Hamed Kadiani did not have to travel far to discover his purpose; after all, he grew up just 90 miles from Champaign-Urbana.
Kadiani (ACCY ’18) is now in his final year on campus as a Master of Accountancy Science student, and he says he found his “why” at Illinois. His journey started when he joined Illinois Enactus in 2016. Enactus is a registered student organization focused on social entrepreneurship that aims to create real change in the community while preparing its members to succeed in their future careers.
“When you see the projects, it’s hard not to be passionate about it,” Kadiani said. “I’ve always said, while volunteering is important, it just solves the symptoms. Social entrepreneurship means going in, finding out what the root of the problem is, and then developing a solution that fixes the cause, not the symptom.”
That’s when this former valedictorian from Springfield High School, who admittedly didn’t do much volunteer work in high school, realized an education was just the start. To make a real impact, he needed something bigger.
He started as a project associate for Grounds for Growth, which recycles used coffee grounds from local coffee shops and used soap from local hotels and turns them into a sustainable bars of soap. For several semesters, they’ve partnered with Restoration Urban Ministries, a nonprofit that provides services and temporary housing to Champaign-Urbana residents in need. Kadiani’s team also provided résumé development and vocational skills training.
“The most impactful part was getting to see the people you were working with,” he said. “Our projects are people-focused. When you see the people you’re working with and the impact you’ve made, it just reminds you of why you got involved.”
Kadiani didn’t stop there. He has worked on four projects at Illinois Enactus, eventually serving as project manager for Project Oasis, which is an online center that connects immigrants to resources in Champaign-Urbana. In partnership with the University YMCA, Project Oasis provides access to 75 resources in six main focus areas such as healthcare and education. They also teach immigrants financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills.
Through these experiences, Kadiani has also developed his leadership skills. He serves Illinois Enactus as vice president of membership, recruiting new members and helping them develop into future leaders as well.
Kadiani’s drive to make the world a better place solidified in October 2017 when Illinois alumnus Larry Gies announced his $150 million gift to the College of Business. But it wasn’t Gies’ money that spoke the loudest.
“You could see the importance of the social aspect when he came down,” said Kadiani. “It was right around the time Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. I remember being so moved when Larry Gies said, ‘There’s work to be done.’ That’s what Gies Business is all about. There’s that spirit here that makes you want to give back and make the world a better place.”
Following his graduation this coming spring, Kadiani will embark into that world. He plans to become a CPA, but he has bigger dreams of someday running for political office. He’ll always look back fondly on the foundation he built at Illinois; he says it’s shaping the rest of his life.
“I hope I made an impact on campus, but I truly believe this work made more of an impact on me. I am who I am today because of this university and Gies College of Business.”