In continuation of our Immigrant Stories, features highlighting students who identify as immigrants, we spoke with  Sahar Jamshed, a natural science major studying pre-dental. Sahar is from Afghanistan and moved to India as a refugee before coming to the United States.

If you feel comfortable doing so, share a little about your family and your experience of when and why you came to the United States? Were there any challenges you/your family faced?

I am from Afghanistan, Kabul. At a young [age], I moved to India as a refugee with my family. Life in Afghanistan is not what my parents wanted [for] us, living in fear and being tortured by society and its diplomatic people. We came to the United States because it’s the land of opportunity. Women are free to get an education and have a better life, and great things are available to be achieved by hard work and persistence. At first, life seemed very hard In America. I could barely speak the English language. My family did not have a clear idea of what they were going to do or [to] live here and to survive, but eventually, as years passed by, we figured it all out with help of other immigrant families and friends

Why did you decide to come to Spalding?

I decided to come to Spalding University (English being my second language) because I knew that I would need the extra help and attention from my professors in order to be successful in becoming a dentist.


BS in Natural Science | Program Overview

What has your experience been like as an immigrant student at Spalding, and are you happy/proud to now be a part of the Spalding community?

It has been a great journey here at Spalding University. I have had some great professors who are always there to help out. I am very proud and grateful to be here at Spalding University and to be part of such a humble a giving community.

Are there ways people could be more supportive of immigrant students?

People can be more supportive of immigrant students by simply making them feel welcome as Spalding University has [made] me [feel]. [Just] being there for them will help them in many ways. It will give them hope, something they did not have back in their home country.

What do you hope to do with your degree from Spalding, and does your immigrant experience influence your goals for your academic career, your professional career or your life?

I hope to achieve the greatest in my life. I feel lucky that as a woman I have the opportunity here in America to pursue the highest education, while many girls in Afghanistan do not have access nor the right to education. My bachelor’s degree from Spalding University will open up many doors towards my goals of becoming a dentist in the future. Being an immigrant and aiming for such as challenging and competitive field does encourage me and motivative me towards my professional career.

In continuation of our Immigrant Stories, features highlighting students who identify as immigrants, we spoke with  Mário Gouvêa Ransan. Mário, a candidate in the EdD: Leadership program, holds two degrees from Spalding — an MA in Teaching and an MEd in Instructional Leadership. He was a graduate of the inaugural  JCPS Aspiring Leaders program at Spalding. Mario was born in Brasil and moved to the United States when he was 12.

If you feel comfortable doing so, share a little about your family and your experience of when and why you came to the United States? Were there any challenges you/your family faced?

We came to the United States when I was 12 years old and my sisters and I spoke almost no English. I did not have a good experience while in middle and high school. Unfortunately, the teachers I had did not have the tools or training to help support an ELL student and I graduated High School with a very low GPA. This experience is what inspired me to be a teacher. I strive to make sure that no child has to go through the same experience I went through.

Why did you decide to come to Spalding?

I came to Spalding after speaking with Professor Todd about the alternative certification program. I was convinced of the program due to our shared mission and vision when it comes to education, equity and expectations we should hold for our teachers and students.


EdD: Leadership | Program Overview | College of Education
MA in Teaching | Program Overview
MEd in Instructional Leadership | Program Overview

What has your experience been like as an immigrant student at Spalding, and are you happy/proud to now be a part of the Spalding community?

I’ve felt welcomed at Spalding since day one of class. I have two master’s [degrees] from Spalding and am now working on my doctorate. Every single professor I’ve ever had has been encouraging and has helped me grow as a student and as a leader. I am very proud to be a Spalding student and am very happy with the time I’ve spent here.

Are there ways people could be more supportive of immigrant students?

I think one important thing is just being aware of who the immigrants within your room are and knowing the challenges that exist for those students. Even if the student is coming from an English-speaking country, there are important cultural differences that are crucial in being able to help students find success. Awareness is key. Spalding University as a whole always strives to be inclusive in all things, with a heavy focus on equity, and I appreciate that a lot.

What do you hope to do with your degree from Spalding, and does your immigrant experience influence your goals for your academic career, your professional career or your life?

My immigrant experience is a big driving force behind my goals. I am an educator and am striving to become an administrator within JCPS. My goal as an educator has always been to be the teacher that would have helped me be successful when I was in school. My goal as an administrator is to inspire and teach new teachers to be able to help all kids from all backgrounds and cultures find success. I hope to one day be able to grow this impact even further so that no child has to go through what I went through in school.

The U.S. recently celebrated Immigrants Day. In continuing that spirit, Spalding is highlighting some of our students who identify as immigrants. We are so grateful to have these students as a part of our community, and we thank them for sharing some about their journey to Louisville and our university. First is Maria Romo-Barajas, a Business Administration (Human Resources) senior who was born in Mexico before moving to California when she was 7. Romo-Barajas began pursuing her undergraduate degree twenty-two years after graduating from high school. She is now two classes away from earning her Spalding degree. 

What is your country of origin? 

I was born in Mexico and at the age of 7 moved to California. I started 2nd grade in the U.S. and I can still remember my first day of school like it was yesterday. The fear I felt, not being able to communicate with others, will remain engraved in my memory forever.

If you feel comfortable doing so, share a little about your family and your experience of when and why you came to the United States? Were there any challenges you/your family faced?

Being the oldest of two sisters and growing up with a single Mom was very challenging. I always had more responsibility than what was fitting for my age, including the need to translate for my Mother at the age of 7. This forced me to quickly learn the language, but it also gave me the opportunity to become bi-lingual and fluent at a very young age. There were a lot of hardships we went through, but it makes me appreciate everything I have today, especially [now that I have] a family of my own. I quickly understood that being an immigrant meant you have to work twice as hard, to prove you are a good person, deserving of living in this great country which I love. It took me years to accept that to some, no matter how much I achieve, I will always be an immigrant. And, that is ok because I know the journey to my accomplishments and that is all that matters.

Why did you decide to come to Spalding?

Recommendations from colleagues and the flexibility [that the schedule] offered is what attracted me to Spalding. It has given me the opportunity to fulfill my dream of obtaining a degree at my pace while balancing my family, work and school life.


BS in Business Administration | Program Overview | School of Business

What has your experience been like as an immigrant student at Spalding, and are you happy/proud to now be a part of the Spalding community?

The diversity at Spalding made me feel that I fit in, from day one. I have met great people from different backgrounds and cultures, which is very enriching. I am proud to attend Spalding, an inclusive school that is driven by ethical standards and has strong values.

Are there ways people could be more supportive of immigrant students?

I think the best way for others to be more supportive of immigrant students, is to be more of an active listener. Sometimes, something as basic as listening will expand our knowledge of other cultures, which not only can be interesting but also can help us understand our classmates’ struggles. [It can] give us the opportunity to help, in our own way.

What do you hope to do with your degree from Spalding, and does your immigrant experience influence your goals for your academic career, your professional career or your life?

My goal is to become part of the upper management group of professionals in the business world. I have been in management for 26 years, but not the level in management I desire. My degree, combined with my experience, will empower me to achieve this goal. Something that could make achieving my goal even better, [would be to] incorporate my bilingual skills with the management position I aspire to. That would be amazing!