UP professor to be honored at UN Global Summit
Golesorkhi explains what drove her to start her organization and her personal connection with the problem she is trying to address.
Not many students at UP may know Professor Lara-Zuzan Golesorkhi. New to campus this year, she is a visiting assistant political science professor.
But in the nonprofit business world, Golesorkhi is a big deal. When she was in her PhD program at New School for Social Research in New York in 2015, Golesorkhi came up for the idea for her nonprofit company, called With or Without. The nonprofit aims to assist women living in Germany with a Muslim-migration background who are trying to get a job.
“Our goal is to advance the access and also the success of women of Muslim migration background in Germany,” Golesorkhi said.
Because of her work with (WoW), Golesorkhi was invited to the United Nations headquarters in New York City for a event taking place this Saturday. She was one of 45 people chosen to attend the Global Summit and be honored for creating change in their community.
The Summit will be live-streamed on Saturday in Franz 120 from 9 to 11 a.m. for the UP community. Viewers will be able to leave comments and questions on social media using the hashtag “#GlobalPeople” that may be picked up by the UN moderator during the summit.
“I think it’s going to be a fun way to interact with the United Nations, especially having one of our own there,” Professor of Political Science Anne Santiago said. “It’s a unique opportunity for the campus community that we’ve never had before, and it’s worth spending a couple of hours seeing what’s going to happen at the UN.”
Golesorkhi grew up in Germany with a German mother and Iranian father, and is a member of the Muslim community. When she spent time in Iran, she saw the state demand women wear a hijab and cover up when they went outside.
Growing up in Germany, it was the opposite. Golesorkhi noticed that if a women wore a hijab, her chances of getting employed decreased.
Inspired by her experiences growing up, she realized she wanted to create an organization that would give women with Muslim migration backgrounds freedom, choice and skills to get a job to help them succeed in a society that discriminates against them.
“It should be your own choice (to wear a hijab or not) as a woman,” Golesorkhi said. “Neither the state nor others should interfere with your own freedom or self-determination.”
While in her PhD program for politics, she found out about the United Nations 2015 Global Diversity Contest, a contest that encouraged people to submit ideas for ending hate and intolerance in the world. Golesorkhi drafted a two page proposal for her nonprofit idea. She ended up being one of ten people chosen to come and present their proposal at the UN in 2015 and she also received some funding from the United Colors of Benetton UNHate Foundation for her nonprofit.
Her company, now three years old, assists Muslim women in Germany by providing seminars and workshops for employees, outreach to employers and campaigns directed at the public with the hopes of raising awareness of the discrimination women of Muslim migration background face in Germany.
Golesorkhi said that being a part of the UN has given her a platform to push for the agenda of WoW. During this year’s summit, she will have access to different events and meet with other global leaders.
After the summit, Golesorkhi will return to UP. This is her first of two years as a visiting assistant professor. She graduated with her PhD last May, but has already made an impact on campus.
“The faculty are super excited that she’s here,” Associate Professor of German Alexandra Hill said. “I think it’s really important that UP has more international faculty on campus and she’s also just a total pleasure to be around.”
On top of teaching, Golesorkhi is also involved with the student-run club, Model UN.
“She’s really inspiring,” Torrie Webb, sophomore co-president of Model UN, said. “She has so much to say and she is so educated on everything that is happening around the world.”
Madison Pfeifer is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.