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A family affair
Mother, son earn master’s degrees together
sarhadi mom and son
Mother and son Jonathan and Shamiran Sarhadi will both be walking across the stage at Stanislaus State’s May 24 graduation ceremony, as they each completed their master’s degrees in Business Administration. - photo by Photo courtesy of Stanislaus State

It’s been an arduous journey for Turlock resident Shamiran Sarhadi since she arrived in the United States from Iran over 30 years ago, but this month her hard work will come to fruition when she walks across the stage and receives her master’s degree from Stanislaus State.

Already an extraordinary achievement, Shamiran’s success will be made even sweeter by the fact that her son, Jonathan Sarhadi, will receive a master’s degree of his own on the very same night.

“It wasn’t planned for us to finish at the same time,” Jonathan said. “We had a lot of nights with not enough sleep, but we did it.”

After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in 2000, Shamiran knew that she wanted to further her education, but put school on the backburner to care for her family. When Jonathan decided to pursue his master’s degree in Business Administration in 2016, Shamiran was inspired, she said, and decided to earn an MBA of her own – one that she had been dreaming about for nearly 20 years.

“When my son started going back to get his master’s, I thought, ‘You know what? I should start again,’ and he told me, ‘Mom, you can do it,’” she said. “It was really challenging, but once I went back to school I was eager and excited to finish.”

The Sarhadis never dreamed that they would graduate together, they said, with Shamiran working full-time at Foster Farms and participating in the university’s Executive MBA Program – a flexible structure that features Saturday-only classes – and Jonathan participating in the traditional MBA program while serving as a graduate student assistant.

It’s exciting to me because I don’t know if I could’ve done it like she did, without having English as my first language. It means a lot because we have that connection of being mother and son, and it just goes to show that anyone can do anything in this country.
Jonathan Sarhadi

No matter what program one participates in, earning a master’s degree is hard work – something Shamiran and Jonathan learned over the last two years, helping each other work on assignments, presentations and group work as the semesters wore on. Jonathan even helped his mother with the formatting of her thesis, Shamiran said.

The perseverance has paid off, as both will be graduating with honors from the MBA program come May 24.

“I would help her correct things or look over her papers for her, because she would just be getting off work and then already be working on stuff for school,” Jonathan said. “I was born here so there is no language barrier for me, but my mom, she’s from Iran so English is her second language.

“Now, she’s a master of English herself and although I helped her with some things here and there, she did all of it on her own.”

Having immigrated from Iran in 1986, Shamiran said the first challenge she had to face when first beginning her education was the fact that she didn’t speak English very well. Seeing where she stands today compared to where she stood when she first arrived in America is a big accomplishment, she added.

“It’s a dream come true that I’ve been able to accomplish all of this at all,” Shamiran said. “They talk about the ‘American Dream’ and this really is a dream come true.”

Shamiran and Jonathan’s new degrees have already earned them new jobs. The University of California, Merced, recently hired Shamiran as a Life Sciences and Research Category Manager, and Jonathan will soon begin work at Stanislaus State as temporary administrative staff, where he will assist in the evaluation process of professors’ courses.

“This has opened so many doors for me, and a lot of people tell me that I influence them, too,” Shamiran said. “Coming to this country, not speaking any English and then getting my master’s degree is rare.”

Graduating alongside his mother isn’t something that Jonathan was expecting, he said, but he plans on cherishing every moment.

“It’s exciting to me because I don’t know if I could’ve done it like she did, without having English as my first language,” he said. “It means a lot because we have that connection of being mother and son, and it just goes to show that anyone can do anything in this country.”

Shamiran has envisioned herself reaching this milestone for quite some time now, but couldn’t have done it without the support of her family, including, of course, Jonathan.

“You give birth to your son but you don’t know that one day, you’re going to be walking across that stage with him,” she said. “It feels like it’s not real…I know I’m probably not going to be able to stop crying that day.”