It’s the mid 1970s, 11-year-old Mehran Mostajir is moving to a new town – again – with a new set of faces and a new set of customs to be learned. His father is a school superintendent instilling the value of education in his son while moving the family around to take on new posts within the Iranian education system. Mostajir is working diligently on his studies, despite the transition, excelling in mathematics and making new friends. Flash forward to 1977 – right before the Iranian Revolution is starting and Mostajir is a candidate for the high school American foreign exchange program. He is accepted for the 1978-1979 calendar year, and is starting on a 7,000-mile journey to live with an American family.
“It was a rather interesting journey at the time,” Mostajir said. “There was turmoil back home in Iran that wasn’t good for someone coming to the U.S. in the 1970s. Those of us coming here, we represented our country and had to be on our best behavior.”
A year passes by with his foreign exchange family and Mostajir, immersed in American culture, decides to apply to the University of Buffalo in New York. He goes on to earn a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and master’s degrees in applied mathematics and mechanical engineering. He continues his education at the Gannon University School of Management where he earned a master’s in business administration.
“I realized that the opportunities and freedoms I had here in the U.S. were important,” Mostajir said. “With my perspective, I could really appreciate things. Coming from Iran, it just made everything seem more valuable.”
After completing his education, Mostajir delved into his career as an engineer for Lord Corporation where he learned how to communicate within the business world using a unique blend of cultural mannerisms from the northern United States and his home country. Mostajir then decided to move to the South. Mostajir started working at TRICOR and began teaching as an adjunct faculty member at several community colleges, including Columbia State. Later, he worked as a professor of mathematics for Tennessee State University. After a few years of teaching at TSU, he heard about an opportunity at Columbia State Community College and decided to go for it. Mostajir applied as a math professor – but ended up accepting the position as program director and instructor of Advanced Integrated Industrial Technology.
Dr. Dearl Lampley, Columbia State dean of the Science, Technology and Mathematics Division, said that he is thrilled to see Mostajir leading the program and is excited for what is to come.
“Mehran has developed into an outstanding faculty member and program director in a very short timeframe,” Lampley said. “Under his guidance, the AiiT program transformed into Engineering Systems Technology and expanded with course offerings in four area high schools. Mehran is a versatile instructor with the ability to teach not only EST, but also mathematics and engineering courses.”
Mostajir has exceeded expectations in his position and has plans to continue the evolution of the EST program. While working on program reaccreditation, Mostajir is constantly researching course curriculum and thinking of ways to draw more people into the program. In the future, he hopes to see an added medical technology component that will allow students to learn how to work on medical equipment. He feels as if his goals are attainable because of the continuous amount of support he is offered at the college by faculty, staff, supervisors and administration.
“I work with a really supportive group,” Mostajir said. “It is an honor to work in this organization.”
In addition to his in-house duties at Columbia State, Mostajir is constantly networking and gaining insight into the needs of the community in order to better understand how the EST program can continue to support industry needs.
Mostajir considers himself to be an effective communicator because he offers a unique cultural blend to others. His communication skills also help him connect with his students.
“We have some really great students here,” Mostajir said. “They are hard workers and I always try to build trust and respect with them. I have learned the behaviors and slang words down here and I try to incorporate them into my everyday work – I usually get a chuckle from the students when I use them.”
Mostajir currently resides in Brentwood. He enjoys spending time with his two daughters and watching them play soccer.
Photo Caption: Mehran Mostajir, Columbia State program director and instructor of Engineering Systems Technology.