The scholar and the mentor

Photo of Mohammad Sahkvidi and Brad Chan

Pictured: UTS Humanitarian Scholarship recipient, Mohammad Sakhvidi (left) with Banna Foundation director, Brad Chan.

Mohammad Sakhvidi fled Iran in his mid-teens. Now he’s shaping up to be a fine engineer thanks to generous support from business leader, UTS alumni, and scholarship donor Brad Chan.

During his childhood in Tehran, Iran, Mohammad Sakhvidi’s heroes wore hardhats, not capes. He admits he’s a bit nerdy, but he’s always admired how engineers use their mental powers to create amazing things.

“I was the only person in my family who was into very technical, analytical stuff,” he says.

"I’m now getting distinctions, and he’s given me a better understanding of what’s happening in the workplace." - Mohammad Sakhvidi

Sakhvidi’s parents worked hard to pay his school fees so he might be the first in his family to go to university. However, at age 16 he discovered he was in danger of persecution, so their savings were redirected into paying for his escape from Iran.

The fishing boat he sailed on was meant to land in Indonesia but was intercepted by the Royal Australian Navy.

“I heard I might be sent to Papua New Guinea or Nauru and I was terrified,” he remembers. “They took me to a detention centre on Christmas Island for assessments, then to an underage centre in Hobart.”

Every day he wrote to the manager asking if he could go to school. Half a year later he was transferred to Sydney and enrolled at Granville Boys High, where his HSC result qualified him to study engineering.

“A youth care worker took us on excursions and when I saw UTS I thought ‘Wow! I want to study there!’ So I got some help applying for scholarships because I couldn’t afford full fees. Then I got the news: I’d won a humanitarian scholarship at UTS. It was a second chance of life for me.”

Sakhvidi credits Brad Chan, director of the Banna Foundation, which supports the UTS Humanitarian Scholarships Program, for making his dream career possible. As well as funding Sakhvidi’s scholarship, Chan is an excellent mentor:

“Brad showed me how to manage my time better for work and study,” says Sakhvidi. “I’m now getting distinctions, and he’s given me a better understanding of what’s happening in the workplace.”

He continues, “He’s a very down-to-earth guy. He tries his best to take the stress off your shoulders.”

Thanks to Chan’s guidance, Sakhvidi is now managing a team of 12 in a hospitality job outside university. He has also been able to meet many engineers, which is exactly what he’s always wanted.

“The subjects at UTS are very career relevant and give you a good understanding of the workplace. Though there’s a lot I have to learn, I’m getting closer to my purpose of becoming a civil engineer –and maybe coming up with a brilliant project idea one day.”