UHV helps Pakistani family attend graduation ceremonies

The University of Houston-Victoria made it possible for a mother from Pakistan to watch her son get his diploma at fall graduation.


The mother, Abida Sultana of Lahore, Pakistan, received a letter from UHV verifying that her son, Faisal Shahzad, was graduating. The letter allowed her to obtain a visitor visa from the American embassy in Pakistan so that she and her two daughters, Summera and Sahar Idrees, could attend commencement Dec. 9 at the Merrell Center in Katy.


“They wanted to come, especially my sisters. They’ve been very delighted to have some time with me,” said Shahzad, who finished his computer information systems degree in the summer.


Elois Kraatz, UHV international student coordinator, said she writes letters every semester for international students who are graduating so that family members can attend commencement. Most international students at UHV are from India, China or Nigeria and are enrolled in the Master of Business Administration or the Master of Science Computer Information Systems programs. She writes the letters three to six months in advance of graduation because obtaining a visitor visa can be a lengthy process in some countries.


“We just verify that they’re enrolled” at UHV, she said. “It confirms that they’re coming here to see their family member’s graduation.”


Although the process sometimes takes awhile, she said it is rare that the relatives of an international student who is graduating cannot obtain a visitor visa. About 165 international students are attending UHV. The program started in 1982.


Shahzad said his family obtained visitor visas quickly. The visas were approved Oct. 27, and the family arrived in Houston, where Shahzad lives, Dec. 3. This is their first trip to the United States. They plan on staying for another month in order to travel with Shahzad to see the country. Shahzad hopes to take them to Dallas, San Antonio and South Padre Island and even Niagara Falls.


Shahzad came to the United States in 2002 from Lahore to go to school. He started out at Wichita State University in Wichita, Kan., earned his associate’s degree in computer science from Houston Community College and then took classes from UHV.


Shahzad said that although he was not concerned about whether his family could get visitor visas to come to his graduation ceremony, he was pleased that Kraatz helped him through the process.


“She was very helpful,” he said. “I really appreciate her efforts for me.”

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Paula Cobler