President Rassoul Dastmozd is making an impact - not only here on campus and in the surrounding community, but already connecting with our hometown paper, the Pioneer Press and is today’s (October 17, 2011) headline news!
Here’s the article by Megan Boldt, Pioneer Press. For all photos and more news go to www.twincities.com
New Saint Paul College president ready to help 'neglected majority' thrive
By Megan Boldt, Pioneer Press
Updated: 10/16/2011 11:06:10 PM CDT
Rassoul Dastmozd, the new president of Saint Paul College, chatted with student Kossiwa Kudawoo during an ice cream social in the College cafeteria Oct. 10 , 2011. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)
Rassoul Dastmozd learned the value of education at an early age.
The native of Iran spent his summers working on lessons for the coming school year so he had a jump on his classmates. His parents, a second-grade teacher and a businessman, insisted that homework be finished before he could go out and play. He spoke Farsi but studied English and Arabic.
So it's not too surprising that Dastmozd, who came to the United States in 1979 as a college student, left a career in engineering after just three years to go into education. He started teaching robotics, lasers and computer networking at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa and loved every minute of it.
Those who know Dastmozd describe him as the ultimate cheerleader for community colleges.
Rassoul Dastmozd learned the value of education at an early
He firmly believes they make the most impact in higher education because they are accessible and affordable, helping the disadvantaged become ready for careers and college. Dastmozd said he's ready to help more students thrive in his new role as president of St. Paul College.
"We take that neglected majority who would be thrown to the wayside in a four-year university, give them small class sizes, wrap-around services for support and those foundation courses so they can be successful," Dastmozd said.
He came to St. Paul from Clark College, the second-largest community college in Washington state, where he held the position of vice president of instruction.
Dastmozd left his hometown of Rasht, just northwest of the Iranian capital of Tehran, in 1979 to escape the unrest bubbling up from the emerging Islamic revolution. He enrolled at what is now Redlands Community College in Oklahoma and has never returned to Iran, where his mother, two sisters and other family members still live.
He said Oklahoma City wasn't a welcoming place for an international student at that time, so he came to Marshall, Minn., and enrolled at Southwest State University.
Dastmozd received a bachelor's degree in engineering technology there, but it wasn't easy. U.S.-Iranian relations were strained during the Iran hostage crisis.
And since Iranian assets were frozen, Dastmozd couldn't pay his tuition. He sat in the lobby of Southwest State's vice chancellor's office for three days, hoping to explain his situation. Dastmozd was working two jobs and knew he could pay his tuition. It would just take time. He finally talked with the vice chancellor, who said he would think about it.
Then, while working in the school cafeteria, Dastmozd felt a tap on his shoulder. It was the vice chancellor. He told Dastmozd he could pay his tuition at a resident rate.
"He hasn't had it easy. He had to earn his stripes," said Bob Knight, president at Clark College. "Rassoul worked hard. He even took physical and verbal abuse at times, and he persevered."
Dastmozd worked as an engineer for three years "but found them a stiff bunch." He went to Indian Hills Community College in 1985 to teach, ultimately becoming a department chairman and staying until 1999.
"I never missed a day of work," Dastmozd said. "I loved every day of it because I was helping students."
He went on to serve as an academic dean at Eastern Iowa Community College District and then went to Clark College in 2006.
Knight said Dastmozd knew every detail about his job and the people who worked for him. He credits Dastmozd for improving the tenure process and tightening sabbaticals so faculty had to earn them and were held accountable for what they did during that time away.
"You've never seen someone who was more dedicated or had a stronger work ethic than Rassoul," Knight said. "When I hire people, I look for a person of character and integrity who cares about kids. You can tell immediately that he fits that criteria."
When Dastmozd started teaching in community colleges, the student population was more traditional - young adults straight out of high school.
But that has changed dramatically. More adults - the unemployed, underemployed and those in need of training - are enrolling in community and technical colleges. And they're doing that because community colleges can provide those services better than four-year universities, Dastmozd said.
He describes St. Paul College as one of higher education's hidden gems and a "rich mosaic of humanity."
About half of its 9,700 students are minorities. The average age is 29.
The two-year college, which has 39 associate degree and 60 occupational certificate programs, was named the top community college in the country by Washington Monthly magazine last year. The survey praised St. Paul College for its quality of instruction, its interactive teaching methods, and the way teachers keep the doors open and cellphones on for their students.
Dastmozd said it's more important than ever to make sure colleges are partnering with business and community leaders to make sure they have the most educated and prepared workforce possible.
And he's out there talking with political leaders, school district chiefs and the heads of community organizations to get their feedback.
Dastmozd's willingness to reach out to stakeholders is what has impressed Thomas Matos, dean of student development and services, who was on the president search committee.
"He wants to learn about what's important to the community, what they need, and then making sure we meet those needs," Matos said. "He has a tremendous amount of energy."
Megan Boldt can be reached at 651-228-5495. Follow her at twitter.com/meganboldt.
By Megan Boldt
Updated: 10/16/2011 11:06:10 PM CDT
For more photos go to www.twincities.com