Why diversity is more than just a buzzword in the SCU Leavey MBA

Irshad Fardan found acceptance, support, and friendships at a school famed for its Catholic Jesuit traditions. As a Muslim himself, Irshad described his “unique” and “beautiful” MBA experience to MBAGRADSCHOOLS.

In short

Irshad Fardan (USA) – 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 master’s at Santa Clara University. (00:00) After I got my undergrad 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 for a special needs rehabilitation center, 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 campus and eventually applied for their MBA. (00:20)

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. (02:46)

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 balanced time of when I need to study and when I need to figure out my schedule. (03:25)

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 ended up being easier than how challenging it sounds on paper. (03:52)

How would you describe the MBA experience at SCU Leavey?

I would describe it as one-of-a-kind in my situation for sure. Going to a school in Silicon Valley, you know everyone raves about Santa Clara, 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 – having more confidence, knowing that I’m capable of doing anything I want. (04:07)

I got a very unique experience that you can’t trade. You can’t take that back. (04:37)

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 of what opportunities are 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. (04:56)

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 people that were Christian, so I was a little bit nervous in 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. (05:44)

What did your MBA teach you?

It taught me what I was capable of. From my background it was definitely rough, often being told I can’t do something or “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. My main thing is that I want to inspire other people that often aren’t looked at as someone that can get their master’s.  (06:22)

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 to now thinking more big picture. It helped me understand – especially leadership-wise – what I need to do to be able to get over the hump and be the leader that I want to be. 

[Pre-MBA], one of my biggest fears was that I never want to fail, I never want to make a mistake. The MBA taught me to listen to all of these different entrepreneurs who had to go through failure to know what success was. (11:27)

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