Neda Zafaranian: "Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world"

Describe your style in three words.
Classic yet trendy and fun.

How do you feel when you wear pieces from BulletGirl Jewelry?
Strong and unique.

How did you discover BulletGirl?
By attending a show of the jewelry line at the beautiful home of Susana Brener de Stern.

How would you describe the person who wears BulletGirl?
Fierce and classy.

You are a Spanish professor at Rice University! How did you discover you were interested in academia and what has been the highlight of your experience?
I have actually been a full-time ESL faculty (English as a Second Language) at Rice University for the past 13 years. (I do speak Spanish and French, however. My Bachelor's and Master's degrees are in French Literature, and my Doctorate is in Second Language Education.)

Ever since I was a little girl, I knew my passion would be in teaching. My late French professor, who was also my graduate advisor, Dr. Valentini Papadopoulou-Brady, was my mentor and like a second mother to me. She was instrumental in my desire to follow in her footsteps and pursue a Doctoral degree and go into the academic world. The highlight of my teaching experience, aside from the wonderful colleagues who have become life-long friends, is my amazing students. They come from all over the world to learn English in our Intensive English Program, and we develop such a strong bond, which lasts beyond the time they are in my classes.

I am still in touch with some students from about 12 years ago. Throughout the years, I have seen them pursue their graduate degrees, work and flourish in the fields of their dreams, marry their loves, have babies, and even become a grandmother. My students become a part of my family, and they are the main reason I remain happily in the field of teaching.

You were recently selected to be part of the Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen show! Tell us about your experience on air!
For as long as he has been on the air, I have loved Andy Cohen and his Watch What Happens Live show, and I have dreamed of being in the Clubhouse as an audience member. During this pandemic, his show, like all others, had to go online, rather than filmed or aired in person. As soon as I noticed that there are "virtual" audience members on his show, I emailed the show with my long list of reasons as to why I should be a part of it. (One of my reasons was that, in my alternate reality, Andy Cohen is my bestie!) I heard back from them a few days later and was picked to be on one of their shows as a virtual audience member. It was a super fun and exciting experience, and I even got a shout-out from Andy Cohen while we were on the air for my Clubhouse Shotski, which was right behind me! I was wearing my BulletGirl necklace and earrings during the show, by the way. 

What are you most proud about in your personal/family life?

I am most proud of the close relationship my husband and I have with each other and with our 5 teenagers. We are a blended family, just like the Brady Bunch (in fact, we are called the Miller Bunch by our friends), so it hasn't always been easy maneuvering this parenting job with 5 kids who are all within 3 years apart in age. But we have made it work, and we have gotten stronger and become closer through the ups and downs in life. I credit my amazing parents for teaching me how to be a good parent and nurture a tight bond and instill the right values in my family. At the age of 53, I am closer than ever to my beloved parents and my beautiful sister and her family.

What makes you feel your best and strongest (emotionally/spiritually/physically)? 
What makes me feel my best emotionally and spiritually is always practicing kindness and patience. I have learned that, in life, you get what you give. So, my emotional and spiritual strength comes from the love and support I get from the people in my life, all of whom I love and nurture to the extent that I can: my family members, my friends and colleagues, and my students. And physically: sleep, sun, and good food are what help me feel my best.

Do you have a life motto?
Yes, I have more than one!

Having gone through some very tough times in my life, I've come to love: "This, too, shall pass." And: "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger."

Also, having become a bit of an activist in recent years, I love the quote by my idol and hero, the late RBG: "Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you."

And of course, being a life-long teacher, I truly believe in Nelson Mandela's quote: "Education is the most powerful weapon you can choose to change the world."