversity and growth. When I began my undergraduate studies in Fall 2016, I experienced significant challenges, given that I was introduced to a heightened level of workload and independence. However, after adapting to the post-secondary environment by Winter 2017 – and learning from the mistakes I made during my first-semester – I was eager to take advantage of the varying opportunities within the university that would support my academic, professional and personal development, and that would allow me to contribute to and support the success of my fellow peers.

Throughout my five years, I am grateful to have fulfilled numerous student leadership initiatives within the Ryerson University community. I took on many roles, such as BUS 100: Strategies for Success Facilitator, Peer Academic Coach at the Academic Success Centre and Vice-President of Marketing for the Ryerson University Co-op Students’ Association. I am also grateful to have been elected as a Ted Rogers School Board of Director for the Ryerson Students’ Union and Ted Rogers School Student Senator for the Ryerson Senate.

Through every leadership position I fulfilled, my mission was simple: to support the academic, professional and personal development of others. The personal adversities I endured fueled my desire to create a significant positive impact on fellow students and peers who have experienced similar adversities, in the hope that I can empower others to believe in themselves and persist. I am forever grateful for my time at the Ted Rogers School, as it taught me to embrace adversity and become resilient, and allowed me to give back to the community.

What kind of support did you receive while you were here?

Milad with his mother at the Fall 2019 Ted Rogers School Student Awards Reception

My mother escaped Iran during the 1979 revolution, in hopes she could come to Canada to provide a better life for her future children. When she arrived in Canada, she worked as a live-in nanny while taking courses to learn English. Later, she endured a gruesome eight-year divorce that stripped her financial security.

I have witnessed my single-mother make indescribable sacrifices to ensure I can pursue a post-secondary education. I have seen her empty the very little she had in her chequing account, just to ensure I can afford the textbooks my courses required. Because of my mother’s low-income, I was required to independently support myself financially in all facets – living, education, food, etc.

As a first-generation student transitioning to the post-secondary environment, this circumstance, understandably, was incredibly challenging. However, the support I received from the Ted Rogers School and Ryerson University community allowed me to persevere through the adversity and achieve great academic and professional success.

For example, throughout the five years of my undergraduate degree, I am profoundly grateful to have received financial support in the form of varying scholarships and student awards totalling more than $75,000. It is because of this financial support that I was able to live comfortably and focus on successfully completing my education without constant financial burden and worry.

Furthermore, I am eternally grateful for the mentorship support I have received from numerous Ted Rogers School faculty members. As a first-generation university student, there were many aspects of the post-secondary environment I had difficulty navigating. Given that no one in my family had pursued a Bachelor’s degree, I did not have anyone to turn to when it came to seeking academic advice or guidance – this is why I am so appreciative of the mentorship I received from my professors.

Maurizio Di Maio, for example, was my professor for both ACC 100 and ACC 406. At the time, I was completing the first year of my degree, and was overwhelmed with the transition to post-secondary. Maurizio recognized my passion and devotion to my education, and offered his time to supporting my academic development and aspirations. To this day, he has been my most prevalent mentor, and I am forever indebted to him for his time, empathy, wisdom and knowledge.

Another professor I am forever indebted to is Dr. Danielle Lamb, who was my professor for MHR 523 and Faculty Supervisor for the Ted Rogers School Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. Throughout the years, Dr. Lamb has always exhibited great patience and care in answering my questions and offering her advice. She was also actively involved in my graduate school application process by providing several letters of supports.

It is because of the diverse support I have received from the Ted Rogers School community that I achieved a 4.0 CGPA, and will now have the opportunity to pursue my graduate studies.

Why did you apply to Columbia University and what will you be studying there?

2019 Ted Rogers Management Conference

I was humbly admitted to Columbia University’s Master of Science in Strategic Communication program.  

I applied to Columbia University for several reasons. First, I wanted to challenge myself by aiming to pursue my graduate studies at an institution – an Ivy League institution – that I knew would be much more difficult to gain admittance to, compared to a traditional university. I have always been one to challenge myself, and although I knew this aspiration of mine would warrant steep hurdles, I did not waver.

My specific interest in the Master of Science in Strategic Communication program stemmed from my minor in Professional Communications that I achieved while at Ryerson University. Particularly amid the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic, we have seen the profound role, necessity and purpose communication plays in delivering messages to the public. Accordingly, I was eager to apply for a program that embodied the importance of communication, and offered an in-depth education of its varying components.

Secondly, I applied to Columbia University because of my longing love for the institution. I have always dreamed to live in New York City, and I have long been amazed by the school’s esteemed faculty, reputable research and diverse resources dedicated to supporting the academic and professional development of its students.

How do you think your time at the Ted Rogers School helped you get into such a prestigious graduate school?

Milad with Lisa Lisson (FedEx Express Canada’s President) during his co-op work term

I believe my time at the Ted Rogers School helped me get into Columbia University because of the devotion to my academics and extracurriculars I demonstrated throughout my five years, coupled with the diverse support I received from the Ryerson community. In Fall 2016, I achieved a 3.13 CGPA. Truthfully, I was very disappointed in myself upon my completion of the first semester of my first year because I knew I was capable of better.

As I have always been one to embrace the sentiment that learning is an iterative process, I reflected on the mistakes I made during Fall 2016 to ensure they would never be repeated. Shortly thereafter, I achieved a 4.17 CGPA in Winter 2017. Now, five years later, I graduated from Ryerson University with a 4.0 CGPA – the culmination of all my five years of study.

I encourage anyone reading this to remember that one’s progression does not simply occur overnight – patience, commitment and drive is necessary. While there were many moments throughout my time at Ryerson that left me greatly frustrated – whether it be with my grade on an assignment or a final exam, despite demonstrating considerable effort and preparation – I would never allow myself to give up. I would say to myself, “Milad, your mother did not sacrifice all that she did to see you give up now. Keep going.”

What are your plans for the future?

After completing my Master’s degree, I aspire to pursue my PhD to become an academic researcher and Business Professor at a post-secondary institution. My plans for the future originate from two innate passions of mine: my passion for academia and my passion for teaching.

As an undergraduate student, I had the opportunity to fulfill both passions in varying capacities. For example, I fulfilled my passion for teaching by working as a BUS 100: Strategies for Success Facilitator, Academic Peer Helper and Peer Academic Coach. More recently, I fulfilled my passion for academia by working as a Research Assistant for Dr. Danielle Lamb and Dr. Rafael Gomez through the Ted Rogers School Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program.

While I embrace that one’s plans for the future may face unexpected pivots, I look forward to this next step in my academic journey, and remain committed to embracing the inevitable new challenges that lie ahead.

Whatever your aspirations are, do not forgo any opportunity. Never limit yourself to what is ‘safe.’ Although the circumstances of my upbringing never supported my aspirations, I’ve always abided by the sentiment that you are the product of your decisions, not the product of your circumstances.