U of T bridging program helped grad Faraz Khoshbakhtian ‘discover a future for myself’

“When my family escaped from Iran in 2012, the goal was always for my sister and I to attend university,” says Faraz Khoshbakhtian.

Now, Khoshbakhtian is fulfilling that dream as he takes half within the University of Toronto’s fall convocation.

A member of Woodsworth College and a recipient of the school’s Brookfield Peter F. Bronfman Scholarship, Khoshbakhtian studied philosophy, pc science and statistics with a particular concentrate on synthetic intelligence (AI) and the intersection of know-how and society.

Khoshbakhtian was born in Iran the place he and his sister didn’t have the identical academic alternatives accessible in different nations as a result of they have been from a Baháʼí household. What’s extra, he confronted conscription into the army and so he, his mom, sister and grandparents left.

They left for Turkey and stayed there as refugees for two-and-a-half years till – by means of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – they lastly made their solution to Canada.

“We came in the winter,” says Khoshbakhtian. “It was hard to talk to people, to find our community. It was hard financially and I was on welfare for a while. I used food banks and worked as a banquet server and security guard.”

Khoshbakhtian seemed into methods of attending college with out the traditional schooling credentials. Some entry applications took years, however an aunt steered a program she had gone by means of in an effort to attend U of T: the Millie Rotman Shime Academic Bridging Program at Woodsworth College.

The program is designed to bridge the hole between a pupil’s prior schooling and entry into a level program within the Faculty of Arts & Science – even when college students don’t meet the standard educational necessities.

“It was a lifesaver,” says Faraz. “I had no different means of stepping into college and it made it doable for me to attend and discover a future for myself. It was a very good program and I couldn’t have finished it with out its monetary help.

“What’s more, my professor in the program was Thomas Socknat, the academic director of the [academic bridging] program at Woodsworth College. I will always remember him because he helped me get on my feet academically. Plus, he encouraged me to work hard on my English to make sure it was university-level.”

Khoshbakhtian’s curiosity in know-how was kindled as a young person by video video games and films like The Matrix.

“I was always thinking about things like AI for sure,” he remembers. “Also, I was brought up in a family that was very science-oriented. So, from an early age, I started coding and had an interest in math and software.”

But Khoshbakhtian’s perspective as a refugee additionally sparked an curiosity in political philosophy and questions on inequality and oppression.

“These experiences prompted me to change course a bit and explore these different ideas,” he says.

“In my first-year philosophy course, we had to read Nietzsche and it just clicked for me. It changed my worldview and helped me to live my life as a person who has struggles and aspirations – some of them achieved and some not.”

Khoshbakhtian’s path to Canada and college additionally led to ideas of the place the 2 domains – know-how and philosophy – intersect.

“Where the two meet is interesting to me because of the way technology is changing our worldview and the way we’re living,” he says. “It requires us to rethink our philosophy of life – our political philosophy, our metaphysics. And, at the same time, the way we think about these issues informs the way we develop technology as a society.”

As for recommendation he would to first-year college students?

“I would say, don’t take marks or GPA or other evaluative numbers too seriously,” he says. “You come to university having done very well academically, but then you get to university and you don’t do as well. Firstly, you shouldn’t think less of yourself. And secondly, remember that you’re not alone – you’re not the only one struggling.”

As for his post-convocation life, Khoshbakhtian plans on ending his grasp’s mission, which focuses on growing and making use of machine studying options in health-care planning and coverage. Also, he plans to proceed to higher perceive “how machine learning, AI and data science can help us be a better society and be more civil, rather than attacking each other.”

He additionally intends to be engaged along with his communities: the college, Toronto and the Iranian-Canadian group – a continuation of what he’s finished ever since making Canada his residence. For instance, he’s co-founder of the CineIran Film Festival of Toronto, which was held on the TIFF Bell Lightbox and which has since grown into the Cyrus International Film Festival.

“I’m happy and proud that all these communities take in new people from all over the world and give them a chance,” he says. “And for myself, I feel I’ve achieved something I was looking forward to all my life. This year has been a very happy one for me.”

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