Alumni Q&A: Kourosh Houshmand CJS '18 Entrepreneur and Journalist

Kourosh is a recipient of Canada's Top 20 Under 20 Award for his work in education entrepreneurship, journalism, and develoment efforts in sub-saharan Africa. He has also been named a 'Climate Hero' by Canadian Geographic and Shell Canada and is a recipient of Canada's Top 30 Under 30 Sustainability Leaders 2015. 

We sat down with Kourosh to learn more about how scholarship aid has impacted his career at the school and how he hopes to drive change after graduation. 

1.     Why did you choose to pursue a degree in journalism?

I have a background in entrepreneurship. I built social enterprises that work in multiple continents, reaching the hardest to reach people in the world to deliver energy solutions. My role, both as a startup founder and as a writer, is rooted in understanding problems and empathizing with them before reimagining alternatives. I see journalism as the most powerful tool for learning about people. I am captivated by the psychology behind the process of journalism and how this will be affected by technology. They are both distinctly human exercises. Good storytelling has the potential to systematize people’s curiosity about the world, and this is relevant for everything I hope to do.

2.     What challenges do you encounter as an aspiring journalist and what has been the most exciting part of the program?

The most difficult part of starting as a young journalist is the inferiority complex, not taking yourself seriously as a ‘journalist.’ The program at Columbia, above all things I’ve learned, has instilled a confidence in my own ability to self-recognize as a journalist. Once I took myself seriously as a professional, I began to tell stories in my own style and with my own critical eye.

3.     What kind of change do you hope to drive after graduation?

I hope to constructively innovate in the media industry. Innovation is admittedly and overused and undervalued word, which is why I do not believe in innovation for its own sake— it needs to be constructive. Eventually, I am keen on building a startup that uses creative storytelling mediums to reimagine the best aspects of good and honest journalism. Artificial intelligence in particular is an important aspect of storytelling and it’s at the nexus of my professional and academic interests. 

4.     How has the scholarship aid impacted your academic career?

The scholarship aid is instrumental to my being at Columbia. It is an understatement to say that my academic career has been impacted by the generous scholarship I was fortunate to receive. I have the opportunity to pursue my personal and professional goals without compromising the scope of my ambitions. The scholarship aid liberated me from choosing between my financial well-being and my professional goals. It’s incredible to receive supported to do what I love, and this I’m sure, is true for many others. 

5.     What message do you have for alumni and the journalism community at large about paying it forward?

The scholarship program is instrumental. It ensures that people of all financial backgrounds are not compromising their ambitions. There're a few things more powerful than allowing students to pursue their dreams without alterations— this makes for a uniquely vibrant and diverse Columbia community. As a community of journalism students, I think we are incredibly grateful for the opportunities that the scholarship support has enabled us.


To contribute to the journalism's school scholarship program on Giving Day visit: Columbia Giving Day 2017