College is at the center of life for the family of Saima Ghafoor, ’23, B.A. Healthcare Leadership.
From the time she was a young girl in her native Pakistan, Saima Ghafoor learned the importance of education, and knew that, one day, she wanted to go to college. Saima said the education system in Pakistan is very different from the American system, and as an immigrant to the U.S., it was a challenge to learn what she had to do. “It was very hard for me, honestly,” she said. “It was really hard to start school again after twenty years, because by then, I was totally a housewife. You could say I started from scratch, and I pushed myself to do it.” It was her husband’s experience at UW Tacoma which informed Saima’s decision to apply to the school. In fact, UW Tacoma is a centerpiece in her family’s life.
Saima and her husband applied for a U.S. visa and were approved, but the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, changed their plans. The couple stayed in Dubai where they lived at the time before finally relocating to the U.S. in 2004.
The couple moved to Tacoma and Saima’s husband started working on his degree. Upon graduating from UW Tacoma, he was offered a job in Dubai, and the couple moved back there between 2009 and 2016.
The couple returned to Washington, mostly to provide better educational opportunities for their three children. By the time the boys got a little older and more self-sufficient, Saima decided the time was right to attend college. She enrolled at Green River College before transferring to UW Tacoma to pursue a degree in healthcare leadership. “My husband and my kids supported me a lot,” she said.
Saima said that with limited time, her sons, ages 19, 17, and 10, did what they could to help her. “Sometimes, it was really frustrating to do everything, especially the homework, submitting assignments on time, then going to work and coming back.
Saima started at UW Tacoma in 2021 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Classes were mostly online at that point, and she felt uncomfortable with the format. “If it were my first quarter when COVID started, I don’t think I could handle it,” said Saima. “I don’t like learning virtually. In person, you can be in touch with the students and in touch with the teacher. It’s more helpful.”
While at UW Tacoma, Saima got a job working in Academic Advising. “They’re a very nice staff, and the environment is very supportive,” she said. “It’s a lovely environment where you want to do something, achieve something. I love my job.”
Saima graduates in June 2023 and plans to take some time off. “It means a lot to me, I’m proud of myself,” she said. “I did really hard work to get here. I’ll relax for one or two months, and then look for a job. It’s my passion to work in hospital management.”
Now that Saima has her degree from UW Tacoma, the next generation of her family has begun here, too. Her oldest son is on campus working on a degree in computer science. Meanwhile, her husband decided he needed to advance his education, and just eleven days after she attends Commencement on June 9, Saima’s husband, who currently works in finance at Boeing, will begin a master’s degree in business analytics with the Milgard School of Business.
Saima may not be done with her education, either. “I’d like to pursue a master’s degree in public health,” she said. For now, she is satisfied with how far she’s come. “It’s my dream to come to UW Tacoma,” she said. “It’s my passion to do it – and now I did it, and I did it successfully.”
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