Alia Tahvildaran

Alia Tahvildaran
Freshman, Pennsylvania State Abington

2004 CORE Scholar and Future World-Renowned Archaeologist

Alia gained an appreciation for a college education from halfway across the world in Dezful, a city in southwestern Iran near the Iraqi border that happens to be her father’s hometown.

The summer before college she visited Dezful, spending a lot of time with her cousins who shared their deep frustrations around being considered “a second class citizen” as a woman in Iran. Despite the tremendous increases in women’s education in Iran over the past two decades, girls and women drop out of school at disproportionate rates because of social pressures to conform to traditional ideals of womanhood, which include early marriages rather than a college degree.

Alia saw through her cousin’s eyes what an incredible opportunity she had in America not only to attend college, but to pursue any career she wants: “I have to take full advantage of my ability and the resources that I have here. I came to Penn State with a huge motivation to succeed.”

This new perspective and motivation have paid off. Alia scored a 3.9 GPA the first semester and expects to do similarly well this semester.

Post graduation, she sees herself traveling around the world as an archaeologist, perhaps on assignment for the United Nations. Through her profession, she plans on continuing to bridge cultural differences—something she’s done all her life as a daughter of an Iranian father and a Jewish mother and a volunteer with Operation Understanding, a program that facilitates relations among members of the African American and Jewish communities.

A resident of Northeast Philadelphia and graduate of George Washington High School, Alia says with a grin on her face that her parents are overeducated and underemployed. With a father who is a public elementary school teacher and a mother who is a legal secretary, Alia said that CORE gave her family a peace of mind, allowing them to focus on things that matter: “When you aren’t thinking about cost, you can think about your studies and your future.”

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