Junjun Chen, the first recipient of the Karim Mohammadi Award for Excellence in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. Inset: Karim Mohammadi, Hospitality and Tourism Management ’17
Giving back is in Karim Mohammadi’s blood. “My father,” he says, “just approaches it differently. He has dedicated his life to non-profits, working to improve healthcare and education in the developing world. I thought more about how to make money, which in turn would give me the ability to share more.”
And share he did. And right away. On graduation from the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management last year, Karim established a new student award.
“I knew I wanted to give back, but didn’t know yet how or when. Then I did some quick calculations. A night out in Toronto costs about $100 — if I went out one night less every month, I could probably come up with $1,000 a year. I didn’t think that was too much to sacrifice.”
Happy for Karim’s generous math is Junjun Chen, the first recipient of the Karim Mohammadi Award for Excellence in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.
“Because I am an international student,” says Junjun, “my costs are much higher. The award helped relieve some of the stress of meeting those costs. I try my best to make my own money, and receiving the award meant I had more time to spend on my studies.”
Karim is giving back in other ways too: corresponding with Junjun through email and social media, offering her advice and helping her expand her network.
“I am very impressed by him and his willingness to help students,” says Junjun. “I hope I can help others in the future, just like he did with me.”
In many ways, Karim’s generosity comes full circle. As a student, he too received financial support from generous donors in the form of scholarships, bursaries, and awards, including the Howard Muchnick Student Leadership Award from the school of Hospitality and Tourism Management, the Ted Rogers School of Management Undergraduate Award, and Ryerson’s Dennis Mock Student Leadership Award.
Right after graduation, Karim was offered a place in a manager-in-training program at the iconic Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel in Vancouver. It meant he was unable to attend the award ceremony in Toronto, but knowing someone would receive the award made him feel good. That Junjun said he has inspired her to give back when she can is truly rewarding. He hopes his gift inspires others to pay it forward too, and wants to reach out to his network and fellow alumni to encourage them in that direction.
“TRSM was built by someone giving back, and many alumni came back to speak to us and mentor students and support them in other ways,” says Karim. “There are around 6,000 graduates from the Hospitality and Tourism Management program. Even if we all gave just $20 every year, that would be $120,000 of incredible possibility,” he adds.
It’s clear that, for Karim, the circle he’s a part of has no beginning or end — even if he can mark a starting point: “My father is proud of me for creating the award. He says that sharing and giving back is a cherished value, and he hopes that I will continue with this all through my life.”