07:02 AM

Former Gator Accepted to Prestigious Harvard Grad Program

Ali SuitFormer student Ali Nomani overcame great obstacles to graduate from UHD. His determination to earn a college degree continued past undergraduate school and he was recently accepted into the prestigious Harvard Graduate School of Education for a master's degree in school leadership. To top off this great achievement, Nomani was also one of the few students from across the world to be accepted into Harvard's elite Urban Scholars Program, which will cover the full cost of his tuition and insurance. The program was designed to facilitate the development of a life-long network of professional colleagues who share a common passion for improving urban schools.

According to Nomani, he walked into UHD last year with 84 college credits earned over 10 years in three separate institutions. He had no ambition and never thought he'd be able to finish college because of a demanding job and family circumstances. But with assistance from UHD faculty that touched his academic and personal life, Nomani is now making plans to attend one of the most prestigious universities in the country.

"None of this would have been possible without the support and guidance I received from the most amazing and dedicated faculty I have ever come across," he said. Specifically, Nomani credits Hank Roubicek, arts and humanities professor, for encouraging him to continue in the field of education when he began to consider law school as an alternative. "The support I received from Dr. Roubicek is typical of what a lot of students at UHD experience owing to UHD's intimate class sizes and a focus on affordability, student development and teaching rather than on research and publication."

Currently, Nomani is a teacher of gifted students with disabilities at The Crossroads School in Houston. He was able to earn his bachelor's degree in eight months while working full-time, an accomplishment he doesn't take for granted.

While his current situation and future are very bright, Nonami's past is far from ideal.

In his "personal challenges essay" for admission to Harvard, Nomani recounts a privileged upbringing in Pakistan, where he was an honor-roll student, served as college prefect, played on the national equestrian team and grew up with live-in help. After experiencing grave family circumstances, Nomani and his two brothers immigrated to the United States, leaving behind their family and all they knew.

Nomani lived with his brothers in a single bedroom of his uncle's apartment, worked night shifts in a hotel and attempted to acclimate to his new life.

"After never having any financial responsibilities, concern for money was an alien and jarring concept," he said. "We were often forced to make crushing choices between putting gas in the car and eating full meals, between taking the bus and walking the few miles to the grocery store in the sweltering Texas heat."

Nomani was eventually accepted to the University of Texas, but left school to care for his mother in Pakistan. It was there, in the chaotic atmosphere of Karachi, where Nomani began to teach, a path that would eventually lead him to UHD and on to Harvard.

"UHD took me in when I was a college dropout who had nearly resigned himself to remaining a high school diploma holder for the rest of his life and allowed me to get an undergraduate degree," he said. "But I am fiercely proud of my struggles, and the experiences along the way that shaped the person I am today."

Today, Nomani looks forward to the next chapter of his life, which includes moving to Boston, working as a principal's assistant in a public school and earning his master's degree.