Ali Raza speaks at May 2024 Graduate Commencement

Finding a Home

Student Stories
May 22, 2024
Ali Raza found a nurturing community at Fitchburg State.
Ali Raza speaks at May 2024 Graduate Commencement
Portrait of Ali Raza Graduate Student Leadership Award recipient May 2024
Ali Raza

Ali Raza, the 2024 recipient of the Graduate Student Leadership Award, offered a warm and inspirational message to the audience at the university’s graduate commencement ceremony on May 16.

Raza fully embraced campus life upon enrolling in its graduate program in computer science in 2022. Hailing from Lahore, Pakistan, Raza encountered significant challenges, including adjusting to a new culture and educational system. However, Raza tackled each obstacle with unwavering determination, flexibility, and perseverance, earning the respect of the campus community and the honor that was presented at commencement.

“I would like to dedicate this award to my parents and siblings, as their love and sacrifices have been guiding light of my journey to become the first graduate in my family,” Raza said. “This award is a reflection of their countless prayers for my success.”

Raza’s mother was in the audience for the ceremony, having made her first trip to the U.S. to watch her son’s recognition. Raza’s father was home in Pakistan, recuperating from an injury.

“The beginning of my academic journey came with significant challenges,” Raza said. “I had to adjust to a new culture, school system, and unfamiliar surroundings. Starting a life in a new country without my parents and siblings made things even more challenging.”

Raza said his Uncle Khan was also a key supporter during his journey.

“I think I’m accepting this award on behalf of every international student who has dared to dream of a better future,” Raza said. “We may have come from different corners of the globe, but here, at Fitchburg State University, we have found a home—a place where diversity is celebrated, and dreams are nurtured. In my journey, I’ve learned one simple truth: Never lose hope. Just when you think it’s over, if you still keep trying, God sends you a miracle.”

Raza's student leadership journey began in Fall 2022 when he represented Fitchburg State at the Commit to Excellence Leadership Conference in Boston, a transformative experience that fueled his personal and leadership growth, empowering him to emerge as a leader in his own life.

In his second year, Raza actively participated in campus extracurriculars such as the Campus Ambassadors Christian Fellowship, Fitchburg Activities Board, and Outdoor Adventure Club, broadening his social circle and cultural understanding. Beyond academics, Raza served as a resident assistant in campus housing, fostering a supportive environment and honing his interpersonal skills. Raza's commitment to leadership shone brightly as he organized a Be a Leader Conference in spring 2024, featuring four speakers who shared their leadership journeys, and inspiring fellow students to strive for greatness.

Raza also completed a remote internship as a technical analyst for NETSOL Technologies, an IT company based in Austin, Texas. Recognizing his leadership potential, the company selected him to represent them at the Canadian Lender Summit in Toronto in Fall 2023. Seeing Raza's dedication and exemplary performance, NETSOL extended the internship through Spring 2024 and invited Raza for on-site training in Austin, Texas for two weeks in February. Raza expressed gratitude to professional mentor, Peter Minshall, EVP of NETSOL for his unwavering support and guidance throughout the internship journey.

Post-graduation, Raza aims to pursue professional opportunities in computer science while continuing his journey of leadership and community engagement.

In his remarks on May 16, Raza thanked Dean of Graduate, Online and Continuing Education Becky Copper Glenz, Vice President of Student Affairs Laura Bayless, Director of International Education Nelly Wadsworth, former Dean of Students Hank Parkinson, Professor Brady Chen from the Computer Science Department, Assistant Director of Housing Eric Soucy. “Thank you for putting your belief in me with different opportunities which have played a significant role in turning the American dream into a reality,” he said.