A native of Karachi, Pakistan, Waheed Khan never imagined that he would end up pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Winona, Minn. But when the time came for Khan to start applying for college, he was heavily influenced by his older brother’s positive experience at Winona State University a decade prior.
“My brother graduated with Accounting and Management Information Systems [MIS] degrees and always said that the faculty at WSU were fantastic,” he recalled.
Khan, now a senior with plans to graduate next fall, has found this to be true in his own experience, attributing many of his achievements to the support of the WSU community—from faculty in and out of the classroom who served as his mentors to the employees in the International Services Office who helped him settle in to the Winona community.
The financial support of the WSU community was also a significant benefit for Khan. During his time at WSU he has earned several scholarships, including a Cross Cultural scholarship, a scholarship offered through WSU’s eWarrior digital life and learning program, and a Computer Science scholarship started by one of his own faculty members, Dr. Gary Cichanowski.
“So many people have contributed to my success,” he said.
In turn, Khan has endeavored to contribute to the success of the community around him through active involvement in campus life and community outreach. In 2017, he received WSU’s “A Leader Improving Our World” award, an honor presented to a student who actively celebrates WSU’s mission and values on campus and in the Winona community.
As President of the Computer Science (CS) Club, he organizes trips to major tech companies like Microsoft and the Nerdery in Minnesota. As a member of the Muslim Student Association (MSA), he assists in organizing discussions intended to raise cultural awareness at WSU and in the Winona community, and has organized fundraiser dinners for building the Islamic Center of Winona. Most recently he was inducted as a member of WSU’s newest student leadership board, the John Latsch Leadership Academy.
Khan views himself as an active entrepreneur, always looking for ways to improve the world around him. He was a key player in bringing Enterprise Car Share to the WSU campus (scheduled to launch in Fall 2018), and is the founder of WSU Hackathon, an event that invites students from all majors to work collaboratively over a 12-hour period.
“After attending several Hackathons myself, I realized that WSU was missing out on a great opportunity to promote creativity, community engagement and teamwork,” he said.
With support from MIS faculty member Pat Paulson, Khan brought the WSU Hackathon concept to life, refining the idea, making all the arrangements, and even soliciting sponsorships from local businesses to make the event free for all student participants. This year, the second annual WSU Hackathon occurred on Feb. 24 in the College of Business Engagement Center, Somsen Hall.
According to Khan, Paulson is a great example of the way faculty step up to offer support to students at WSU. “Dr. Paulson’s always been a fantastic mentor to me, and his help in bringing Hackathon to WSU proves that he’s willing to go the extra mile for students.”
When he’s not running club meetings, organizing student activities or doing his homework, Khan is working on-campus as a Lead Student Systems Administrator in IT. The position has allowed Khan to explore the IT world, network with professionals in the industry, and develop real world problem-solving skills.
Khan stated, “My supervisors—Scott Schradle, Brian Kugel, Allen Foegen and Ali Omar—have given me opportunities to learn and grow from the industry, something I would not have been able to do in a class setting.”
Khan was also able to secure a coveted internship with Google for summer 2018.
“When I was first contacted to apply for the internship, I didn’t think it was a real opportunity,” he said. “I did some research and decided to apply. I couldn’t believe that they wanted me.”
Khan will graduate in Fall 2018 with degrees in Computer Science and Data Science. Eventually, he aspires to open his own software firm where he can support other organizations in achieving their business goals.
“What I’ve learned is that great leaders create more leaders, not just followers,” said Khan. “During my time at WSU, I’ve learned from many great leaders, and this experience has shaped me into who I am today. All of my successes are because of everything that I’ve done here.”