October 24, 2018

A sociology degree has helped Baktash Ahadi think outside the box and serve as mentor and transla... A sociology degree has helped Baktash Ahadi think outside the box and serve as mentor and translator for the U.S.In 1984, when Baktash Ahadi ’05 was three years old, he and his family fled their native Kabul, Afghanistan, after his father, a government employee, refused to join the Communist regime. After surviving a harrowing seven-day journey on horseback through the Hindu Kush mountain range to Pakistan, during which they were shot at and nearly killed several times, Baktash’s family eventually settled in Carlisle, Pa.

When it came time for college, Ahadi turned his sights 60 miles north, to Selinsgrove.

“I decided to enroll at SU because of its intimate learning environment,” he says.

Taking up sociology, Ahadi believes the program “did a good job in preparing me to think outside the box. Studying social sciences gave me a greater appreciation and solid foundation for understanding the importance of identity, social structures, culture, economics and politics.”

After Susquehanna, Ahadi enrolled in a global security program at The Johns Hopkins University School of International Relations.

In 2009, he interrupted his graduate studies to return to Afghanistan for another harrowing mission. Uniquely positioned as both a United States citizen and an Afghan native who speaks the Dari language, he initially worked throughout Afghanistan as a translator and adviser to the U.S. military. He supported counterinsurgency efforts to both win “the hearts and minds” of Afghan locals and engage them in order to determine their perceptions on a wide range of topics from opium production to Taliban roaming courts.

Ahadi resumed his studies at Johns Hopkins in 2013. He appreciates his “humanistic framework” developed at Susquehanna that “along with my professional work experience, gives me something worthwhile to bring to the table in different lectures, debates and group discussions. I really feel like my fellow graduate students are able to learn from my experience and insight. A lot of that has to do with my formal education at SU and my professional work experience.”

He attributes his time at Susquehanna as providing “the framework for understanding the world through a humanistic lens.” Also of tremendous benefit were the close relationships he had with his professors when in Selinsgrove, which Ahadi says “allowed me to foster honest discourse with them and my fellow students in better understanding how the world works through these frameworks, which has worked out quite well for me.”

He is an instructor at the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute, where he teaches diplomats about Afghanistan.