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Hear local stories of international women March 5

Posted 2:01 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015

UW-L Assistant Professor Sheida Babakhani Teimouri and MBA Program Director Martina Skobic are part of a panel discussion to celebrate International Women's Day.

Panel discussion is part of International Women’s Day Celebration

When UW-L Assistant Professor Sheida Babakhani Teimouri, of Iran, was born in 1984, her country was at war. But the unstable government, bombing and killing didn’t affect what she calls a happy childhood. She remembers going to kindergarten, swimming at her cousin’s pool and having fun with friends. She learned a lot of English watching the Oprah Winfrey Show. [caption id="attachment_39313" align="alignright" width="240"]Headshot image of Sheida Sheida Babakhani Teimouri[/caption] “You would think the Middle East would be so different, yet cultures are similar at the same time,” she says. Teimouri, who now teaches in UW-L’s Economics Department, will share her journey growing up in another country as part of a panel of international women for an International Women’s Day Celebration Thursday, March 5, at the Hall of Nations, in Centennial Hall. A reception starts at 5 p.m. and the program begins at 5:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Teimouri and three other international women from Botswana, Croatia and Kyrgyzstan will discuss their personal journeys as women and share reflections on the ways women have overcome barriers in their countries. Another member of the panel from UW-L is Martina Skobic, director of the College of Business Administration MBA program, of Croatia. International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world on March 8. Celebrations range from general celebrations to honor wives, mothers and daughters to celebrating the political and economic gains of women as well as their contributions to society. For the local celebration, organizers invited a panel of diverse women to help open eyes to what life is like for women in other parts of the world, says Lois Gilbert, a member of one of the sponsoring organizations, The American Association of University Women. “The average person in La Crosse is not exposed to people from other countries. So it’s important for our global understanding that we hear the stories of people from other countries and why they immigrated to the U.S. — many of them had great difficulty coming here and left people behind,” says Gilbert. “It’s always been eye opening and inspiring to go to this event.” At age 18, a high score on a national exam allowed Teimouri to go to one of the best universities in Iran where she studied economics. After four years, she decided go to graduate school in the United States. At the time no one from her economics department in Iran had applied to schools abroad. “Everyone told me that I’m crazy. There is no way I could go to America. Even if I were to get the admitted, there is no way I could get a scholarship or a visa,” she recalls. “I said, ‘I’m going to try.’” The most difficult part of the application process was collecting letters of recommendation from her professors. Even a professor she had worked closely with as a teaching assistant for years, writing exams and doing other projects, wouldn’t write her a recommendation. He said as a single girl she could become corrupted by western culture. Teimouri eventually found others to recommend her after she convinced them that her family would be living with her in the U.S. — even though that was not true. She was later accepted to a doctoral program in West Virginia on a full scholarship. “I grew up in suppressive society where people discourage women,” she explains. “But when I look back on my childhood, I always smile. At the end of the day, my family had way more influence on me than my society. A discouraging society is not good, but maybe it makes you more determined.”

Event sponsors

The International Women’s Day event is sponsored by the AAUW-La Crosse Branch, UW-L Office of International Education; League of Women Voters-La Crosse Area; the School District of La Crosse; UW-L’s Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department; World Services of La Crosse; International Women’s Group of La Crosse; Gundersen Global Partners; and YWCA-La Crosse.


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