Tawar Khalandi portrait

Tawar

Economics and Political Science

Why did you choose UMKC?

I have three older sisters who all went here. We moved from Iran in 1997, so Kansas City has always been home. Very early on my parents decided this is where we were going to invest our time and resources.

Not only did I have a strong bond with my family, I knew I wanted to grow personally and professionally here; I wanted to grow my network here.

How did your family come to the U.S.?

I was only two and my sister only seven when we left Iran. The Kurdish people have faced persecution in both Iran (by the former Ayatollah) and Iraq (by Saddam Hussein). Being of Kurdish descent, my family certainly felt that discrimination – from being denied job and education opportunities to being victims of chemical warfare (in the 1970s, our mother’s hometown was hit with chemical weapons).

In the late 1980s, our father spent some time incarcerated. By 1995, he had fled Iran and was on his way to Turkey. Shortly after, we followed. For two years, we waited in an odd limbo as we applied for asylum into the United States. In September of 1997, we moved to Kansas City, MO as political refugees.

The details of why – what happened, what things culminated, why then, why there – have never been fully answered by our parents. But we know that they did everything they could to allow us a better opportunity to create our own futures.

Tawar Khalandi smiling

How did you choose your field of study?

I’ve always been fascinated by politics and, even though many adults in my life advised against it, I knew I wanted to pursue it academically. During my sophomore year, I took my first course in economics and became obsessed with its theoretical basis and history. Interest and passion really drove my degrees – a bachelor’s in political science and economics.