Pouria Abbassi on Civic Engagement, Political Participation, and His New Role as CEO of ASUCLA

Washington, D.C., February 21, 2018 – The Associated Students of UCLA (ASUCLA) recently announced the appointment of Mr. Pouria Abbassi, a member of PAAIA’s Board of Directors, as the organization’s new Executive Director and CEO. Abbassi brings years of executive experience as the CEO and General Manager of the Los Angeles Convention Center, the President and CEO of Phoenix Houses of California, and the President and CEO of the Golbanoo Group to his new role.

A graduate of the UCLA School of Engineering and Anderson School of Management and Executive Management Program, Abbassi has published several scientific papers and has received over 30 business and performance awards. A firm believer in youth nourishment and education, Abbassi frequently gives presentations on leadership to student groups ranging from elementary schools through graduate schools.

PAAIA and the Iranian American community congratulate Mr. Abbassi, and we are proud of his dedication to youth development and education. Abbassi recently spoke with PAAIA about his appointment, plans for his new role, and Iranian Americans in leadership roles.   


PAAIA: Congratulations on your appointment to Executive Director and CEO of Associated Students UCLA (ASUCLA)! How does it feel to return to your Alma Mater following an exceptional multidisciplinary career?

Abbassi: I could not be happier with the opportunity to align and leverage my experience and skill set to serve the Bruin student body and in a small way give back to the institution that has played such a positive role in the lives of so many in our community.

PAAIA: What do you hope to achieve as you take on your new role? Do you have any new initiatives you want to pursue?

Abbassi: ASUCLA has a great story to tell as it continues to support the student experience at UCLA and safeguard, leverage, and enhance UCLA’s worldwide brand equity. In that context, I will strive to work through the Board of Directors to establish our vision of success and develop the roadmap and initiatives that will further solidify our position as the service provider of choice and the employer of choice and a source of pride for every past, present, and future Bruin.

PAAIA: The Associated Students UCLA (ASUCLA) is a non-profit organization that provides retail and student union services to the University of California. Based on your experience, why are nonprofits like ASUCLA important?

Abbassi: ASUCLA is unique as it is the largest organization of its kind in the world inclusive of significant competitive business enterprises with revenues supporting student services and students on campus experience. It is critical that we continue to grow and diversify our service and business operations and solvency to ensure that student fees do not escalate at a drastic level impacting the livelihood of the students. Today, ASUCLA has the lowest student fees of any UC campus and we would like to continue that record of excellence. It is the nonprofit aspect of the organization that allows us to render complete focus on our constituency and direct all our business acumen to support our students.

PAAIA: Why is it important for Iranian Americans to hold leadership roles in major nonprofit organizations?

As a community, we have done extremely well building successful businesses with a commanding role in so many fields and industries. It is now critical that we scale our expertise and add value to major nonprofit organizations tasked with enhancing the lives of the communities that we reside in. It is sort of a higher calling to give back and represent the best of our community in touching lives and building for the future. I look forward to this theme being our Iranian American immigrant legacy.

PAAIA: Can you share your thoughts on your Iranian American identity? What does it mean to be an Iranian American to you?

Abbassi: We are privileged with a culture with deep roots in values and virtues that are synonymous with what makes all humankind unique. Compassion, ambition, and a “can-do” attitude is a few of the attributes that are part of and parcel to our history and heritage. These same attributes have helped scores of Iranian Americans establish themselves as leaders in their communities. Despite all the calamities we have faced, we are a proud community with a unique drive for success. This sense of absolute pride in terms of who we are is the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about our community.

PAAIA: As an Iranian American, do you believe it is important for our community to support and encourage civic engagement and participation in the political process?

Abbassi: I continue to believe that civic engagement is key for any community to not only survive, but to thrive. We must become part of the political calculus of every race for every office where Iranian Americans have a presence. We must flex our political muscle to ensure that our needs and wants are acknowledged and met by the elected offices. Ultimately, we will need to populate the political scene with distinguished members of our community so that our voices are heard. That said, local politics is what touches us every day and I wish for the day that young Iranian Americans hold many more offices in the city councils and mayoral offices throughout the United States.

PAAIA: If you were to advise a group of young Iranian Americans starting their careers, what guidance might you give them?

Abbassi: Be proud of who you are and believe in the formidable community that is there to support you as you elevate through your career. Reach out and not ask, but demand, that your fellow Iranian Americans provide you with the suitable synapsis to advance your career. All the while, recognize that it is what you give back and the value that you add that will be your mark.

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