From prison to award-winning college career

Datyous Mahmoudian

Datyous Mahmoudian

By Sean Park
Born in Shiraz, Iran, and raised in Bellingham, Washington, Datyous Mahmoudian is a living example that one can overcome adversity and thrive on a new path.

 Growing up, Mahmoudian struggled through homelessness, financial instability and influences that led to incarceration when he was 19. 

“I had to really look in the mirror and make some changes,” he said. “I discovered that education was going to be the catalyst in turning my life around.” 

After four years behind bars, Mahmoudian left with a purpose: Pursue an education and use his abilities to help others who have similar backgrounds. On track toward his goal, Mahmoudian was recognized this last academic year as one of the Husky 100, students from across all three UW campuses honored for making the most of their UW education. 

Transitioning

Mahmoudian is a junior majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Management Information Systems as well as a minor in Computer Science and Software Engineering. Before transferring to UW Bothell, he was the valedictorian for Edmonds Community College’s 2018 Small Business & Entrepreneurship Certificate program at the Monroe Correctional Complex. 

The transition has not been easy for Mahmoudian. Fortunately, he has had the support from his mentors — Diversity Center Director Miguel Macias, Assistant Director for Undergraduate Learning Initiatives Kathy Mitchell and Associate Professor Dan Berger. 

“My mentors served as guides, sharing expertise and support networks that empowered me to assimilate to life on the outside and move on to the next phase of growth,” said Mahmoudian. “Whether it was Miguel and his words of encouragement, Kathy and her empathy or Dan helping me with clubs, they all helped me in my pursuit of a promising future.” 

On a campus tour, he recalled seeing saw a flyer for a course he took while incarcerated, Arts of Social Transformation. “It was just a humble experience to see the same poster for the same class but this time on the other side.” 

Thriving

Moving forward as a UW Bothell student himself, Mahmoudian found his community at the Student Diversity Center, he said, and landed a job as an intercultural coordinator. He also became involved in a various campus activities. 

Mahmoudian served co-chair of the Student Technology Fee Committee, which approves spending on some campus technology. The committee was awarded the 2020 Student Affairs Outstanding Team award during his tenure. 

He is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery and participated in the 2020 ACM hackathon. The club worked on designing a database for other student clubs to help organize their membership information. He also is a member of Delta Sigma Pi, a professional business fraternity. 

This past spring, Mahmoudian started working as an equity and engagement intern for King County, where he focused on providing opportunities and empowering others impacted by the justice system. The office in downtown Seattle is next to the work release facility where he was confined. “It feels very liberating to be on the 13th floor of the King County offices where it towers over the prison I was incarcerated in.” 

Mahmoudian recalls a time in prison when he realized his calling in life. 

“There was this older gentleman who was computer illiterate, and he asked me to help set up a Gmail account for him. We went to the library and, for whatever reason, after I helped him with that process, I was motivated to get out of my mental rut,” Mahmoudian said. 

“That’s where I told myself — wherever I end up — I want to be in a position where I’m helping people, because there’s nothing more fulfilling than that.” 

Each year, the University of Washington selects 100 students who are making the most of their Husky experience. Thirteen UW Bothell students were recognized as part of the Husky 100 Class of 2020. What's special about a Husky 100 recipient? They dare to do. They use what they learn inside and outside the classroom to grow personally and to create change in their communities. 

 


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