PSU College of Graduate Studies Student Nazli Ighani Earns Degree Despite Obstacles

May 11th, 2012 by blyndes


Plymouth, N.H. – On May 19, nearly 1400 hundred people will leave the campus of Plymouth State University with a new college degree, but no graduate will have come as far and endured more hardship than Nazli Ighani. Hers is a story of faith, redemption and commitment; and PSU has played a key role in her success. Ighani was four years old in 1979 when a group of Islamic militants overthrew the government in her native Iran, forcing her parents to flee due to religious persecution. The family moved to the Philippines, where her parents finished their education. However, they were a family without roots; there would be no returning to Iran.

Nazli Ighani

Nazli Ighani

“The situation back home had deteriorated to the extent that it was no longer possible to return,” recalls Ighani. “Our resources were very limited as my parents’ life savings were exhausted in pursuing their dream of higher education. We could neither go back nor stay where we were. It felt as if we had become stateless overnight.”

The family eventually received permission to emigrate to Canada, and they relocated to a remote prairie town that was totally foreign to the now 10 year-old Nazli.

“The harsh cold winter was not the only thing that set it apart from the warm tropical weather I had grown to love, said Ighani. “It was a tough beginning.  My parents had to start over.  Many doors were shut in their faces. Apparently, ‘Canadian experience’ was required even for making pizzas or pumping gas. They had to swallow their pride and forget the investment they had made and the hardship they had endured to become engineers. They were forced to accept any jobs in order to make ends meet.”

Despite the difficult circumstances, Nazli’s parents’ hard work and inner strength paid off, as they eventually started their own businesses and earned the respect and admiration of the small community they were living in. Her parents’ determination and self-sacrifice made an indelible impression on Nazli.

“As I grew older, my respect and admiration for my parents grew with me,” noted Ighani. “I often wondered about the source of inspiration that enabled them to endure so much pain and hardship. The point is not merely enduring it, but enduring it with great dignity.”

Eventually, Nazli met the man who would become her husband; he was also an immigrant who had been forced to relocate to Canada.

“In Canada he was able to successfully finish his degree in biochemistry and later in dentistry, he also was a constant source a source of support and encouragement particularly when it came to education,” she noted.

They started a family and she earned an undergraduate degree, but both dreamed of moving away from the cold winters of their adopted country. They moved to the United Arab Emirates, where she was offered a job teaching English to elementary school students, and it was an epiphany.

“Everything about it felt natural,” she recalls. “I found purpose, dedication, love and commitment towards something that was not simply a job but a profession.”

But both Nazli and her husband wanted more; they had both dreamed of someday living and working in China, and eventually they were able to move to Shanghai, where Nazli continued her teaching and also started studying as a full-time student.

As fate would have it, Nazli was accepted as a substitute teacher at the Shanghai American School (SAS), which has a partnership with Plymouth State. She was very happy in the classroom, learning something new every day.

“I found myself even more engaged and absolutely loving every minute of the process.  I met teachers from all over the world,” she said. Nazli enrolled in Plymouth State’s M.Ed. program with the support of Shanghai American School, and participated in classes held at SAS as well as online in order to complete her degree.

Kathleen Norris of Plymouth State’s College of Graduate Studies realized Nazli’s potential as a full time teacher, and worked with her through her Research Design course at SAS and in subsequent advising sessions. Nazli’s passion for teaching was evident in every meeting.

“During our course, Nazli focused on methods for improving reading instruction in the elementary school classroom,” Norris said. “She collaborated with full time teachers and researched methods for teaching reading in order to complete her project. Her final reflective essay reveals the impact that this work had on her, as she describes the importance of working with the literature as well as the teachers.” Nazli wrote, “If I am left with one deep impression of this course, it is that it opened my eyes to all of the fantastic resources literally at my fingertips.”

Now, 33 years after she and her family were forced to flee Iran with just a handful of suitcases, Nazli is an accomplished educator with a bright future, having earned her master’s degree from PSU after overcoming many obstacles.

“I have come to know that although we set goals for ourselves, we find that some things are in our control and some things are not,” Nazli noted. “The part of my life that I did not have any control over was my younger years. This has taught me to be patient and never to give up hope.  The later part of my life has taught me that nothing in life comes without hard work, dedication and commitment.  My commitment to teaching and the desire to be in the classroom has taught me to be a life-long learner. I do have the courage to live my dream, I just have to know what it is…but most of all, without the commitment to act with integrity and compassion, one could never achieve excellence.”

For more information about this release, contact Bruce Lyndes, PSU Media Relations Mgr., (603) 535-2775 or