BIS in Individualized Study

Zainab Salbi, 1996

Zainab Salbi

Mason’s Winter Graduation ceremonies in December 2019 featured speaker Zainab Salbi, BIS ’96.

Salbi, who came to Mason as an Iranian immigrant, founded Women for Women International, a global relief organization, while still a student.

At the ceremony, the humanitarian and author encouraged attendees to resist the material measures of success at the expense of finding something that truly matters to them.

“Live life out of your own truth,” Salbi said. “Live it today. Now. Not tomorrow, not the day after. For if you deny yourself the most important truth of what your heart longs for, that longing shall always find its way and itch in your mind and your brain.”

Salbi served as CEO of Women for Women International from 1993 to 2011 and has written three books: Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam, If You Knew Me You Would Care (with Rennio Maifredi), and Freedom Is an Inside Job: Owning Our Darkness and Our Light to Heal Ourselves and the World.

She has created and hosted such shows as #MeToo, Now What?, an original PBS series about sexual harassment, and Through Her Eyes, a Yahoo News series devoted to female perspectives. Foreign Policy magazine named Salbi as one of 2016’s “100 Leading Global Thinkers.”

During the morning ceremony, Mason Board of Visitors member Lisa Zuccari, BIS ’89, presented Salbi with an honorary doctor of humane letters. 

“My professors believed in me, and for that, I cannot tell you the difference they made in my life,” Salbi told the graduates. “Mason welcomed me and nurtured me and really supported me to become the woman I am, standing in front of you today."