President hails Iranian roots, American dream
Successful educator takes on leadership role to help others
March 1, 2017
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Contra Costa College President Mojdeh Mehdizadeh arrived on campus with a clear sense of the people she was serving and competently driven by her administrative experience in the Contra Costa College Community College District.
“It’s truly an honor and a privilege and I’ll be honest, sometimes it can be a little scary. I think that what we do as educators is so inherently important. And ensuring that the decisions we make are decisions that are truly positively impacting those whom we serve. It’s the most important thing for me,” Mehdizadeh said.
On Jan. 16, 2015 Mehdizadeh arrived at CCC as interim president and served in that capacity until she was selected as CCC’s 11th permanent president on March 23, 2016.
“It’s a powerful role to have and it is important that is be used to lift the community,” she said.
Prior to taking the interim position at CCC, Mehdizadeh served as district vice chancellor of education and technology at the District Office in Martinez.
Since Mehdizadeh was a young girl, her parents instilled the value of the importance of education in her.
She was born in Iran on Feb. 19, 1970 and brought to the United States at the age of 8 for a better future for her and her siblings.
“Growing up there was no question that I had to go to school and that I would eventually have to go to college,” Mehdizadeh said. “Neither of my parents have a college education. My father has a fifth grade education and my mother went to high school.”
Mehdizadeh graduated from San Francisco State University and received her bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in computer information systems in 1992.
From SF State, she went to Cal State-East Bay and received her master’s in communication study with an emphasis in organizational communication and intercultural communication in 1995.
A memory Mehdizadeh carries with her is when her older brother enrolled at CCC’s sister college, Diablo Valley, while he was still an international student.
“I remember thinking, that has to be a great school. I have to go to DVC,” she said. “I just knew I had to go to DVC. My big bro went there.”
For Mehdizadeh, education was something that she was absolutely going to continue.
“I think it is a privilege to have an education, and I feel that I’ve been blessed that I’ve had these opportunities afforded to me. That I’ve had the opportunities to go to really good schools.”
When she and her brother went to DVC, they were still international students and were not yet “green card” holders, so they had to pay out-of-state tuition.
During her first semester as a student in 1987, she planned on studying accounting and enrolled in her first accounting class.
She realized it was not for her.
From 1994 through 1997 Mehdizadeh first held a permanent position as Assessment Center technician at DVC in the Career Development Center.
From 1998 through 2014 Mehdizadeh filled multiple roles during her time at the district allowing her to build lasting relationships and alliances.
While working at the District Office, she served as executive vice president for technology systems and educational services, institutional research workforce and economic development.
Mehdizadeh’s close connection to the district made her a natural to fill the president position at CCC.
Senior Executive Assistant Michael Peterson said Mehdizadeh united the campus when she arrived and began to work with faculty and staff.
Mehdizadeh said she didn’t know what to expect.
“I had been with the district for so many years. I knew the college. I knew many people from the college,” she said.
As her assistant, Peterson said Mehdizadeh is the “best” boss he has ever had.
“The most palpable way to measure her impact is through the difference she made when she got here. There was so much change,” he said. ”
He said the best way he can help Mehdizadeh is by being a friendly face as students enter her office, which is located on the second floor of the Student and Administration Building. Peterson said, “You have to get to know someone to sense what their priorities are, to learn her vision and style.”
Governing Board President Vicki Gordon said from the first time she spoke with Mehdizadeh in 2011, she found her to be a person who is knowledgeable.
District Director of Communications and Community Relations Tim Leong said Mehdizadeh is smart and a great listener.
“Certain people when they say something, you know it comes from a place of knowledge, education, experience,” he said. “Mojdeh is just that.”
“As a communications person, I value that skill set. Some people think they are great listeners, but they aren’t (she is).”
Director of Business Services Mariles Magalong said, “She has a way of communicating and it really brings people in.
“Once someone even said she can package even the bad news and people can be like ‘wow’,” she said.
Magalong said Mehdizadeh has a good sense of humor.
“It is important to have fun when you’re in a position of responsibility. She makes really good connections with people,” she said.
Other then her passion to ensure that students succeed, Magalong said Mehdizadeh’s sense of fashion keep her wondering how she is able to balance her college duties while maintaining her outfits from day-to-day.
Gordon said Mehdizadeh is a knowledgeable person and when she “taps into it” she can do a lot.
With the experience Mehdizadeh has accumulated throughout her time at the district, she has become a resource person who is able to remember details from situations other people may have forgotten, Gordon said. “She is someone you just know will do great things.”
Mehdizadeh said of her experience in the DVC Assessment Center in 1994, “What was super exciting to me is that I was getting to meet the different faculty members that taught in the co-op education and career development program. It was right when computers were starting to be available in offices.
“The Career Development Center was one of the first offices that brought in a PC.
“I remember taking those co-op applications and making a database, entering the data from the co-op apps.
“I remember their reactions to me at the time. They were so incredible happy with that work. That is when I decided that I really like to make things easier for people,” she said.
It was that realization that prompted Mehdizadeh to switch from being an accounting major to computer information systems major.
Mehdizadeh said she realized how much she loved learning and simplifying things for people.
“It didn’t matter what it was, it was always exciting for me to experiment and learn something new,” she said. “When I worked in the Assessment Center, I would always take on different things.”
In her role, she said she learned the value of organization and ultimately that is what it is about — helping students achieve success.
Magalong said she has known Mehdizadeh for over 20 years now.
She said their relationship carries back to when Mehdizadeh worked at DVC and at the district.
Magalong said Mehdizadeh came to CCC with an already established network within the community college systems.
John Diestler, who was a fine arts and media professor but is now retired, said he wishes he could have been at CCC while she was president.
“She is a strong leader,” he said.