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Winter Welcome 2022

Farnaz Khadem, the Vice President of University Communications, shared her life lessons and story about 50 enraptured Stanford community members over zoom on February 17th, 2022. Farnaz modeled to us that life is about finding a balance and doing what you’re interested in. As someone who is responsible for upholding and building upon Stanford’s brand, she was the epitome of success, grace, and inspiration.

Farnaz left a lasting impression on all attendees, and she left us with the following lessons.

  1. Plan, but not too much

  2. Emotional intelligence is so important

Plan, but not too much

Farnaz moved to the United States from Iran when she was very young. She didn’t speak any English, but started school in San Diego the day after she landed here. Although she reflects on this period as a difficult time in her life, she emphasized how much resilience it instilled her with.

She had her heart set on becoming a journalist, and boldly applied to Northwestern which had the leading journalism program in the country. She hadn’t applied to any other East Coast schools, and she didn’t expect to get in, but she did! She took a leap of faith and moved across the country to pursue her goals. Promptly, she realized she did not want to be a journalist. But, she was offered the opportunity to enroll in an accelerated program to receive her M.A. and B.A. in journalism at the same time.

She became a journalist for a year, but then launched into her passion of being an international advocate. She had postings around the world and absolutely loved her experience.

She met her husband, who's Canadian, and the two of them decided to settle in California. To this day, she commutes from Southern California to Stanford University because she loves her life in both places.

This story goes to show that while someone can have a plan, it shouldn’t always be followed. Farnaz told us that if she had followed a strict path, most of the best choices in her life wouldn’t have been available and her favorite experiences may not have happened.

Emotional intelligence is so important

Farnaz emphasized that she hires “so many people.” One of her roles at the university is building great teams and hiring exceptional team members. She told us that one of the main components she looks for is high EQ (emotional intelligence). Farnaz is a strong believer that being well-rounded is really important. When interviewing, she wants to see that the candidate has interests outside of work and can be empathetic and emotionally aware.

Not only does she value emotional intelligence in others, she champions it. Farnaz is an introvert at heart, and says that she needs solitude to recharge. To the outside world, Farnaz is bold, witty, genius, and poised, and her exceptional qualities are fueled by spending time in her own company and through introspection. She recommended to us that we rest and never deny ourselves the opportunity to rest so that we can be the best version of ourselves. Her sharing this part of herself with us was vulnerable, and truly moving for audience members that could relate.

Farnaz was eager and willing to answer questions from students. Moreover, she offered her continued support to students who wish to reach out to her to ask more questions. Farnaz’s authenticity, and willingness to answer intimate questions was absolutely refreshing.

How do you respond to your critics? How do we deal with feelings of falling behind?

Farnaz shared that she responds to criticism well because it is important to grow and recognize weaknesses. On the inside, critics can sometimes be hurtful. She always learns and employs new strategies and incorporates insights from team members she works with. However, she might deal with those feelings by being gentle with herself by limiting negative self talk and having rejuvenating alone time.


In the latter portion of our Winter Welcome event, students were placed in breakout rooms to debrief the talk and reflect. Students were extremely thoughtful and shared that they truly resonated with the wisdom and experiences Farnaz shared.

Her talk will leave a lasting impact on all those who attended, and she will be a role model for students who hope to nurture themselves, be part of something bigger, and explore the world around them.


Heartfelt thanks to the work of the Cap and Gown Winter Welcome committee:

Actives: Aden Beyene, Megan Loh, Grace Bagga, and Alicia Purpur

Alumnae: Ellen Petrill, Michelle Galloway, and Ruth Cronkite

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