Meet Hasti Zendehdel, Persian Club’s President and (Re)-Co-Founder

This school year, I had the honor of meeting Hasti, a motivated and talented collegiette who, after getting to know about all she was doing, I knew I had to write an article on. 

I met her while I signed up to be a member of Persian Club, whose impact I had experienced in my own community growing up. It’s safe to have labeled Mason’s Persian Club as a cornerstone of the DMV Persian community and life. When I was in grade school, Persian Club at Mason was huge, and it was rare to know a distant family member or family friend who did not go to and was not part of the Club. They even held annual Persian New Year (Norooz) shows which drew its audience from all over the DMV. I had many dreams for when I grew up and one of them was to be a part of Mason’s Persian Club.

However, when I attended my freshman year, Persian Club was almost non-existent. Not only did this bother me because, well, I could not fulfill my dream, but because I was worried that even if restarted, it would not encompass the legacy of its predecessors. 

Cue Hasti. Literally in the first few minutes of the Persian Club interest meeting a few weeks ago, where Persian Club made its announcement that it would restart, Hasti clearly stated her mission to continue the Norooz shows along with many other great ideas. Actually, why don’t we hear it straight from her?

Annie: Hi Hasti! Do you want to share a little background on yourself?

Hasti:   I was born in Northern Iran, and I left the country at the age of three. It was a long journey, but in 2010 my family and I finally moved to the United States. Although I technically didn’t grow up in Iran, I still visit every other year so and I am very in touch with my culture! At the age of five, my mom would buy me books from Iran and teach me how to read and write in Farsi. I remember always complaining and not wanting to practice my reading and writing, but retrospectively, I am extremely thankful that my mom placed such an emphasis on my Farsi education (thanks maman joon!) 

Growing up, I was always known as that “outgoing” kid. One of my favorite childhood activities was drawing and playing my guitar. I would always participate in talent shows and won multiple awards at different art shows, and I was CONVINCED that I will become a professional guitarist/artist one day. That quickly changed once I started high school and was able to discover a newfound interest in medicine and helping others. This led me to choose Biology as my major and Business as my minor at GMU! My ultimate life goal is to become a doctor (haven’t fully decided which specialty yet) and an entrepreneur all at once, by opening my own practice. I want to be a role model and inspire other women by showing them if I can do it, they can too.  

A: Can you give a little background on Persian Club’s history? It’s safe to say that it has had an influence of Persians who spent at least some time in Northern Virginia.

H: The Persian Club was first founded here at GMU in the 1980s. I’m not 100% sure what the exact history behind the original club was, but I know they reached a peak about nine years ago, in 2010. I remember going to every Norooz show and I even danced in it back in 2013! Twelve-year-old me would have NEVER thought in a million years that I would be reviving the club. I believe that the club dwindled out in the 2016-2017 academic year. Our faculty advisor, Dr. Maziar Valamotamed, is not allowed to disclose any information on what had happened, so I don’t have any tea to spill (sorry!). 

I’m sure most Persians wanted to see a big Persian club and home on campus when they came to Mason, but you actually brought it back… can you explain what made you want to take initiative?

One of the biggest things I was looking forward to when choosing George Mason University was its huge Persian community. When I entered as a freshman, I was very disappointed to find that the Persian Club didn't even exist anymore. Instead of waiting around and wishing for it to come back one day, I partnered up with my best friend, Safa, and we took the full initiative to bring it back! 

A: You have big plans for the club, both following Persian Club’s legacy but also executing original ideas. Can you share some of your vision?

My biggest plan for Persian Club is the Norouz show! I want to unite all the talented DMV Iranian dancers, singers, musicians, actors, poets, and comedians into one night for the enjoyment of the entire community. It is going to take lots of time and planning, but I know every single second will be worth it. I am also planning on having annual sports competitions such as volleyball, vasati, and futball tournaments against other clubs as well other Iranian student organizations in the DC Metropolitan area, and throughout Virginia. 

In addition to those big events, I am also planning on creating smaller events such as “Hokm and Chai Nights,” “Cooking Sessions,” “Mehmoonis,” and much more to bring everyone together! Not only do I want the members to have an amazing time, but I also want to help them prosper by setting up “Professional Nights,” where we will bring in successful Persian doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, etc so they can share their stories, and help inspire and motivate our members, as well as providing them with professional networking opportunities such as internships and paid jobs.

A: Wow, that sounds absolutely amazing I am so excited! Looking at the future, what are your hopes and plans for the Club’s longevity?

H: I want Persian Club to stay! When I entered George Mason University, I had goals of leaving an impact and serving my community, which I decided to do by restarting the Persian Club. By creating a solid foundation and recruiting the right board members, I know that it’s only going up from here! I want this club to reach future generations, giving Iranians at GMU and the Northern Virginia area a home/community to turn to long after I’m gone. 

A: Amazing! Anything else you would like to mention?

H: Always remember, dreams don’t work unless you do! So with that being said, ladies, hamishe sexi bash ;) #iykyk.

A: I think that’s a pretty good note to leave off on, collegiettes! If you are interested in joining or finding out more about the club, check out their 'gram @persiangmu and maybe give them a follow, too!