Mona Ahmadi, part-time MBA, and Alissa Oropeza, business undergraduate, two students at the University of San Francisco School of Management, were recently awarded scholarships from the Financial Women of San Francisco Association (FWSF). The FWSF Scholarship Fund provides undergraduate and graduate scholarships to San Francisco Bay Area women who have shown extraordinary talent and great desire to pursue careers in finance and financial services. Undergraduates received $5K and graduates received $10K scholarship.
“I was always good with money,” Mona Ahmadi recalls. “Ever since I was a little girl I loved working with money. Unfortunately, it wasn’t my money,” she laughs. “I enjoy the forecasting aspect of money management. It is very satisfying for me. Forecasting finances is all about the goals a company wants to achieve. I do that in my personal life as well. Every day I write down all the goals I want to achieve. Once I’ve accomplished one, I move on to the next.” Receiving the Financial Women of San Francisco Association scholarship was just one of the many goals Ahmadi had set out to achieve.
Born and raised in Iran, Ahmadi left the country when she was 18. “Growing up, I was in a loving home full of hope and energy from my family,” she said. “Once I stepped outside, however, I lived in a very suppressed world. Because I am not Muslim, I could not go to school. The day I intended to register to attend the university, I was denied that opportunity. I wanted to go to school to be a better person. I had dreams.” Ahmadi’s parents moved the family of five out of Iran to Turkey where they waited nine months to complete a background check before they moved to California.“Once we came to California, I started to take English and math courses and adjusted to the culture,” said Ahmadi. “I always worked full time and went to school during the day or at night vice versa.” Diligent in her efforts, Ahmadi received a Bachelor of Arts degree with a concentration in interior design and architecture. After she graduated in 2011, she embarked on a backpacking trip to Europe by herself. “I learned so much and matured during my travels. When I finally moved to the Bay Area, I was hired full time to be a financial analyst for World Market. I realized it was better for me to stay in finance than in design.”
Realizing that her future was in finance, Ahmadi pursued her MBA at USF. “Looking back at the books I read and the cases I studied during my time in the MBA program, I see how much I’ve changed professionally and personally. Professor Keith Hunter and Professor Mouwafac Sidaoui were especially inspirational and I’m so honored to have learned from them.”
For Alissa Oropeza, it was witnessing the lack of investment knowledge and resources in her own family that urged her to go into the finance sector. “In my household, my family did not have a lot of the information or resources about finance in regards to income and keeping a budget. Growing up, I didn’t want that for myself. I saw it was a struggle to live working from day to day.”
Ahmadi and Oropeza share many professional and personal goals. They both want to become the CFO of a company and they both aspire to lead an organization where they can help others who have faced similar adversity.
“I want to work and have a successful professional life,” Ahmadi says. “But at the same time I know that I want to help. Education, for me, is the most important thing.” When she first came to to U.S., Ahmadi joined an organization called World Vision, a humanitarian organization that is dedicated to working with children and families worldwide to help them reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. For the past ten years, Ahmadi has sponsored a girl in Tanzania who now wants to go to school to become a nurse. More recently, Ahmadi has started to focus on girls in Iran. She joined an organization called Moms Against Poverty where she sends a monthly donation to not only one person, but to a community in rural areas in the Middle East to promote education for girls. “I didn’t have my basic right to go to school,” she said. “I was bullied because of religion and I don’t want that happening to other little girls. That fire is in me. Every day I want to fight back and do better. Right now I’m doing my best to help one or two kids, but my hope is to help as many people as I can to get the education they deserve.”
“I don’t know who I would be if I didn’t have all these motivations,” explains Ahmadi. “My family left everything they had to make sure that their children would succeed. The stories told by my family, professors, and these children have impacted me greatly. The last thing I want to do is fail them.”
Oropeza also keeps her roots at the forefront of her mind as a way to push herself to succeed. A rising senior, graduating next spring, she plans to continue on her financial career trajectory and earn her MBA and JD through a dual degree program. “There aren’t a lot of resources in the Latino community teaching people how to invest,” she says. “I eventually want to have my own investment firm so I can help the Latino community by providing these necessary services.”
Both women are working to effect positive change in their own communities. “It is a great honor to receive this scholarship,” Oropeza said. “I hope to one day join this incredible group of successful women as CFO or CEO of my own organization. My wish is to be on the scholarship committee so I can give back and help those in need. Every positive thing you do, small or large, can make a big difference. That’s what USF has taught me.”