In 2010, Farin Bakhtiari ’14 (Psychology) and her family emigrated from Iran to the United States. She knew enough English to get along in her new country, but adjusting to a new culture while becoming the first person in her family to attend college placed multiple obstacles in her life — but they never kept her from pursuing her academic and personal goals.
Bakhtiari was one of more than 11,000 graduates from California State University, Northridge this year, receiving a master’s degree in general experimental psychology with honors. During her undergraduate studies at CSUN, she volunteered for on-campus and off-campus community services. As a graduate student, Bakhtiari served as teaching assistant and participated in department research projects. To honor her persistence and diligence, the university awarded Bakhtiari the CSUN Graduate Scholarship for 2016.
“Someone [is] out there that has invested in me and my education,” Bakhtiari said. “When we worry about money, it’s harder to focus on our education. Even if we are good students, we may have to work two or three jobs to just keep going.”
Bakhtiari said she appreciates the financial support and wants to give back to CSUN.
“Many students come from low-income families,” she said. “I can give back by supporting a scholarship later. Right now, I don’t have the financial resources, but I can mentor other students or volunteer — because now I don’t have to worry about the money aspect of my education.”
While attending Pierce Community College from 2010-12, Bakhtiari took several courses in sociology and psychology. After consulting with her advisor, Bakhtiari decided to become a psychology major when she transferred to CSUN.
“At CSUN, I have been involved in many activities to immerse myself in the psychology field,” she said. “[I explored] the various options available to psychology majors, [which helped] me decide on my future educational and career goals.”
In her first year at CSUN, Bakhtiari became a peer educator for CSUN’s Blues Project, an initiative for depression and suicide prevention. She completed 120 hours of training, gave presentations and educated college and university students about depression.
“This experience opened my eyes to the importance of providing fact-based information about mental health, and how much difference these workshops can provide to individuals in need,” she said.
Beyond her campus involvement, Bakhtiari contributed to local community services. She volunteered for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), gaining firsthand experience with families affected by mental illness.
“[It] made me more sensitive, understanding and realistic about mental illnesses,” she said.
While volunteering at NAMI, Bakhtiari helped Iranian families who had recently immigrated to the United States to identify resources, using her bilingual skills in English and Farsi
“Helping recent immigrants assimilate to the United States’ culture while still celebrating their native culture has sparked my interest in understanding how family dynamics influence positive mental health in immigrant families, as they experience the acculturation process,” she said. “I am very interested in how immigrant families cope with acculturative stress.”
As an undergraduate student at CSUN, Bakhtiari became a teaching assistant for a junior-level research methods class. As a graduate student, she taught the statistics lab PSY320L, which sparked her passion for teaching.
She also worked part-time as a student assistant in CSUN’s Department of Psychology and in the department’s psychology research office, working closely with students.
For the past three years, Bakhtiari has worked on the department’s Adolescent and Adult Adjustment research project. She examined how neighborhood, family, peer and school climates related to adolescents’ and young adults’ academics and mental health. Bakhtiari was quickly promoted to assistant lab supervisor and then to lab supervisor.
“Joining this lab was the most influential experience in my educational path, because it allowed me to discover my passion for conducting research,” she said.
This fall, Bakhtiari will move on to the University of Texas at Austin to pursue a Ph.D. in human development and family sciences, aiming for a research-based teaching career.
“Having firsthand experience with marginalization as well as immigration, I am ready to commit my academic life to those who need it most,” Bakhtiari said. “It is my deepest desire to secure a position in a diverse university where I can teach and mentor students, and continue my research on marginalized and underrepresented individuals and families.”