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UT Dallas instructor skydives toward a world record

Vanessa Shirazi was part of a team that set a world record late last year.

DALLAS — When students listen to UT Dallas neuroscience lecturer Vanessa Shirazi talk about the brain, they have no idea what’s really on her mind.

“Do my students know about this side?” Shirazi asked. “Yes, I think so. Usually, at some point in the semester, I’ll have to mention it somehow. I love it too much. It comes out even if I try not to.”

Whenever Shirazi isn’t teaching, she’s jumping from a plane.

She started skydiving about 10 years ago. She’s completed nearly 2,000 jumps. Yet, recently, there was only one jump she wanted to that mattered.

“To do something like this was such an incredible opportunity,” said Shirazi. 

A couple years ago, Shirazi heard about something called Project 19. The goal was to gather the best female skydivers in the world to break a world record for the largest vertical (head down) jump in history by a group of women.

The jump was scheduled for 2020, to commemorate 100 years since women earned the right to vote.

“When I heard about this project that was going to combine skydiving to celebrate the suffrage movement, I was like, ‘Oh man, I have to be a part of this,’” said Shirazi. 

However, not long after learning about Project 19, Shirazi started a family. She had two kids and skydiving took a backseat. 

Due to COVID, though, the attempt was postponed. It was postponed long enough that Shirazi was able to get back to training and jump into history.

Eighty female skydivers formed a connection thousands of feet off the ground.

Although the skydivers attempted to form a link of 100 women, they still shattered the previous record of 65.

In the last 100 years, women have made great strides, but many believe there’s still work to be done.

This world record was a chance to not only celebrate but to send a message to women everywhere: If you have a dream, don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith. 

“Just live a bold, brave life,” Shirazi said. “Whatever that means to you. Whatever it is that you want, go for it.”

When one generation aims high, the next can go even higher.

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