Student Overcomes Gender Disparity by Pursuing Her Ph.D. at Whitman
What I really like about Whitman is the incredible support provided by the faculty and their diverse research areas. They are always available for conversations about your research and try to create an environment that motivates you to generate and develop new ideas and study things you find interesting.
For many students, coming to the U.S. to pursue an education is a huge opportunity to experience the American dream. For Ghonche Khalaj ’25 Ph.D., a student from Iran, those words could not ring more true. For Khalaj, studying at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management means equal opportunities for her as a woman in business.
Khalaj is originally from Tehran, Iran, and studied at Tafresh University and Tarbiat Modares University before coming to Whitman. At Tafresh, she received her bachelor's degree in industrial engineering, and at Tarbiat Modares she received her master’s degree in financial engineering. Khalaj says that “a huge gender disparity exists in many sectors in Iran” but knew the opportunities she was seeking were readily available in the United States. So, she decided to pursue her Ph.D. nearly halfway around the world at Whitman, bringing with her husband Ali Kozehgaran.
At Whitman, Khalaj studies finance and says that she originally became interested in the topic during her master’s program. In Iran, she became especially interested in the financial market and asset pricing. As Khalaj started her research in the field of finance, she realized how much information was out there and turned to faculty to narrow down her area of expertise. “I believe the hardest part for me was finding an exciting idea to begin my research and constructing a model for it. As you get started, you quickly understand that each dataset holds a lot of details, and you need to think about all the assumptions you're making,” Khalaj says.
Although she is new to studying in the United States, Khalaj says that it didn't take much time for her to get used to the new environment, especially without the barriers that she and other women often face in Iran such as the opportunities for career advancement and research roles in the finance field.
“I have never questioned my abilities. I’m enjoying my study and research here at Whitman so far,” she says. “I think all students receive a lot of support from the University equally, which makes me very hopeful.
She adds, “What I really like about Whitman is the incredible support provided by the faculty and their diverse research areas. They are always available for conversations about your research and try to create an environment that motivates you to generate and develop new ideas and study things you find interesting.”