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Student triumphs over tragedy to earn master's degree

May 05, 2010

Born in Bangladesh, Rumana Islam dreamed of pursuing higher education as key to her success in life. She graduated high school as one of its top five students. Visions of her future were abruptly ambushed when tragedy struck shortly after high school.

On a visit to the United States with her family, her father and 14-year-old brother were killed and her mother seriously wounded in a head-on car collision. 

Islam’s father, a successful businessman in Bangladesh, had left funds for her education, and her mother promised that she would help Islam achieve her dream.

“But I am from a male-dominant society where the male members of the family make all the decisions,” says Islam. “My father’s male relatives told me ‘You have to get married. There is no need for a girl to get educated and have a career.’”

Islam and her mother Feroza refused to accept this decision and continued to ask for the funds from her father. Beaten by their relatives, threatened, and in fear for their lives, Islam and her mother escaped from Bangladesh and came to the United States.

In the totally new culture, language and environment of the United States, Islam received help from her mother’s family and both women began working to save money for her education. Islam attended Phoenix College in 2003 with the help of scholarships and part-time work as a math and science tutor.

“I am very fortunate that I have a mother like Feroza who has always been the biggest inspiration and support throughout my entire life,” says Islam. “I am thankful to all the individuals who provided me scholarships and helped me to achieve my goals. I am extremely lucky that I am in the United States where only talent and hard work matters to be successful in life.”

When her mother became critically ill, Islam decided to quit college to work full time and care for her mother, but her mother insisted she continue her education. In spring 2005 Islam began her studies at ASU while still taking classes at Phoenix College, tutoring at South Mountain Community College and working at a mini-mart to support her family.
Graduating from Phoenix College as a valedictorian in fall 2005, she received associate degrees in science, business and accounting.

Carrying a full course load at ASU from spring 2006 to fall 2007, she received a few scholarships for tuition and earned her bachelor’s degree in computer systems engineering with a minor in mathematics with summa cum laude distinction.
In 2007, she accepted a fulltime position at Sandhills Publishing as an entry level database developer and was promoted to database ddministrator within two years.

Immediately after receiving her bachelor’s degree, she plunged into graduate studies. She will graduate with a Master’s in Computer Science (MCS) degree on May 12 with a 4.0 GPA.

Her future goals are to become a certified database administrator and complete a doctorate in computer science.

“Graduation is the day of celebration of my accomplishments and hard work,” says Islam. “It is the day which brings a smile to my mother’s face, fulfills my father’s dream and makes me believe that nothing is impossible if you believe in yourself and work for it. Graduation is not the end; it’s the beginning.”

Written by Michele St George
Publications, Graduate College