From its earliest days, BIHE has benefited enormously from the devotion, engagement, and support of its alumni and has been sustained through the years by the loyalty of them .Their support is composed of individuals who have had a disproportionate impact on the local, national, and global communities in which they live. They are devoted to the University and its mission of education, scholarship, and service and had served BIHE in many capacities such as teaching courses, developing curricula, serving in a consulting capacity and contributing its growth. Furthermore some self-motivated alumnae in spite of all limitations imposed to them in Iran have started a spectrum of activities, often undertaken at the grassroots, the purpose of which is to contribute to the material and social wellbeing of the wider community and to contribute to the public welfare at the level of thought through participation in the discourses of society, which are all endorsed by BIHE.
As of 2022 there are 7030 BIHE Alumni.
While BIHE alumni still residing in Iran outnumber their fellows in other countries, and their achievements simply outshine alumni’s successes outside the country, due to security reasons, the testimonials are limited to alumni who have left Iran.
When I became the first graduate of BIHE whose degree was accepted by 5 major universities in the US, I felt a special sense of pride! Of course I was happy that years of my hard work had paid off, but more importantly, I was elated that a BIHE degree was recognized by those prestigious universities. It was important for me to give hope to my fellow students in Iran that our efforts and those of our selfless professors and administrators were not in vain.
With a BA in Psychology from BIHE, I continued my graduate studies in social work. Today, I am the executive director at Community Legal Services and Counseling Center and adjunct faculty at Boston University School of Social work.
I graduated from Department of Civil Engineering, Carleton University in November 2000. While highly appreciating the opportunity provided by Carleton University to me, studying there made me value much more the unique and extraordinary experience that BIHE had provided me during my bachelor studies.
Being deprived from my right to access to higher education in my country, BIHE made it possible for me and many others like me to pursue our dream. A dream which came true through sacrifices of BIHE professors as well as many others who restlessly strived to make it happen.
Currently, I work as senior programme officer of a Dutch NGO, to realise the “Right to Water and Sanitation”. I use the ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel, finding solutions when there seems to be none and perseverance to realize the rights of those who are deprived from them, as I have learnt from BIHE, daily in my work and personal life.
Senior programme officer WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene)
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
As a high school student, I knew I could not attend universities in Iran. However, I submitted university applications every year for ten years, and each time I received the same response: Baha’is in Iran are not welcome in higher education. Therefore, I became a student at the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE) immediately after high school graduation, and I started teaching and assisting with courses when I was a sophomore.
The days I studied in my room alone struggling to understand course material; the days my friends and I shared rare books; the days we painfully laughed because our final exams were confiscated and we had to re-take them; the days we consulted on how to build course syllabi; the days that our professors and administrators were arrested and imprisoned because they were educating us “illegally”; during those days I could only dream that I would complete an M.A. and Ph.D., receive a postdoctoral scholarship, and become a tenure-track professor. However, the BIHE prepared me for an academic career that has taken me to some of the best universities in the world. This Baha’i University is a product of sacrifice and constructive ideas during a period of crisis. My dreams became reality because we shared the desire for education and worked creatively to help each other achieve the noble goal of learning. Today, my teaching and research interests are related to the history of minority groups in the Middle East. I often share my own memories of the Baha’i University in Iran with my students and colleagues, who are inspired by the sacrificial commitment that Baha’is make towards education. I am honored to be a part of this community achievement that is the BIHE.
Assistant Professor at History Department, Willamette University
Associate Director of Yale Iranian History Internet Archives (YIHA), Yale University
I graduated from BIHE with a degree in civil engineering in 2000. I continued my education in the United States and studied physics. I worked as a researcher at three universities before joining Google quantum hardware team: University of Pittsburgh, Princeton university (PhD, 2011), and University of California, Santa Barbara. After this long educational journey, the BIHE experience still remains unique and has played a major role in shaping my views of higher education and its role in forming.
Commonly in college experiences, students learn how to succeed as creators and repositories of knowledge. The fundamental job of education which is guiding students to learn who they are, to search for a larger purpose for their lives, and to leave college as better human beings has been mainly forgotten.
In BIHE, I had professors who believed, and their act testified, that man should seek delight in knowledge and should not instrumentalize it for self-centered goals. By teaching courses or setting an exemplar with their acts, these all volunteer professors were diffusing their love for knowledge through classrooms. They knew that teaching at BIHE could lead to imprisonment. This was not a baseless fear, since they could see that it was happening to their colleagues frequently enough. Their love for us and their firm believe in the radiant future for Iran made an everlasting affect on me. They were resiliently educating Baha'i youth for great duties that are awaiting them in such a future. Educated with such teachers, the life of many BIHE students can testify to their very different perspective on education and their insightful appreciation for it. Inspired from the Baha'i teaching and principles, BIHE provided me an opportunity to have such a pure and unique approach to higher education and knowledge.
Senior research scientist, Google Inc
Since childhood I was interested in biology. I was curious about how plants and animals grow and live. Later I became fascinated with genetics and I was sure that I wanted to be a scientist who studies genes. I studied hard at school to achieve my goal. However, towards the last years of high school, it became apparent that being a Baha’i, I would be denied to continue my education in the national official universities.
I was lucky that upon finishing high school, the BIHE decided to start the Biology program and of course without any hesitation I applied and got accepted. This is when my 5-year journey with the BIHE began, it was not always smooth, I saw how my professors had to teach multiple courses, and had to be stressed about finding volunteers to teach new courses.
I witness how the biology laboratories were being set up, with so much sacrifice, for the first time. At the end, I was the fortunate first graduate of the biology program. From there, I was accepted in the University of Ottawa to pursue my life-long goal, to become a scientist who studies genes….
Now I live my childhood dream, I am a scientist who studies genes! Virus genes though! I am the virologist at Health Canada, having my own laboratory, my own team, training students and teaching at universities. I owe all of these to BIHE that made it possible for me to take the first major steps, to continue loving science, to pursue the goal.
PhD Research Scientist
Despite limited resources at BIHE, I was able to receive my BSc in Applied Chemistry in 2004, thanks to the selfless and sincere contribution of the professors and the perseverance and endurance that were nurtured in us during our studies. My 4.5 years at BIHE taught me about sacrifice, sense of purpose, independence and thinking out of the box. I have not only benefitted from these learnings in my continuing education, but also cherish them as valuable assets in all aspects of my life.
After graduating from BIHE, I studied Environmental Chemistry at the University of Oslo, Norway (2004-2006) and was among the top graduates. I then did my PhD in Physical Geography (Umeå University, Sweden, 2007-2011) followed by several years of research on carbon dynamics and climate change in northern Sweden.
I am grateful to all of the former dedicated staff at BIHE and wish all the best for the devoted collaborators at the institute.
Biogeochemist (PhD), Stockholm, Sweden
I was the first graduate of the BIHE architecture program, and upon graduating in 2010, I applied to more than ten Master’s programs in the US, and all of them accepted my BIHE bachelor degree and offered me admissions. I chose UC Berkeley and studied at the one of the most prestigious universities in the world, which was indeed another testimony for the very high-standard education I received at the BIHE, despite all the limitations and challenges. Since graduating from UC Berkeley in 2014 I have been teaching at UC Berkeley, practicing architecture in the US, and have also been teaching online at the BIHE every other semester.
While studying at the BIHE for five years I witnessed how a community can be positive and constructive facing obstacles. Not only did our professors dedicated their time and energy without any compensation or getting any academic credit, but they also put their lives on the line, being always at the risk of getting arrested and being taken to prison for some years, as was and still is the case for many instructors.
Affiliated global faculties from all over the world, would wake up early and stay up late to teach us online, over a very slow internet connection in Iran. More advanced students would act as TAs, and the whole community sacrificed to help and keep the institute alive. For instance,hosts were always at the risk of having their homes and properties confiscated.
Through my experience at BIHE I learned that if a community wants to flourish and grow, it can do so regardless of the amount of repression imposed on it. However, it depends on each and every one of its member’s devotion to look at everyone else’s benefits and not only his or her own advantages. The lesson I learned at the BIHE that I treasure the most – besides architecture & design – is that life is not about receiving a degree, having a good job & raising a family, but it is about how much you contribute to the betterment of your community and next generations.
I was among the first admitted group to architecture program at BIHE in 2006. After moving to the U.S., I continued my master’s education at UCLA department of Architecture and Urban Design.
One of the important aspects that I had learned from my instructors at BIHE was to design for betterment of the world. I had learned to think critically about my role as a designer on how to use design as a powerful tool to bring social equalities for societies. Instructors at BIHE frequently discussed these concepts in our classes.
They were sacrificing their lives relentlessly in upbringing a generation that uses their knowledge in reshaping societies around them. As a result, BIHE students became independent critical thinkers who are equipped with higher education to bring ease and comfort to their societies.
In the field that thinking about social change is often being overlooked, BIHE instructors taught me how to design with a philanthropist perspective; and this is where I found delight about studying at BIHE.
Job Captain, Landry Design Group, Inc.
Similar to the vast majority of the Baha’i youth in Iran, I was not allowed to enroll in universities in Iran merely because of my beliefs in the Baha’i Faith. This was despite demonstrating my scientific and academic skills such as obtaining the rank 54 out of 300,000 candidates in Iranian National University Entrance Exam (also known as Concours) in 2007 and winning the Silver Medal in Iranian National Mathematics Olympiad in 2006.
I entered BIHE in 2007 along with hundreds of other fellow Baha’i youth who had been deprived of higher education. We were as one big family who were collectively seeking higher education. Having faced educational discrimination, we were all thirsty for knowledge and hungry for learning. I enrolled in Computer Engineering major in 2007 and later double-majored with Mathematics and Computer Science in 2009.
After graduating from BIHE, I immigrated to the USA in 2012. I obtained my Masters and Doctorate degree from the University of California Santa Cruz in 2015 and 2018, respectively. During my academic life, I interned at Google, Microsoft and eBay, and had a chance to do research at New York University in USA and Kyushu University in Japan. Currently, I work as an Applied Scientist at Microsoft.
On a personal level, BIHE helped me develop valuable skills: I learned to be passionate about learning and adopt the learning spirit; I learned to collaborate with people and live a life of service; I learned to see science and religion as truly united and reflecting the truth. These lessons have been accompanying me throughout my personal, professional, material and spiritual life. I certainly do believe that the story of BIHE is a story of victory: the victory of constructive resilience in facing systematic educational discrimination.
Holakou Rahmanian, Ph.D. Microsoft Corporation