Winning hearts, changing minds, and making memories

“My experience with Muslims all my life has been terrible. It has been a breathe of fresh air getting to know you. You have an infectious smile and are always happy.”

The opportunity to grow up in the United States was a blessing. I was born into a Muslim family, but I did not embrace my faith until I became an adolescent and awakened to the inequities of the world. By embracing God, I found my calling through my religion: to positively impact one person’s world at a time, even if I could not change the whole world.

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This past year, I have become deeply involved in many facets of Maynooth University, Dublin city, and Ireland as a whole. Outside of a rigorous and diverse course load that includes science and humanities courses, I’m also engaged with several organizations, and try to be at the pulse of the entrepreneurial scene in Ireland. By wearing the hats of an entrepreneur, scientist, and student, I naturally connect with a vast amount of people. Through these roles and others, I am in regular contact with stakeholders throughout the university community, including students, faculty, staff, administrators, and I’m in a good position to understand their various needs. I also enjoy attending seminars and workshops at Maynooth and across Ireland. I am the type of person who is constantly meeting with and talking to new people. Based on my background and noticing a need, I focused on improving entrepreneurship with regards to the undergraduate and graduate community.

In terms of entrepreneurship, Maynooth is a leader for innovation and commercialization. They are making huge investments towards incubation centers, funding mechanisms, and improving business development strategies. While this focus is great for faculty, the student movement towards these resources has been slower. I became involved with the EDEN Entrepreneurial Center and the MaynoothWorks program to see if I could better understand resources available and connect students to them. Through the EDEN Center, I met with young entrepreneurs and acted as a support mechanism for the entrepreneurship competition. The EDEN Entrepreneurship Challenge is an annual event that allows students to pitch ideas and compete for small cash to support their concepts. I met with various young entrepreneurs and learned about their ideas and dreams. I’ve found from personal experience that if you ask enough questions, you begin to see the creativity wheels turn in their heads and outside the box ideas surface. I was also asked to attend the finals and showcase my venture as an example of what students can accomplish in front of a room filled with judges and members of the public. I received extremely flattering comments about my presentation and the organizers presented me with the following award.

“Special Eden Entrepreneur and Ambassador Milad Alucozai”

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The second major event I organized was MaynoothWorks first Fireside Chat. Over the course of the year, I began a relationship at MaynoothWorks, an incubator and resource center designed to help entrepreneurs convert their ideas into a scalable business. By working with their management, we created an event geared towards the undergraduate and graduate community to help showcase the resources available to them, meet with a number of entrepreneurs, tour the new facility, and shared our experiences in entrepreneurship. One of the other speakers was Ollwyn Moran, an Irish entrepreneur who has launched three products internationally and is well on the way to building a valuable brand.

http://www.rte.ie/player/ie/show/dragons-den-1203/10561363/

One of the specific aims of the evening was to bring home the thought that a critical success factor was getting the sleeves rolled up and and of course being willing to learn by failures. Many would be entrepreneurs often start off searching for the “perfect” way to bring their product to life which can waste time and effort and be the cause of a lot of frustration. The theme of the evening was it’s all about implementation after the right level of consideration. My goal is for the fireside chat to become an annual event that puts a focus on engaging with undergraduates and providing them the tools they need to create success that will filter back down to the university.

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The academic semester officially wrapped up last week. It has been a time of mixed emotions, relief that exams are over, but filled with bittersweet goodbyes to all the friends I’ve made while in Ireland. At one of the going away parties, I had a friend take me to the side and tell me about what her interactions with me have meant for her. She had very bad experiences with Muslims when living abroad, and she claims I changed her mindset and made her curious about Islam and what it teaches. This is one of the most powerful moments this past year in Ireland. There is no better feeling than when you change minds by action and attitude. I strive to be a good Muslim; I stumble a lot, but I try to get back on my feet and keep going. The best way to change the hearts of others and for them to see the beauty of my faith is by leading by example and making it part of every aspect of my life.

I will miss my fellow Mitchell Scholars, who I’ve become close with over this past year. I know the future is bright for all of us, and they will all be strong leaders in their desired fields. The path will be arduous for us all, but we will never give up!

From now until September, I will be focusing my efforts on my dissertation. Ramadan will start next month, should be quite the adventure with late sunset and early sunrise associated with Ireland.

Please hop over to itunes and purchase the documentary, watch, review, and support the team. Seeing Salam Neighbor come together was an amazing journey.

Click this link to purchase/rent the movie -> http://bit.ly/iTunes_Salam

If you want to know what I’ve been up to in life, follow me on twitter @miladalucozai

My final blog could not be complete without some more photos! Enjoy.

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