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Securing America’s Future:

The Power of Liberal Arts Education

Baktash Ahadi

Former Advisor, Mentor, and Translator for the U.S. Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan
Susquehanna University (PA), Class of 2005
Baktash Ahadi is a former advisor, mentor, and translator for the U.S. Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan and is currently an account executive at Improvonia.
 
In 1984, when Ahadi 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, Ahadi’s family eventually settled in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
 
Ahadi interrupted his graduate studies in global security at Johns Hopkins University to return to Afghanistan for an equally harrowing mission. Uniquely positioned as both a U.S. citizen and an Afghan national who speaks the Dari language, he initially worked in western Afghanistan for a U.S. and NATO Afghan advisory group. 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. He later served as a mentor and translator for the U.S. Special Operations Task Force, working as a liaison between the Special Forces, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and locals who were developing schools, clinics, and wells—in addition to training Afghan commandoes.

Ahadi completed his MA in global security studies at Johns Hopkins University in 2014. He graduated magna cum laude. He received a BA in sociology and anthropology from Susquehanna University in 2005.
My liberal arts education was quite valuable. Liberal learning exposed me to books and music, the science and philosophy that helped me form disciplined yet creative habits of thought that are not reducible to the material circumstances of one’s life. There is a promise of freedom in liberal arts education, particularly at Susquehanna University. It is no surprise that many other liberal arts graduates can be found disproportionately in leadership positions in politics, culture, and the economy. This is the case in Washington, DC, where I have established my personal and professional network.
 
Having a well-rounded education is crucial in connecting with people from all walks of life. My studies in sociology and anthropology still have an impact on my personal and professional life today. That said, it is important to develop a certain type of skill or specialty while pursuing a well-rounded education—whether that specialty be writing, computer programming, finance, or foreign languages. To be employable it is important to be knowledgeable, ambitious, flexible, and skillful. All of these attributes can be attained and fine-tuned through a liberal arts education.

It is no surprise that many liberal arts graduates can be found disproportionately in leadership positions in politics, culture, and the economy. This is the case in Washington, DC, where I have established my personal and professional network.

The biggest asset a liberal arts education has is access to a multitude of disciplines, which allows students to study and learn about the world around them, in and out of the classroom.
 
Moreover, liberal arts institutions have a low student-to-faculty ratio, which leads to greater student access to university professors. Larger institutions generally focus more on research and cater less to the needs of students. For me, the student-professor relationship has led to long-lasting relationships, personally and professionally.
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