Faculty Spotlight: Arlene Buchanan, Associate Director of Employer Engagements and Partnerships Outreach

by Natalie Bowers

Arlene Buchanan, Associate Director of Employer Engagements and Partnerships Outreach, is excited to develop strategic partnerships that offer students transformative real-world experiences and to connect talented students with industry leaders, providing opportunities that enhance their career prospects and deliver fresh, innovative perspectives to our partners. Buchanan’s role matters because it ensures our students are well-prepared for the workforce while contributing to the growth and success of the organizations we collaborate with.

“Northeastern University stands out by providing industry-aligned co-op experiences that significantly increase employability – boom, the ROI. I am proud of the impactful work we are doing and excited about the contributions I can make in this role.”

– Arlene Buchanan

Conversations about the value of a college degree have become increasingly common, with students and their families questioning the ROI of higher education. With over a decade of experience in higher education, Buchanan understands the importance and value of a degree and aligning with institutions that prioritize this outcome.

She said, “Northeastern University stands out by providing industry-aligned co-op experiences that significantly increase employability – boom, the ROI. I am proud of the impactful work we are doing and excited about the contributions I can make in this role.”

Developing Partnerships

Buchanan is based in Miami, Florida, and she is also strategically focusing on emerging markets beyond the state.

She said, “My goal is to forge relationships with industry leaders in key sectors and regions. By engaging with employers in these areas, I aim to create diverse and dynamic co-op opportunities that align with our students’ academic and professional goals. I love to collaborate, so if you have an idea, market, employer, or opportunity worth exploring, let me know and I will look into it. Let’s go!”

Faculty Spotlight: Nneka Allen-Harrison, Assistant Adjunct Professor at Mills College

by Natalie Bowers

Assistant Adjunct Professor for CPS at Mills College, Nneka Allen-Harrison, has conducted a new study titled “Bay Area Black Voices: Employment Outcomes of the Black Labor Force in the San Francisco Bay Area.” Her research synthesizes employment data to explore economic disparities in the region. Despite its robust economy and diverse population, the Bay Area faces a significant racial wage gap. Drawing on U.S. Census data, Allen-Harrison highlights that in 2019, Black men in the Bay Area earned a median income of less than $60,000, whereas their white counterparts earned over $80,000 annually. For further insights, refer to her work in the NGN article.

“The disparities in employment and economic outcomes for the Black labor force in the Bay Area underscore the urgent need for solutions that promote social empowerment and create a more equitable society.”

– Nneka Allen-Harrison

2024 Women Who Empower Awards

by Natalie Bowers

The Women Who Empower Innovator Awards, now in its fourth year, have provided more than $1.32 million in funding to over 100 changemakers in the Northeastern community. The 2024 recipients were selected by a panel of judges and 33 winners will receive a total of $500,000 in funding.  Four of the 33 winners are affiliated with CPS. Congratulations to all of the winners across Northeastern University!

Northeastern University’s Women Who Empower initiative is grounded in the belief that diverse and inclusive communities empower a better world. The network comprises strong, aspiring, and distinguished individuals dedicated to fostering positive environments, building lasting connections, and providing meaningful experiences where all people thrive, through entrepreneurship.

Making CPS Proud! CPS Affiliated 2024 Winners

This year’s CPS Affiliated winners are:

Mary DeVega, CPS’22, NUSL’25

GRADUATE STUDENTS 1st Place

San Francisco, CA | MPowered: A staffing firm dedicated to empowering women through training and professional development

Linh Dinh, CPS’25

GRADUATE STUDENTS Honors

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam | ATURE: Bridging the gap between Asian SMEs and global markets

Rama Doddi, CPS’24 

GRADUATE STUDENTS Honors

Boston, MA & Vizag, AP, India | RegPulse: Identifying the Regulatory “Pulse” of small to mid-lev Pharmaceuticals, Medical Devices and Biologic industries and provide solutions for their regulatory concerns

Claudia Tobar, CPS, D.Ed’20

GRADUATE ALUMNAE 2nd Place and

POWERING GLOBAL CHANGE AWARD 3rd Place

Pichincha, Ecuador | Kamina: A revolutionary financial wellbeing platform, that provides a comprehensive solution with advisory, access and assessment, committed specifically for women and non-banked individuals

Learn more about Women Who Empower.

Read the NGN’s coverage.

Staff Spotlight: Pete Cardillo, Associate Director of Employer Engagement

by Natalie Bowers

Last year marked an exciting milestone with the launch of CPS’s Employer Engagement Team, dedicated to creating dynamic experiential learning co-op opportunities for students. Pete Cardillo helps forge and sustain vital relationships with companies eager to benefit from the fresh perspectives and skills our students offer. His goal? To showcase CPS’s eagerness to collaborate and highlight how our students’ exceptional talents can significantly bolster industry teams—a true win-win scenario!

“Our CPS alumni form an essential support network for our students, enhancing their experiential learning and co-op journeys. With a dedicated team now in place, we aim to encourage our alumni, especially those needing skilled student workers, to reach out and discover the impactful contributions our students can offer.”

-Pete Cardillo

Cardillo is continually connecting with various industry partners and engaging both long-time collaborators and new employer prospects. He shares, “Our CPS alumni form an essential support network for our students, enhancing their experiential learning and co-op journeys. With a dedicated team now in place, we aim to encourage our alumni, especially those needing skilled student workers, to reach out and learn more. Unlike typical interns, our students often arrive with substantial experience, ready to make a remarkable difference from day one. While we value partnerships with companies of all sizes, we particularly treasure the unique experiences provided by medium and small-sized businesses. So, whether you run a family-owned enterprise or a large corporation, we’re eager to connect with you!”

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to partner with us. Learn more here or just reach out to Pete and his team today at [email protected].

Please note: while the Employer Engagement Team and the broader CPS team strive to connect students with valuable experiences, they do not function as a staffing or placement agency for students or employers.

The Spirit of Giving: From Co-op Student to Donor 

Alumni Spotlight: Jim Nolan, BA Business & Administration ‘71

by Natalie Bowers

Few understand the value of co-op education quite like Jim Nolan.  

As a graduate of the College of Professional Studies, BA Business & Administration ‘71, and lifetime career in commercial real estate, Nolan encourages everyone to embrace the practice of philanthropy. His guiding principle is simple yet profound, “engage in giving back in any capacity possible, no matter how small, because every act contributes to a greater good.”   

Nolan’s formative years were influenced by his parents’ strong family values and his father’s military career, which involved multiple relocations around the globe and exposed him to many different cultures. He graduated high school at a small school in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, which was mostly populated by expat students, children of employees of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the US Embassy and Joint American Military Mission to Aid Turkey (JAMMAT).  

He said, “Coming from the military mindset, I never understood the world of business; I didn’t know there was such a thing as business, and I didn’t know what an entrepreneur was. There is no ‘profit motive’ in the military, there are just missions and objectives. You do whatever it is that needs to be done that day.”  

When it was time to submit college applications, Nolan aspired to pursue a career in teaching, influenced by the positive impact of his high school English teacher, Mrs. Vick. His mother’s best friend in Ankara was the daughter of Herb Gallagher, the Athletic Director at Northeastern University at the time. Both she and her husband were Northeastern graduates and their experience with the university inspired Nolan to apply to the School of Education. Despite never having set foot in Boston before, he was accepted.  

His first visit to Boston coincided with the start of his first semester as an English major in the Northeastern University College of Education. He said, “I boarded a plane from Turkey, arrived at JFK airport with only $50 in my pocket, purchased a bus ticket, and got off at Copley Square.” He then settled into the dorms located at 129 Hemingway Street, Boston. Upon his arrival, he was greeted with two military footlockers containing everything he owned.  

His parents agreed to pay for tuition and board, but Nolan had to earn money for everything else. During his freshman year, he secured a few small jobs, washing dishes at the girl’s dormitory and with Northeastern’s building and grounds when needed. By combining earnings from these jobs, he was able to cover most of his college expenses, graduating with a loan of just $1,200, roughly equivalent to $25,000 in today’s dollars. 

The Co-op Experience 

In his first year at Northeastern, Nolan met with his co-op coordinator to arrange a work experience. The challenge for the coordinator was that the job had to be related to education and provide room and board. Jim was open to opportunities, and the coordinator recommended he look at occupational therapist roles offered at Fairfields Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Newtown, Connecticut.  

“It was a beautiful campus, no gates, every building was a colonial five story building,” Nolan said, remembering his time there. He recalls arriving at the hospital, heading to the administrative building to get the room key, and settling into an 18×12 wide room with a sink and bathroom down the hall. “I unpacked feeling a little strange and went downstairs to the basement rec room. I saw other people there, they were acting a little rambunctious, and I said, ‘holy moly they put me in with the patients.’ But they were the orderlies!”  

Nolan’s next experiential work opportunity was with the Aetna Life and Casualty Company in Richmond, Virginia. Again, Nolan met with his coordinator and focused his job search on Virginia, as his parents were relocating from Turkey to live there. While with Aetna Life, he received free room and board, as well as laundry service. After two co-op periods with the company, Nolan realized his interest in business and finance and transitioned out of the College of Education to University College, now known as the College of Professional Studies. He switched his major to Business Administration and Management and added two additional years at Northeastern to complete his degree.  

“Giving is a joyful experience. If you are at Northeastern, you have got to be immersed in the programs that are offered and take every advantage that is thrown at you. Then give back.” 

Jim Nolan

While he caught up with his new major, Nolan held other positions with the Employers Commercial Union, the Security Insurance Company, the US Post office and Bradley’s Stop and Shop. As he moved closer to graduation, he again called on the assistance of his co-op coordinator for advice and job recommendations. He was recommended to take the Civil Service Examination and apply with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).  

He spent the next seven years in a variety of positions and responsibilities with the FDIC, the last two years serving as the Assistant Liquidator of American Bank and Trust company in New York. Finally, Nolan decided it might be time to go out on his own. 

Going Out On His Own. 

After his tenure with the FDIC, Nolan spent the next three years as the Head of Real Estate Acquisitions for a Miami-based company, First Capital. He then had a brief stint as President of MDC Equities in Denver, Colorado. It was in Denver that Nolan met his future partner, and together they co-founded United Trust Fund (UTF), a privately owned real estate investment firm headquartered in Miami. His partner had a connection with a large state retirement fund to provide capital for property purchases, while Nolan’s role was to purchase, manage, and sell the investments. His partner famously said, “You buy the properties, and I will find the capital,” and that is exactly what they did for the next six years, building the name and brand of United Trust Fund (UTF).  

Starting essentially from scratch in 1982, Nolan and his partner grew the company to institutional status. To enhance the company’s capital structure, he hired an investment banker in New York. Deloitte and Touche were engaged to conduct a three-year back audit, and an investment offering was prepared. Nolan remarked, “I learned all of this through my Northeastern co-op experience and my time with the FDIC.” A list of 100 institutional prospects was made, and within one-year, Metropolitan Life closed on a 20% interest in UTF.  

Nolan successfully built his business while raising his three young children and volunteering his time as a Northeastern alum, attending local college fairs, and actively engaging in numerous nonprofit organizations. 

Philanthropy 

Nolan’s own family’s value of giving, coupled with his award of the Joseph Mullin Scholarship in his last year at Northeastern, gave him a strong sense of the importance of giving back.

Before he was able to give money, Nolan volunteered his time. He represented the university in the local college admission process, attended college fairs, and met with prospective students to promote Northeastern and its co-op program. He continued in that role for ten years, covering Florida and other parts of the southeastern part of the country.  

Eventually, he established the Nolan Family Scholarship for students with learning challenges, starting with a donation of $25,000 and aiming to increase it to $100,000. He has not only achieved this goal but has been able to contribute even more to the fund. 

At a dinner in Miami, Richard Freeland, then-president of Northeastern, solicited Nolan to serve on the University’s Board of Incorporators which he served on for more than ten years, actively engaged in the Admission Committee, the Student Affairs Committee, the Building Committee and finally, serving five years on the University’s Financial Affairs Committee.  

His breadth of involvement reflects Nolan’s dedication to making a meaningful impact on service and leadership. “When I had time, I gave time; and when I had money, I gave money.”, he said.

“Northeastern co-op provided experience and work ethic for my future and that fueled my desire to give back”

-Jim Nolan

The Power of Experiential Learning

Real world experience. Real life impact.

Experiential learning is a cornerstone of the Northeastern student journey. At the College of Professional Studies, students engage in a variety of opportunities to gain meaningful hands-on experience working with businesses and organizations with real world challenges that need solving. At the same time, businesses and non-profit organizations gain access to fresh ideas with a structured, faculty-led team.

Whether through co-op, the Experiential Network (XN), or a variety of capstone and other experiential learning programs, rigorous academics at CPS are augmented by real world experience that builds strong work portfolios and seeds the growth of a meaningful network.

At graduation, students receive more than a degree. They leave CPS with tangible high-demand experience. And the businesses and other organizations that take part in the experiential learning programs that afford them that experience keep coming back because of the value they receive.

Student Success

When Lauren Li began thinking about going back to school to get her master’s degree she was at a crossroads in her career. A graduate from John Day Obrien School of Mathematics and Science in the Boston Public School system, she grew up in an environment that didn’t always place high value in the arts. Art and music programs were continually being cut, and while she excelled in chemistry and other STEM classes, she yearned for a creative outlet that had been lacking. That yearning led her to a bachelor’s degree in Theatre.

“After graduation, I was unclear about where I wanted to focus my career, I started trying different things, but nothing felt right. It took me a while to decide to go back to school to get my master’s degree.”

Lauren Li

She began looking into UX design, a mix of both her creative yearning and her STEM strengths and found CPS’s graduate program in Digital Media. Starting during the pandemic in the fall of 2020, Li left her job and focused all her energy on this new journey. It was during that time, that she was introduced to different internship and co-op opportunities. Ultimately, she landed a capstone project working on a website design with Green Our Planet, a Las Vegas-based non-profit that trains teachers to use school gardens and hydroponic laboratories to teach students STEM, conservation, nutrition and entrepreneurship in a hands-on engaging way. to

“Before I met Ciara Byrne, the owner, I was intimidated,” she said. “You never know what business owners are going to be like, but she made it easy to dive into the project.”

– Lauren Li

Over the course of her time with Green Our Planet, Li was able to work directly with the staff on marketing and user research. Because their program is catered toward teachers, Li took the initiative to reach out to her own network of teacher friends to better understand how to serve that population and took that combined insight back to the design project where the team adapted many of the recommendations she delivered to develop a new website.

Li graduated with her master’s in digital media and a concentration in interactive design in 2022 and now is leading a successful career as a UX designer at Aspen Tech, a global asset management software leader that helps businesses advance their industrial digital transformation.

When asked what she gained most in her capstone experience at Green Our Planet she said,

“When it comes to UX in general, empathy is so important for a designer to understand the users you are serving. I bring that to every project I work on now.”

– Lauren Li

She went on to explain that “going to Northeastern was life changing for me. I was almost 30 when I went back so it felt very different from my undergraduate experience being an older student, but in a good way. It’s never too late.”

The Business Impact

As students pursue their dreams, gaining real world experience, businesses tap into the experiential learning program for two main reasons: one, they like the idea of helping students; and two, they often gain far more from the creative, fresh thinking that comes from new student perspectives.

Rahi Tajzadeh, CEO of The Big Leaf, a Canadian consultancy firm, started working with students at different universities four years ago because “we realized we needed access to student brains.”

Since then, Tajzadeh and his team have worked with more than 2,200 students at 94 schools.

“The two students we worked with at Northeastern over the six weeks we had them were some of the best we’ve ever had,” he added. “They did more and at a higher quality than any student in their category of front-end development. More even that students we’ve had over two semesters. I was blown away.”

Rahi Tajzadeh CEO of The Big Leaf

Because he’s worked with so many students at different universities, Tajzadeh has learned a thing or two about how businesses can best position their experiential learning programs to be successful.

“It’s important to find projects that are not mission critical and have lots of room for creativity. You can always change something, but if it’s too restrictive you’ll never know what it could have been.”

– Rahi Tajzadeh

At the same time, Tajzadeh says businesses should still recognize they are working with students who are still learning so need to set expectations accordingly and give students the freedom to fail.

“It’s better for them to learn from businesses in this setting than when they get their first job after graduation and have never had the experience of professional critical feedback, it’s a great way to learn and it’s also a great way for us to get exciting ideas that we may have never thought about on our own.”

– Rahi Tajzadeh

Intangible Benefits

In addition to the practical benefits experiential learning brings students to put their academic studies to the test in the real world and develop meaningful resume-building experience and for businesses to cultivate fresh ideas, there are some less obvious but equally important benefits to experiential learning.

Minhyung (James) Jung and Suqi (Eileen) Wu worked together on a project with Althea Health, a start-up aimed at deploying AI technology in the health care space to help boost efficiency and enhance patient access and outcomes.

Jung describes himself as a marketer and musician who has a diverse background in international studies, economics, science, business, marketing, branding, music, and sports. He decided to pursue the Digital Media Management program because it allowed him to tap into that diverse experience.

“At the beginning of my studies, I didn’t know that we would have a choice between a thesis or a capstone project at the end. I ended up picking the capstone project just because it was something different. I didn’t realize how much I would love it. Looking back, I’m so appreciative of the opportunity.”

Minhyung (James) Jung

For Jung, working with an actual business was completely new for him. Though he has a lot of academic and lived experiences, his professional work experience was limited and to participate in the process of completing a project for a business from start to finish, working as a team under the leadership of their professor, Alexandra (Alex) Candelas, accelerated his learning.

“My most crucial take away was actually what I learned about communication, it was quite a new thing for me, to communicate in the real business. This experience gave me that.”

– Minhyung (James) Jung

Wu, his counterpart on the team working with Althea Health, came to Northeastern because of its focus on experiential learning.

“I wanted a real-life experience because the best way to learn is to do, but I think the most valuable aspect was also having access to our professor to get direct and actionable feedback, to go deeper in our analysis and explore new ideas with more confidence than I may have done on my own.”

– Suqi (Eileen) Wu

According to Candelas, who in addition to teaching digital media at Northeastern is a tech executive who recently left corporate and is a co-founder at First Leap Labs a non-profit incubator for startups, the magic of experiential learning is when students find that confidence to trust in what they have learned.

“I love watching students grow in this program and when faced with real problems that businesses in the real world are depending upon them to help solve, they inevitably surprise themselves with just how capable they truly are.”

Prof. Alexandra Candelas

Jung and Wu not only surprised themselves with how much they got out of the project with Althea Health, but they also surprised the client as well.

Kamyar Firouzi, co-founder of Althea Health, admits that he was not excited about inviting students into their development process at first. A graduate of Stanford, his business partner is a Northeastern alum who connected them to CPS’s experiential learning program through partners at the Roux Institute.

“I was skeptical at first but ultimately was really impressed by what we got out of this experience, the work they did saved us a ton of time, which is at a premium as we prepare to raise our seed round of funding.”

– Kamyar Firouzi

As a SaaS software startup trying to integrate AI into the health care space, the potential for Althea Health is more than just business for Firouzi.

“I’ve been through some treatments that are complex and have wanted more clarity across the journey. Too many healthcare systems can’t coordinate care, so you have to go to too many places. Imagine a world where everyone has access to skilled nurses, navigators, and caretakers to help them through their treatment?”

Kamyar Firouzi Co-Founder of Althea Health

When asked if he would do another project like this with students again, given his hesitation at first, Firouzi enthusiastically said “absolutely.”

“Even though I wasn’t so big on it at first, now I want to go back. Big kudos to the instructors who bring energy and passion and are able to facilitate and engage students while giving them direction. Honestly, we need to get the word out to help others know about this program so it can be a role model for other institutions that are trying to train students for the future. You look at “big name schools,” like Harvard and even my alma mater, Stanford, and they just don’t offer this level of mutually beneficial experiential learning like what we had at Northeastern. Most of the work is academic, but no one really cares about that in the real world.”

– Kamyar Firouzi

Getting Connected

The success of the experiential program at Northeastern is centered on the relationships of the faculty, many of whom, like Candelas, are still active leaders in their industries. Those partnerships and networks expand across the globe, but that’s not to say businesses must already have a relationship with Northeastern to get involved. Those interested in learning more should contact Yvonne Rogers, Assistant Dean, Center of Co-op & Professional Advancement, College of Professional Studies.

“Our students are incredibly diverse, coming from all parts of the world, all seasons of their careers, and all kinds of lived experiences, their education at CPS is enriched when we can deepen the diversity of the kinds of businesses and organizations that partner with us in this experiential learning work, just as the businesses gain value from the diversity of thinking that our students bring to the table.”

– Prof. Alexandra Candelas

CPS Alum Recognized by the Equity Consortium for Helping Schools Achieve Equity

Northeastern EdD alum, Dr. Antonio Boyd receives honorable mention in the ACE 2024 Excellence in Equity Awards for Educators. This national award honors companies, leaders, authors, and educators whose tremendous efforts in education are helping schools achieve equity everywhere.

For more than 25 years, Boyd has served as President and CEO of Think Tank Consulting Group – a project development, management, fundraising, public affairs, and community relations company serving education, nonprofits, healthcare, and government sectors.

He is also a lecturer at the Northeastern Graduate School of Education in the College of Professional Studies, teaching doctoral candidates about collaborative leadership and leadership for social justice and serves as a columnist for Getting Smart, a national education media channel that supports innovations in learning, education, and technology.

In addition, Boyd is the founder and national coordinator for The Lion’s Den, a multigenerational monthly national mentoring meeting of African-American Men.

‘Double Husky’ John Lam is retiring from Boston Ballet. He’ll be busier than ever

The 20-year ballet veteran has balanced fatherhood, college and the grueling demands of life as an elite professional dancer. Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies has helped him do it — and prepare for his next chapter.

“It’s great to reflect on the 20 years that I’ve had here, but I’m really excited for the future. I’m still going to be dancing.”

He said in an interview a few days before “Spring Experience’s” opening night.

Master’s Degree in Sports Management Awarded to Distinguished Liberian Football Advocate Rochell Woodson

Former Liberia Football Association Executive Committee Member Rochell Woodson, who has been advocating for the betterment of women’s football and Liberian football at large, has earned a Master’s degree in Sports Management from CPS.

“I am happy to be receiving a Master’s degree today in Sports Management. I have always been focused on working to develop sports in Liberia and want other women to involve themselves,”

Speaking to FrontPage Africa, Rochell said she is happy to have earned a Master’s degree in Sports Management after a difficult and challenging time

Year Up to Student Commencement Speaker: Puya Moghadam, BS Information Technology (‘24)

Puya Moghadam, a Year Up Boston alum, first generation college student and full-time employee at CarGurus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is the student commencement speaker for the 2024 CPS Bachelor’s and Master’s graduation ceremony. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in information technology, Moghadam has overcome more than most and leaned into every opportunity he earned to realize this success.

Born in Vienna, Austria to Iranian parents, he moved to California with his family at the age of six. The relocation was driven by his father’s ambition for his older sister, Tara, to attend law school in the US. However, two years after settling in California, Tara was involved in a car accident that left her in a coma for a year. She subsequently spent many years in rehabilitation in the US, resulting in a lifelong disability. As a result, Tara never pursued law school, and the family eventually returned to Austria, shifting their focus to meeting Tara’s daily physical needs.

While his family was adapting to a new normal, Moghadam, an American citizen and now 13 years old, experienced the challenges of a language barrier and cultural assimilation. Isolated and excluded by much of Austrian society as a result, he eventually found himself at a crossroads that ultimately forced him out of the education system.

“I had no German language skills at all. The teachers there never gave me a chance to learn German. They failed me from the beginning. After being expelled from three schools in three years, I felt like I had no more options. The adults around me just seemed to give up on me.”

Distressed, Moghadam decided to return to California, without his family, in search of completing his high school education. “I just told my parents I was moving back to California to figure it out.”

With reluctant consent from his parents, Moghadam boarded a plane from Vienna to Los Angeles to live with a distant cousin. He tackled enrolling in high school classes, managing bills, and embracing adult responsibilities. Amid financial instability and unfamiliar duties, he discovered newfound resilience.

“I definitely struggled and made many sacrifices, moving away from my family and living in my friend’s closet for about a year.”

These sacrifices fueled his determination to succeed. After obtaining his GED, his family asked him to move back to Austria. He lived there for three years, and just as the pandemic was in full swing, his grandmother, who lived in Boston, passed away.

When I was having a difficult time, I felt like my grandmother was really the only person who believed in me and expected me to succeed when others were convinced that I’d fail. When she died, I realized life is short and I lost the one person who believed in me. After her funeral, I committed to not disappointing her. I somehow knew that I had to become all the things she saw in me; her ‘vision of me’ is what motivated me.”

Moghadam realized he was no longer a child, and since his sister was no longer able to achieve the academic goals the family had envisioned; he knew that he needed to step up. “To me, it was clear that my role was to take charge and be the son that my family needed me to be,” he said.

Year Up

At his grandmother’s funeral in Boston, he chatted with his cousin, who had just started a new job at Year Up, a nonprofit program in Boston that focuses on providing workforce opportunities for youth development. His cousin suggested that Moghadam apply to the program, and by the end of the year, he was enrolled.

In the Year Up program, Moghadam experienced a year-long workforce development partnership program that combines hands-on skills instruction with classes and corporate internships, a program that matches students with professional mentors and a network of support that includes a stipend during training and internships. He secured a coveted internship at Facebook as an Enterprise Support Technician and he graduated with honors, earning the distinguished role of Graduation Speaker.

Going from “I don’t know if I can do it’ to ‘I can definitely do it!”

While still enrolled in Year Up, Moghadam attended a seminar by the College of Professional Studies’ about the college’s bachelor degrees and subsequently applied to the Bachelor’s Information Technology program. He was accepted, and in 2021, Moghadam joined CPS.

“I just jumped in. I knew next to nothing about computers, but I knew that IT expertise provided a solid foundation for career prospects.”

Moghadam’s CPS advisor, Shannan Lank, quickly realized that Moghadam had no intention of stopping at a bachelor’s degree. Working closely together, they crafted a strategic plan early on to enhance his profile for future law school applications.

Moghadam acknowledges the instrumental role played by Lank. He describes her as “a force of nature, supremely supportive and instrumental to [my] success at the college”.

Recognizing the importance of effective communication in the legal field, and following Lank’s advice, Moghadam committed to taking communication courses alongside his IT curriculum. This strategic decision underscored his dedication to a career that relies heavily on articulate expression.

“When I first met Puya, he was accustomed to people telling him that he couldn’t do something. It was a shock when I told him that I’d walk alongside him the entire way if that’s what it took. I know that sometimes it takes just one person to believe in them to recognize that they can succeed. Once he started on this path, his confidence soared, and there was a clear way forward; nothing was going to stand in his way. In my time working with him, I have seen him transform from someone who doubted himself to someone who believes he can achieve anything. This is a student that in five or ten years, I’m going to be able to say that I not only knew him but had the pleasure of working with him. He is the reason why CPS continues to be one of the largest colleges here at Northeastern, making significant impacts,”

“Northeastern has absolutely helped me. They have been supporting me through this process since day one,” he said.

Beyond academics, Moghadam’s unwavering passion for addressing the opportunity divide, a cause deeply personal to him, propels his vision for a future in law. Inspired by his own experiences and those of his peers, he envisions leveraging his network from Northeastern to drive meaningful change. “I want to utilize Northeastern and my connections to help close the opportunity divide so that we can continue to help others like myself,” he said.

After graduation, Moghadam plans to sit for the LSATs and weigh his options.

“I’ve realized that the world is not just black and white. You don’t have to be this cookie-cutter image of the typical student. Trust me, if you put your head down, you’ll do well. And if you really commit to that practice, the world is your oyster”