LILAC Lunch with Mahnoor Ahmed, ‘03, Associate Diversity Director, Towson University

On Friday, I attended the LILAC lunch with Mahnoor Ahmed, Bryn Mawr Class of 2003. Ahmed was a Comparative Literature major with a minor in Biology. Currently, she is the Associate Director of Student Diversity and Development at Towson University. She talked about her career path after Bryn Mawr, gave us advice on investing in ourselves, and answered our questions we had about life after Bryn Mawr.Wyndham-Alumnae-House-Wedding-Bryn-Mawr-PA-15_main.1429033529

Mahnoor Ahmed currently serves as the Associate Director for Student Development and Diversity at Towson University. She formerly served as an Assistant Director of Diversity and Intercultural Development at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). At MICA, she spearheaded the creation of the Women Artists of Color Luncheon Series, as well as the establishment of the Hispanic/Latino and LGBTQIA student mentoring networks. She also advised identity-based student organizations and mentoring networks, and the Student Diversity Programming Committee. Her professional interests include advocacy and activism around issues and intersections of identity, gender norms, culturally-relevant learning, civility, equity, feminism and student leadership. She serves on the Executive Board of the Washington Regional Task Force Against Campus Prejudice (WRTF) and is actively involved with professional organizations including NASPA, MCPA, AAUW and Leadershape.

 

Mahnoor was originally pre-med, but in between her sophomore and junior years, she decided it was not for her. She then switched to Comparative Literature (focusing on Urdu) with a minor in Biology. She spent a lot of time at Swarthmore, Haverford, and Penn, as well as Bryn Mawr because of the specific classes in Urdu literature offered at the other campuses. As for her career path at this point, she was not exactly sure where she wanted to be after college. Mahnoor is thankful for her Bryn Mawr experience being rich in the liberal arts. She explained that the beauty of a liberal arts education is that it is flexible, allows for shifting dreams, and gives you different tools to go multiple directions career wise.

“It is important to get outside the Bryn Mawr bubble because you shape your voice in a different way when not surrounded by supporting and empowering women.”

After Bryn Mawr, Mahnoor took a job at a mortgage company. She had believed that her STEM background helped her land the job working with finance and numbers. She did not love the job, but it helped her pay back her college loans. The company later went under, and Mahnoor decided to make the big decision of a job transition back to higher education. This was not just a job change, this was a lifestyle change where she would see a 50-60% paycheck decrease.

“It is a privilege to be able to choose what makes you happy, even if it is not high paying.”

Mahnoor next enrolled in a masters program at Towson University in education leadership, with a speciality in multicultural learning. Her first job after graduate school was in financial aid at McDaniel College (her mortgage experience helped her get the job). She then moved on to becoming the Assistant Director of Diversity at MICA before returning to Towson. At Towson, she is officially director of women’s and Asian Pacific Islander (API) resources, but she feels that intersectional identity allows her to help more people other than just women and APIs.

Other Tips from Mahnoor:

  • Find a mentor: someone who understands your potential and your passion
  • Find the alums in your area, if they can’t help you, they usually can connect you to other people who can
  • Invest in yourself; self-care
    • Learn to take care of yourself before you can take care of others
    • Finding a mentor is investing in yourself
    • Finding companionship (partners, romance, etc.) is investing in yourself
  • Consider the other benefits of where you want to work. Sometimes schools offer tuition cuts or credits to employees.
  • Network with other school diversity leaders
    • Mahnoor attends conferences to meet and exchange ideas
  • Research and be well read on cutting edge education methods at other institutions (this is also investing in yourself to be the best you can be)
  • Gain credibility for the job from activities and experiences you participated in when you were in college

“I made the mistake of assuming all women would support me after Bryn Mawr.”

“I felt that the focus on companionship is lost at Bryn Mawr among the focus on professional goals.”

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I always love meeting Bryn Mawr alum and listening to their stories. I would have liked to hear more about the specific women’s and API programs Mahnoor runs at Towson because they could possibly be applied to Bryn Mawr. I have also gone through changes in my career path (engineering -> doctor -> social media -> doctor -> nurse), and it is nice to be reassured that Bryn Mawr will prepare me for whatever I choose in the end (though, I am pretty certain now that it is nursing!). The Wyndham food was also delicious!

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