Ali Houshmand was born into poverty in Iran. He eventually left to pursue an education – first in the U.K., then here in the United States. He started working in the private sector, then built a successful academic career, landing in Glassboro at Rowan University.
After serving in a series of senior administrative roles, he became the school’s seventh president in 2012, and embarked on a mission to transform the South Jersey institution. Houshmand recently spoke with NJBIZ about his work at Rowan, how far the university has come and where the school – and American higher education in general – needs to go next. And, of course, his hot sauce.
He makes it clear that his background informs his work.
“I believe that the reason that I’ve been successful is because I’ve been made so humble,” he said. “I’ve seen so much difficulty that I appreciate that, and I don’t want to see any other person to go through what I have. When I see a person in here who comes from a from a depressed area having a difficult time, the first instinct is, how do I help that person? How do I leave that person because I have seen the power of it on me. As a result of me many of my family members have been upgraded, and there are so many other friends and colleagues that I have promoted, so many graduate students who are very successful citizens of this country. That is a fantastic feeling.”