Ismet Mamnoon, ’13, had always been an achiever. She earned top marks in school, and then won promotions while working in the United Kingdom for PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the world’s most prestigious accounting firms. She knew exactly what it took to reach a goal, and she worked hard—very hard—to make it happen.
Then came parenthood.
“In accounting, everything is black and white,” Mamnoon said. “Everything can be measured. There is a right way and a wrong way. I knew how to be successful in that environment. After the birth of my first daughter, I quickly learned that being a parent doesn’t work that way—there’s no definitive right or wrong way to be a parent—and that overwhelmed me.”
In fact, she became overwhelmed to the point of clinical depression. She felt riddled with guilt over her own perceived shortcomings as a parent, and despite always advising her young daughters to try their best and not to focus on being perfect, she did the opposite. She was obsessed with the impossible standard of being a perfect parent—and it was tearing her family apart.
“I finally realized that there had to be a different way to handle things, and I spent a year addressing our family issues. Instead of entering constant emotional confrontations with my daughters, I designated a ‘crying room’ in our house—not a place to be put in a time-out, but a place where one of us—the kids or me—could choose to take a time-out,” she explained. “And I adopted a ‘stop, drop, and roll’ philosophy—stop to catch your breath, drop the guilt, and figure out creative ways to roll with it.”
Mamnoon began to see positive results, and other parents who were dealing with similar family issues inquired about her new methods.
“That’s when I enrolled in Buffalo State’s master’s degree program in creative studies,” Mamnoon said. “I wanted to know more about how creativity could help parents with problem solving, and I wanted to study in a research-based program. The ICSC [International Center for Studies in Creativity] gave me all of that and more.”
At Buffalo State, Mamnoon met Jenna Smith, ’12, and Pamela Szalay, ’12, who both shared Mamnoon’s passion for applying creativity to adult-child interactions. The three decided to put their theories into action by founding the Beyonder Academy LLC, a company affiliated with the ICSC that provides youth creativity programs, as well as programs and curricula for parents and educators.
The academy’s success has exceeded expectations, and its work is empowering clients in Buffalo and across the globe. A few recent examples:
- Last September, the academy trained 70 educators in China; the Chinese government is now finalizing a three-year contract with the academy to provide educator training in China and visiting student programs for Chinese youth in the United States.
- Last June, the academy was contracted by the Chilean government to provide programs for children in Santiago, Chile.
- In April, the academy will provide parent training at a conference in Sestri Levante, Italy.
In August on the Buffalo State campus, the academy will offer its third annual Youth Summer Camp, which equips middle school and high school students with the tools to discover their creative strengths.
The Beyonder Academy is making a difference in the world. When people learn creative problem solving skills, insurmountable obstacles turn into challenges that can be overcome,” Mamnoon said. “I’m incredibly proud to work with Jenna and Pamela—the academy is our heart, our legacy. And I’m incredibly proud to be a part of the ICSC and Buffalo State.”