New Assistant Director of Graduate Studies Is Driven by Passion to Serve

Fatima Rezaei ’19 MPA, Assistant Director of Graduate Studies

Fatima Rezaei ’19 MPA draws on her life experiences to identify and connect with diverse groups, skills that translate well to her position in graduate admissions.

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Fatima Rezaei ’19 MPA joined the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Office of Graduate Studies this year as its new Assistant Director. In her role, Rezaei manages admissions administrative processes and provides admission and enrollment support to prospective students. She also represents the College at graduate school fairs throughout the region and country as well as at on-campus events. In addition, Rezaei oversees two Graduate International Student Peer Advisors, who organize events and offer mentorship and support to other international graduate students in the College.

Originally from Kabul, Afghanistan, Rezaei came to the United States as an international exchange student in high school. At a young age, she had to flee to Iran because of war in Afghanistan.

“Life of a refugee is difficult no matter where you are. Growing up in Iran we were taught to not dream because there was not much in store for us anyways. We were treated with prejudice even at school. I had to leave my middle school just because the color of my refugee ID did not match those of the other girls,” Rezaei says. “With all that, my parents did their best to educate and keep us safe. Once we returned to Afghanistan, they supported me to look for ways to advance my education. With lots of support and hard work I was able to come to the US, and it just got better from there."

“I went to Mercersburg Academy and loved beautiful central PA so much that I found myself staying in the area for a few more years. I completed my bachelor’s in Business Administration with major in Markets, Innovation and Design at Bucknell University. While at Bucknell I worked as an admission ambassador and really enjoyed working with prospective students and loved being able to help them with their big decision. My experience with the Bucknell Office of Admissions helped prepare me for my current role at Villanova,” Rezaei says.

After Bucknell, Rezaei joined Villanova’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) program and graduated in May 2019. She worked with the MPA department as graduate assistant while being a full-time student on campus.

“Being a graduate assistant on campus gave me the opportunity to not only work with my amazing faculty but also be more involved and experience Villanova. It was an opportunity to have professional experience while advancing my education,” she says.

“When I was applying to masters programs, I had the privilege to receive several offers from very prestigious graduate schools, and I chose Villanova’s MPA program because when I met with their faculty during an open house I could sense and see that they also shared similar values and passion as mine,” adds Rezaei. “It was one of the best decisions I made because I had an amazing grad school experience and received the skills, knowledge and support to gain confidence and clarify my vision for my future even more."

The best part of her job in the Graduate Studies Office at Villanova is working with students and helping them accomplish their goals and have meaningful experiences, she says.

“Fatima has been a wonderful addition to the Graduate Studies team,” says Emily McCloskey ’12 MA, ’17, MPA, Director of Graduate Studies. “Fatima’s training in the MPA program well positioned her to be an effective, ethical and compassionate administrator, which is evident in the care she takes with all of our prospective students, applicants and current students."

Says Rezaei, “As a first generation and international student I had to navigate the academic life by myself, but I also had the support and help of staff and professors at every school that I attended. I will always appreciate and remember their help. It is crucial for first generation students to have such supportive community, and I hope to contribute to that in my role at Villanova."

Rezaei sees her time in both Villanova’s MPA program and in Graduate Studies as preparation for a career in a nonprofit organization.

“I have a passion to work in advocating for human rights and especially children rights. Growing up as a child refugee I got firsthand experience and realized how much our social and political conflicts negatively impacts children’s lives and safety. So, it has always been my dream to help change such unfortunate experiences for many other vulnerable populations,” Rezaei says. “As I enjoy my time at Villanova among highly skilled, passionate and supportive colleagues, I am also excited that my experience here is preparing me for what my future may bring.”

About Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Since its founding in 1842, Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has cultivated knowledge, understanding and intellectual courage for a purposeful life in a challenged and changing world. With 39 majors across the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, it is the oldest and largest of Villanova’s colleges, serving more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students each year. The College is committed to a teacher-scholar model, offering outstanding undergraduate and graduate research opportunities and a rigorous core curriculum that prepares students to become critical thinkers, strong communicators and ethical leaders with a truly global perspective.