Q&A with American Association of University Women-AA branch president Mary Mostaghim


By Donna Marie Iadipaolo

In the name of full disclosure about an article on the American Association of University Women (AAUW), I am a woman and lifelong learner, and have earned multiple degrees from various universities. My undergraduate degree is from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where I studied engineering, education, English, and math—among many other disciplines and graduated with honors. Also as an undergraduate, I earned three State of Michigan teaching certificate majors in mathematics, English, and all the social sciences.

I began teaching middle school and high school full time during the day as a traditional classroom teacher in 1993, and after work I drove to Ypsilanti to earn my Master of Arts degree at Eastern Michigan University. Later, while teaching mathematics as an online teacher, I earned a Master of Science in Mathematics Teaching and Learning, this time online through Drexel University.

Donna Marie Iadipaolo

Now, as I continue to teach, I am also a part-time Ed.D. (Education Doctorate) student online, focusing on Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in online learning.

Perhaps even more important than my lifelong learning pursuits, as a teacher and writer/journalist for about 30 years now, I have dedicated my entire life to education. In the classroom, I loved to see the excitement a student expressed when he or she achieved that epiphany of understanding a certain concept. Even now, as an online teacher, it is so satisfying to be able to help a student learn. Just this year, I received such a nice note from a student, which read:

“Sometimes I get frustrated because I don’t quite understand it, but you have truly helped me through a lot of math courses that I didn’t think I would ever understand. I appreciate your support so much and I am so grateful to have you as my teacher! Thank you for everything.”

I actually started my undergraduate career in the School of Engineering at the U-M, but a professor pulled me aside once and told me he thought I would make a great teacher. He also asked me to facilitate two of his discussion sections. After four years in the school of engineering, just a few classes from an engineering degree, I switched to teaching, based largely on the professor’s input. In short, I believe, “Education is not preparing for life; education is life itself,” as John Dewey stated.


So, because of my work experience and education, I was ecstatic to recently learn that a neighbor of mine — who often waves to me when she walks by and compliments me on my easement/front-yard garden — is the current president of the local branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). I have been in Ann Arbor since I began my undergraduate degree in 1985 and we bought our house near Mary’s in 1995; so it was kinda cool to know that a long-time neighbor had that connection.

AAUW HOSTS OPEN HOUSE: https://weloveannarbor.com/2018/09/23/aauw-hosts-open-house-on-wednesday-sept-26/

Here is my interview with Mary (Watt) Mostaghim, current president of AAUW-Ann Arbor branch:

Mary (Watt) Mostaghim
  1. What is your background and affiliation with AAUW?

I graduated from the University of Michigan in 1965 with a BA and in 1970 with an MA in Education. I taught elementary school for about five years in California, Dexter, and the Ann Arbor Public Schools, then moved to my present home in Ann Arbor in 1972, the year my daughter was born. I had a son in 1973 and went back to work as an Administrative Assistant and then Administrative Associate at the University of Michigan Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies from 1980 to 2000. Not counting my student years, I have lived in Ann Arbor at this address for almost exactly 46 years.

I joined the American Association of University Women—Ann Arbor Branch in 2001, the year after I retired from the University of Michigan.

  1. Is it true that the Ann Arbor branch is the largest branch in the state? Why do you think this is?

AAUW-Ann Arbor and AAUW-Birmingham are always very close in membership but we are usually a little larger…this year we had 260 members.

Why are we larger? We have been organized as a branch since 1902—so we are the oldest active branch in the state at 116 years old. Originally branch members were younger and used the AAUW as a way to meet and share ideas with other stay-at-home mothers about children, education, politics, voting and women’s rights with other educated women. Now young educated women are seeking employment or busy working, and very involved with many activities in addition to children. Few are stay-at-home moms or feel they have ample free time. Women now often wait until retirement to look for volunteer activities, new friendships, and meaningful ways to use spare time.

Our AAUW-Ann Arbor branch is not growing much, nor is Birmingham, and many state branches have closed because of lack of younger, capable leaders. Ann Arbor branch member are fortunate to live in a highly desirable area for older people. Top quality health care, senior housing, award-winning public library, and lots of education for all ages, entice active interested seniors to live here—looking for worthwhile activities. Our annual book sale at Washtenaw Community College earns $20,000-$30,000 for national and local fellowships for women. We also support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs for young women and girls and an AAUW national leadership conference for college women. These are worthwhile activities, and our members from age 45 to 96 enjoy working together. I am amazed at how energetic, efficient and hard-working our members are. We have kick-off and kick-out parties, Mah-jong tournaments, new member welcome parties, and various celebrations within our interest groups. We know how to accomplish our goals while still having a lot of fun. We appreciate help from high school and college sports teams and service help from high school Honor Students and the amazing local Girls Group Organization under Sue Schooner as well as our children and grandchildren.

  1. What is the goal of your brand and organization?

The strategic plan for AAUW-national and its branches is to advance gender equity for women and girls through research, education, and advocacy. We focus on women’s education and training, economic security, and leadership.

  1. What kind of benefits does AAUW member get with their $95 membership fee?

Only members of AAUW-Ann Arbor (and children or grandchildren) may work in book sorting and the sale. Members learn from branch luncheons and programs, make lasting friendships, and pursue personal interests through 29 different interest groups focusing on creative arts and humanities, books, current issues, fitness and games, food and garden and personal enrichment.

  1. What are the major events of the year?
  • 3-day September Used Book Sale
  • Mid-September Open House promoting our Interest Groups
  • Excellent branch programs held at the Ann Arbor City Club monthly
  • Two major luncheons held at the Washtenaw Golf Club
  • Annual AAUW of Michigan Conference or Convention
  1. What kind of degree do you need to join?

We seek a diverse membership with no barriers on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation, national origin, disability or class. Members, however, must be a graduate holding an associate degree or equivalent, RN, baccalaureate, or higher degree from a qualified educational institution. Interested community members (who have not graduated) should contact the President for information on “Community Membership” in our branch.

  1. How long have you been a member for and what kind of benefits do you feel like you have received?

I have been a member of AAUW-Ann Arbor since 2001, and value the many friendships I have made by participating in several interest groups, attending the monthly programs, and being a part of the board and book sale planning committee. I enjoyed attending both state and national conventions. I enjoy learning, meeting new friends, and working with them to improve education and equity for women and girls.

  1. What kind of issues does your organization focus upon?
  • Education (scholarships for women), and life-long learning for ourselves and providing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs for middle and high school girls
  • Leadership training for college women
  • Promoting economic security for women
  • Supporting Title IX opportunities for girls in sports and education
  • Voter registration and education on issues. We are non-partisan.  We do support the effort since 1923 to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which states: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United State or by any state on account of sex.
  1. Please add anything more you think is important for our readers to know about the organization.

This is a friendly organization of women and men who come from many different schools, backgrounds, countries, and religions. We are working to advance equity for women and girls, still learning a lot, and pursuing many interests.


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