For five University of Lethbridge alumni, Fall Convocation 2016 was a special day for their entire family as Manwar Khan (BSc ’07) and his wife Nashid Sultana (BSc ’06), along with their two small children, cheered from the stands in the 1st Choice Savings Centre as three of their siblings, Soma Khan (MSc ’16), Sadad Khan (BMgt ’16) and Rumana Quashem (MSc ’16), all crossed the stage at Convocation and joined them as part of the U of L alumni community.
“Not everyone can say their entire family graduated from the same University,” Nashid says. “The best part about it is how both Manwar and I were able to guide our siblings in the right direction.”
For Soma, Sadad and Rumana, having their degrees conferred on the same day was an uniting experience, bringing years of hard work, dedication and even homesickness, to a shining conclusion.
“I got to convocate alongside my elder brother (Sadad) and sister-in-law (Rumana) while my eldest brother (Manwar) and eldest sister-in-law (Nashid) accompanied us,” says Soma. “That was a very special day and one of my.strongest memories of the U of L.”
Rumana, who also completed her MSc, says celebrating her academic success with those closest to her was a highlight, but knowing her family members were there to support her on her journey helped her to adjust to life in a new country and culture.
“At times, you feel terrified and can't help wishing you were back home,” she says, “The best part about having almost your entire family connected to the same university abroad is their presence, and the continuous support and encouragement you receive from them throughout university life.”
Being near family was also important to Sadad, who attended the U of L campus in Edmonton, where Manwar and Nashid reside. The decision to attend the Edmonton campus, Sadad says, was easy one, and one that set him on the path to a bright future.
“The U of L was an inspiration for Manwar, so I chose to come here based on his advice and the quality of the programming,” Sadad says. “In addition to my studies, I completed a 16-month cooperative education placement with the City of Edmonton and Talisman Energy. I gathered a lot of workplace experience which allowed me to network and build on my skills.”
The Khan family’s U of L connection first began in 2001 when Manwar moved from Bangladeshin search of education. His parents, a strong influence on his life, encouraged him to look at schools in Canada for university. It was through this research that he chose Lethbridge. As Manwar settled in at the U of L, he began to develop relationships that helped him grow not only as a student, but as an individual as well.
“The U of L is a very special place for me because it’s where I met my wife and where I forged some true and lasting friendships,” says Manwar.
Manwar credits his time at the U of L for helping him become more socially aware thanks to the guidance of Liberal Education Coordinator Dr. Bruce MacKay.
“He provided me with valuable advice and inspiration for the activism I have taken up,” says Manwar, who is widely known for his anti-bullying campaign, Do Not Be A Bystander, which has earned him national recognition. In 2014 Manwar was named one of RBC’s Top 25 Canadian Immigrants, received the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award and was inducted into the U of L’s Alumni Honour Society in 2015.
“My time at the U of L sharpened my self-awareness and moral values that have guided me throughout my career,” he says. “Whenever I meet anyone I am sure to tell them two things: I’m from Bangladesh and I attended the University of Lethbridge.”
U of L computer science professor Dr. Shahadat Hossain was also particularly influential for the Khan family. An immigrant to Canada himself, Hossain understands the struggles international students face when they’re working to succeed at university.
Nashid says it was Hossain who steered her towards the cooperative education program, providing her with industry experience in her field.
“Dr. Hossain helped me to shape my career in IT and I’m grateful to him for that,” Nashid says, “He has always directed me down the right path and provided me with valuable advice. Dr. Hossain’s wife, Kishwar Hossain, was also a strong pillar of support for me, opening up her home and taking care of me like her own child.”
When Soma and Rumana came to the U of L for graduate studies in Computer Science, Hossain was also their supervisor for their individual master’s programs. Beyond serving as an academic mentor, Hossain provided an empathetic ear and support.
“I remember the days when I was unable to beat my homesickness and felt like giving up,” Rumana recalls. “I just ran into his office, sat there for an hour and expressed how I was feeling. The moment I left his office, I felt like I was on the top of the world.”
The experience of having been involved in the Khans’ family educational journey has also left a permanent mark in Dr. Hossain’s life.
“They’ve become a part of my family now,” he says. “When I see my students achieve their goals, it makes me happy that they’re doing good, that they’ve succeeded.”
Today, Manwar and Nashid continue to live with Edmonton with their young twins, Ziyana and Adyaan. Both are employed with the Government of Alberta, Manwar as a business user acceptance testing coordinator with Community and Social Services and Nashid as a business support coordinator for Children’s Services. Manwar’s job with the province is uniquely special to him as he fell in love with public service during a co-op placement.
“Ever since my co-op work term with the Government of Alberta, I always wanted to work in the public service because there is something rewarding about working for the people of my province,” says Manwar. “I had great mentors while working as a co-op student and it was an absolute honour for me to get back to working for them.“
Manwar continues to travel across Canada, advocating for Do Not Be A Bystander, and is most recently a new director on the U of L Alumni Association Council. Also with the Government of Alberta, Soma is a business analyst with Community and Social Services; Sadad and Rumana are both working in retail customer support in Calgary.
Although the first generation of Khans may have come and gone from the U of L, the future looks bright for the next generation to be inspired on the shores of the Oldman.
“We are waiting for the days when our twins will go the University of Lethbridge,” Nashid says. “That will make us very proud.”