Super Commuters

Posted on March 25, 2024
Lance Crawford

Noah Farhado and Danny Navarrete data-lightbox='featured'
Noah Farhadi, left, and Danny Navarrete are enrolled in business administration Ph.D. program in the Mitchell College of Business. They must travel to Mobile several times a semester to attend courses in person. Farhadi resides in Cairo, Egypt. Navarrete lives in Quito, Ecuador, but both men say the long commutes are well worth the effort.

It’s not unusual for students to commute to the University of South Alabama campus to get their education, but Noah Farhadi and Danny Navarrete fall into the super commuter category. 

Both are enrolled in Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration program in the Mitchell College of Business and are pursuing a business analytics concentration. While the program includes some online sessions, students attend classes in Mobile approximately three times per semester and a total of 20 weekends over the duration of the program. They arrive on a Thursday before leaving Sunday.

That’s where it gets tricky for Farhadi and Navarrete. They commute to Mobile from other continents. Farhadi makes the journey from Cairo, Egypt. Navarrete resides in Quito, Ecuador.

“I wouldn't be able to do it if I didn't love what I am currently learning,” Navarrete said. “Every time I must go to the airport and say goodbye to my wife and 6-year-old daughter, I wonder, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ And the answer is always a big yes!”

To make the trip, Navarrete leaves on a Wednesday evening, boarding a midnight flight from Quito to Atlanta. He does his best to get some sleep during the five-hour flight, otherwise it turns into a 36-hour day. 

Farhadi’s journey to South, crossing eight time zones, is even more arduous. He must fly through major European hubs such as Frankfurt, Paris or London on his way to the U.S., landing in either Atlanta or Charlotte before making his final connection to Mobile. 

 “Staying organized and keeping a clear focus on my goals enables me to utilize my time efficiently, whether I'm in the air or on the ground,” he said. “Plus, I love South’s facilities and learning environment. After a long flight, I feel fresh and energized whenever I enter our facilities.”

While Farhadi and Navarrete travel the furthest of anyone in their cohort, more than half of their classmates commute from the West Coast of the United States. 

Dr. Joe Hair, the program’s director and Cleverdon Chair of Business, understands the commitment all students make and what they bring to the program.

“I love teaching these students because they are highly motivated, intellectually curious, and have the unique ability to combine practical business knowledge with the theoretical foundations and analytical methods they are learning in our Ph.D. program,” he said. “Of course, we also have many students from Alabama and this region that stimulate and enhance the discussions overall.”

Farhadi knew Hair personally prior to entering the program. Hair was also Farhadi’s professor and mentor in 2008 when he was pursuing a doctorate in the United Kingdom. 

“Dr. Hair is truly a global icon in data science and analytics,” Farhadi said. “The Ph.D. program's emphasis on diversity and collaborative inclusion were key factors in my decision to attend South, aligning perfectly with my academic and professional goals.”

With more than 420,000 citations of his research and scholarly accomplishments, Hair is well-known in academia and a major reason Navarrete chose South.

“Dr. Hair has so much knowledge and is recognized all over the world. I even used his book before meeting him,” he said. “He really cares about the program and its students. He is simply amazing.”

The Ph.D. in business administration is designed as a three-year program. Navarrete and Farhadi both expect to complete their degrees in 2026, so many more long flights are in their future.

“My experience so far has been nothing short of transformative,” said Farhadi. “Balancing rigorous academic research with practical teaching applications has enhanced my understanding and approach to finance, making this journey highly rewarding.”

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