Dreams into reality: Entrepreneur, space traveler encourages female students at MSU event

Feb 5, 2017|Blog

Growing up in Iran, Anousheh Ansari remembers staring up into the night skies, dreaming of herself one day exploring space.

“It was a place I would let my imagination go wild,” Ansari said to a group of hundreds of women engineering and computer science students gathered at Montana State University on Thursday night.

That dream turned into a reality for Ansari, who immigrated to the United States as a teenager and went on to become the first self-funded woman to visit the International Space Station and the first Muslim woman to travel to space.

Ansari was the keynote speaker for the 14th annual Women in Engineering Dinner, put on by MSU’s College of Engineering, which this year featured 674 enrolled female students, 17 percent of the school’s total enrollment.

The event also brought in nearly 400 current and prospective students along with faculty and others, all to encourage and inspire women to pursue careers in engineering and computer science.

Ansari, 50, earned her bachelor’s degree in electronics and computer engineering from George Mason University, and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from George Washington University.

Ansari is also a successful tech entrepreneur. She is the CEO of Prodea Systems, a digital services provider.

During her keynote address at MSU, Ansari said she is excited for the future. She envisions the future to be personalized, to be augmented with robotics and artificial intelligence, and in space, especially in the private sector.

“Going to space has been a transformational experience for me,” she said.

Whether it’s as a source of materials for things we need here on Earth, harvesting the power of the sun for sustainable and clean energy, or the ability to live in space, “I am excited to see what is happening in the private space industry,” Ansari said.

Ansari encouraged the young women in the room to be the change they want to see.

“You have tremendous individual power,” she said. “It’s important for you to look at people across this room and throughout the world and see how women have played a big role in changing the world around them.”

And, Ansari pushed the women to stay true to themselves. Women, especially in the science, technology, engineering and math fields, “we feel like we need to change to fit in,” she said.

“Just stay who you are, and bring everything you have to the table.”

“I don’t let fear drive what I do. I believe in hope. I believe as humans, we have a choice to make. We have a lot of power. We have the responsibility about how to use our power.”

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