Volgenau School Alumna Anousheh Ansari (BS '89) Receives Honors
May 10, 2014
Anousheh Ansari is a Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Prodea Systems. As she launched her company, on September 18, 2006, she also blasted off for an eight-day expedition aboard the International Space Station and captured headlines around the world as the first female private space explorer. She also earned a place in history as the first astronaut of Iranian descent, the first Muslim woman, and the fourth private explorer to visit space. This was the accomplishment of a lifelong dream for her.
As a successful serial entrepreneur and active proponent of world-changing technologies and social entrepreneurship, she along with her family provided the title sponsorship for the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million cash award for the first non-governmental organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks. This feat was accomplished in 2004 by legendary aerospace designer Burt Rutan. With the success of the X Prize competition, Ansari had helped launch a new era in private space exploration.
Prior to her Space ventures, Anousheh served as co-founder, chief executive officer and Chairwoman for Telecom Technologies, Inc. After earning three key U.S. patents and growing 100% year over year since inception, her company successfully merged with Sonus Networks, where she served as General Manager and Vice President of the Softswitch division.
Anousheh is a member of the X Prize Foundation's Vision Circle, as well as on its Board of Trustees. She is a life member in the Association of Space Explorers and on the Advisory Board of the Teachers in Space project. She has received multiple honors, including the World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, Ellis Island Medal of Honor, Horatio Alger Award of Distinguished Americans, DFW International Community Alliance Hall of Fame award, the Working Woman's National Entrepreneurial Excellence Award, George Mason University's Entrepreneurial Excellence Award, George Washington University's Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, and the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Southwest Region. While under her leadership, Telecom Technologies earned recognition as one of Inc. magazine's 500 fastest-growing companies and Deloitte & Touche's Fast 500 technology companies.
Anousheh serves on the boards of several not-for-profit organizations focused on STEM education and youth empowerment. She currently works to enable social entrepreneurs to bring about radical change globally, with organizations such as ASHOKA, which supports social entrepreneurship around the world, including the Middle East and Central Asia. She runs an annual competition called the "What If?" competition for middle school students to promote free thinking and STEM education.
Anousheh earned a bachelor's degree in electronics and computer engineering from George Mason University, followed by a master's degree in electrical engineering from George Washington University. She received an honorary doctorate from International Space University and recently an honorary doctorate from George Mason University. She is currently working toward a master's degree in astronomy from Swinburne University.
A version of this article originally appeared on the US News STEM Solutions website.