Minoo Ghoreishi’s path to a bachelor’s degree in government from the Harvard Extension School was daunting and arduous, not least because it took the single mother four decades. Over that time, the 57-year-old Iranian American, who works for the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, learned much — and became a lesson in courage and perseverance for family and colleagues.
Always an avid learner, Ghoreishi’s first attempt at college was disrupted by politics. Born and raised in Tehran, she graduated high school at just 16 and went to London to study in 1977. But reports of the civil unrest in her homeland drew her back the next year, and her dreams of higher education were upended by the Iranian Revolution. In February 1979, Iran closed its universities for what was termed “curriculum reform.” War with Iraq followed, claiming members of Ghoreishi’s family. Determined to carry on with her education, Ghoreishi applied successfully to Johns Hopkins University but was unable to get a student visa when the U.S. cut diplomatic ties with Iran in 1980 after the hostage crisis.
She agreed to an arranged marriage two years later, which resulted in her move to the U.S., but pregnancy and domestic issues put a damper on her long-held ambition of becoming a doctor.
In 1998, following a divorce, Ghoreishi found herself raising her two young children, Sherry and Shawn Hakimi, as both primary caregiver and breadwinner. She got jobs at a local bank and in retail sales to help make ends meet. She landed her first spot at Harvard as an administrative assistant at the Harvard Children’s Initiative the following year, overjoyed to have full-time work with benefits and a 9-to-5 schedule. “It was a dream for me,” she said. “I wanted to be home nights and weekends with my kids.”
That job ended a year later with the closure of the program, but Ghoreishi found a new position at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) and began taking Extension School courses. She first focused on the basics, like expository writing. Then, once her children had gone off to college, she applied to the bachelor’s of liberal arts program. “I felt like this is my opportunity,” she recalled. “This is my time.”