Get your students trained in Student Social Media Academy.

Educator Ani Shabazian is a Doer of Good and Gratefulness

Pursuing education as a career took a bit of negotiation in Ani’s home.  Even when she was young, her father would lobby her saying “Can you promise me you’ll be a lawyer, or at least say you’ll seriously consider it?  You’ll make a good income, be able to take care of yourself and be independent.”  She said to me, “Of course I was going to tell my father yes!”  But thinking about if further, she realized indeed she didn’t want to be a lawyer and was a little concerned in letting her father, whom she adores, down.  In response, her mom declared,

“Ani, you can do and be anything you want to be; pursue what makes you happy and you will always be rich.”

Me & My Dad
This gave her the confidence to go to her dad and tell him she wanted to pursue a career in education.  But she also made him a promise stating,

“Dad, if I go to Law school I will probably end up going to an average Law school and doing slightly better than average because my heart is not fully in it.  But, if I go on to pursue a degree in education I promise I will go to the best school in the country and do amazing things with what I learn.”

She said, “He was supportive, but he probably still hasn’t given up hope for me to be a lawyer!”  But Ani did keep her promises to her father; she went to Harvard and UCLA, both in the top five education graduate schools in the nation, obtaining three post-graduate degrees along the way, and now has success.
Like most transitions from high school to college, freshman Ani had some adjusting when attending UCLA.  In the college student success research, when students are engaged through on-campus involvement and job opportunities they are more likely to be retained.  In other words, stay enrolled and even further graduate.  Involvement came in Ani’s sophomore year with the Armenian Student Association, as she began to serve on their executive board and stayed on the executive board as VP until graduating.
The next challenge in undergrad was her major.  While starting out pre-med, after a 90-hour critical care unit assignment, she found it just wasn’t for her.  Interesting enough, changing majors during the undergraduate years has been a common experience between all the doers interviewed so far.  She knew she loved people and their stories, so she naturally gravitated towards classes in Psychology and History.
What rooted her path in Early Childhood Education/Applied Developmental Psychology was an internship her fourth year, at the UCLA Infant Development Program.  Ani loved being hands-on and applying what she was learning in the classroom with little ones three months to three years of age.  A few years later she would be asked to come back and direct this program that made such an impact on her career.
phd graduation
With this direction in mind, Ani was ready for graduate school.  She was accepted into numerous programs, which she explained without blinking, naming many prestigious institutions.  She settled on Harvard, which would be a stretch, since she would be so far from her family.
But once again with her parent’s unwavering support, she headed to Cambridge, Massachusetts to obtained a Master of Education degree in Human Developmental Psychology.  Here is where that fateful day in kindergarten came full circle, as Ani selected an advisor, Catherine Snow, whose work focused on early childhood language acquisition.
But one Masters degree was not enough.   Ani returned to her alma mater (UCLA) for an MA/PhD program, in Urban Schooling.  This time she stretched her research into public schools, evaluating zero tolerance policies and how schools were pushing out kids through exclusionary disciplinary practices.
She recalled her proudest moment was when her committee chair opened the door of her doctoral defense deliberating room, shook her hand and stated, “Excellent defense you have passed with no revisions, congratulations Dr. Shabazian!”  She stretched a huge smile came across her face while announcing this work would finally be getting published!
It was during her dissertation research she was offered to be the Executive Director of the UCLA Infant Development Program.  This was the same program she had interned at years before as an undergraduate student.
regalia pic
A few years later, Loyola Marymount University sought her out.  At the time, Ani was very happy at UCLA, so she took some convincing.  What was most attractive was the opportunity to both run the childcare center and maintain an adjunct faculty appointment, which brought out her passion for having the practice (childcare center) and theory (research & teaching).

“Having the practical keeps it real for me when I teach.”   Yet it was only six months later when LMU came back with a counter-offer for a tenure track faculty role that she accepted the position.  Because of this perfect fit she says, “to this day I don’t feel like I am working.”

There is more in store, below click 4!

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Share this post!

You may also like...

12 Days of Goodness by Doctor Josie Ahlquist.

12 Days of Goodness from 2023

As we begin to wrap up 2023, I’m counting down twelve days by celebrating and recognizing inspiring individuals and impactful projects that made this year so special.

Join me on the journey of gratitude with 12 Days of Goodness.

Read More »
National Hispanic Heritage Month. Hispanic and Latino leaders transforming higher education.

Hispanic and Latino Leaders Transforming Higher Education

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage month, I’m taking the next month to honor Hispanic and Latino leader accomplishments, share their stories, and explore their impact on their institutions and communities. I’ll be uplifting professionals on and off campus, at all levels.

Read More »
Is time up for TikTok in higher education? Here's how to develop a contingency plan, by Josie Ahlquist

Is Time Up For TikTok in Higher Education? 

At the time of writing, more than two dozen states have banned TikTok on government-issued devices and many colleges. As a business or organization that uses TikTok for marketing or communication purposes, it’s important to develop a contingency plan in case of a potential ban.

Read More »

Subscribe to my newsletter

For the latest on digital engagement and leadership and everywhere they intersect.

Spark your mission on social media

Sign up for the Digital Leadership Download

The newsletter that brings the latest in digital engagement and leadership right to your inbox

Unsubscribe anytime. Read our Privacy Policy.

Sign up for the Digital Leadership Download

The newsletter that brings the latest in digital engagement and leadership right to your inbox

Unsubscribe anytime. Read our Privacy Policy.