Over 75 Lilly Family School of Philanthropy students were set to participate in commencement on May 16. While the ceremony was postponed, one M.A. graduate wanted to share her story here.
By Faryal Khatri
The final semester and graduation are times of mixed emotion. You wait for this moment from the day you begin the program, but when the moment comes, you frantically search for a pause button. I am so grateful for all of the amazing people I’ve met on this journey, the incredible faculty and staff whose mentorship and friendship have been invaluable and for the professional growth over the past two years.
The M.A. program helped me discover my love and passion for stewardship and donor relations. I entered the program with a background in healthcare and communications, as well as a passion to create a just world. There were so many things I wanted to do and so many directions I could go in. There were many challenges and transitions along the way, but by the end, I found myself in the industry I love most (healthcare, particularly pediatrics) and expertise in an area of philanthropy I love most (donor relations).
I really enjoyed the projects and exercises that gave us a taste of real-world experiences. The most memorable was creating a foundation for Dr. Catherine Herrold’s class. One of the board members I had selected to serve for my foundation happened to publish a book around the same time. With an unexplainable burst of confidence, I sent him a message on Twitter. To my surprise, he responded and agreed to hold a meet and greet/book launch in Indianapolis!
I also discovered the ever-growing depth and breadth of Muslim philanthropy as an academic discipline. I remember feeling like a kid in a candy shop when I attended my first Symposium on Muslim Philanthropy and Civil Society. It was so inspiring to hear about the work being done and networking with incredible movers and shakers. I’ve learned a great deal about Muslim philanthropy beyond zakat and sadaqah and found that I have grown spiritually in a way I would never have expected to!
Just as my final semester was beginning, I found myself at a point of transition. In mid-February, I accepted a job offer at Children’s Medical Center Foundation and by the end of the month, I moved to Dallas, TX. Two weeks later, shelter-in-place orders began, and the COVID-19 lockdown took place. As part of that lockdown, the graduation ceremony to take place this month was also canceled. I was really looking forward to flying back to Indianapolis and celebrating with my parents. It was difficult for all of us to cancel those plans.
I am the first in my family to attain a master’s degree. Coming from an immigrant family, I have always been acutely aware that education is a privilege, particularly for women who are barred from education reasons varying from poverty to cultural or political oppression.
I think about my mom whose educational journey, like many other girls of her time, transitioned at a young age from formal schooling to vocational training. Several years after immigrating to the United States, she completed a GED program. This is a huge accomplishment and I am so proud of her for it.
Soon after immigrating, my dad enrolled at IUPUI and graduated with a bachelor’s degree. I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been for my parents to immigrate to a new country, start and raise a family, and accomplish what they did. All their sacrifices, all their blood, tears, and sweat laid down the path for my brothers and me to have endless opportunities and to reach our highest aspirations.
The graduation ceremony and celebrations were never meant to be about me, they were about honoring my parents’ sacrifices and celebrating the fruits of their labor. I think that was the most difficult part of having the graduation ceremony canceled.
Congratulations to the Class of 2020!
Congratulations and thank you Papa and Maa for all you have done and continue to do!