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The Black Belt

The Black Belt
Caroline Purtell

When Ali Malekzadeh became dean of the Williams College of Business four years ago, he was, in a sense, closing a large circle. Although Malekzadeh studied and worked at universities across the United States, his educational roots lie in Jesuit schools in his native Iran. An avid student of taekwondo, Malekzadeh comments on the relationship between martial arts and business education, the realities of educating business students and the educational approach that makes Xavier “a special school.”

 

“My entire first through 12th grade was in a Jesuit school. What I learned from the fathers was the value of hard work, the value of personal relationships and caring about every student. Almost my entire graduating class is in the U.S. They all have very good professions, and it all goes back to our high school education and the role models that we had.”

“I’m a member of the American Taekwondo Association and a fourth-degree black belt. My oldest daughter and wife are fourth-degrees, and my youngest daughter is a third-degree. So this is a family thing. It started when my oldest daughter was 8 years old. She was shy and pushed around in school. Both of my daughters were in the top 10 in the world. I was ranked in the top 10 just once, and I emphasize just once. My oldest daughter can rearrange my headgear in an instant.”

“I think the parallel between martial arts and what we do in the business school is this: When a student comes in, we surround that student with a team of peers and instructors and assess what are the needs of this specific person and then help that person succeed. Our job is not to fail them; our job is to help them succeed.”

“Business students today have a very short time to prepare for the global world. Previously when we educated business students, we said, ‘When you graduate from here you go work for a local company, you make a good living, your life will be great.’ Except now, that local company may be Procter & Gamble, which will only hire you if you are the best employee in the world. All of our graduates are competing with the graduates of the best schools globally. So that is a challenge. And that is an amazing responsibility.”

“We’ve had amazingly high quality faculty and staff who take the job very seriously. Those are two critical pieces. Then we have significantly upgraded our placement and career programs in the business school. Our executive mentors are doing amazing things for their students. All of these things together, the faculty, the staff, the board members and the trustees—with everybody helping us, the graduating class of 2006 from the business school has a 97-percent job placement rate. That’s unheard of. Usually top, top, top business schools are at 89 to 91 percent. That’s where what’s special about Xavier comes into play.”

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