Alumni Spotlight: Zahid, DSCS, “We are Catalysts to Ignite Change”

As we begin 2024, Aspen is celebrating the many accomplishments of our students.  Finishing a doctoral program is an amazing accomplishment!  Zahid Malik graduated with his Doctor of Science in Computer Science degree in March 2023 and was Aspen’s 2023 Dissertation of the Year award winner.  Zahid spoke at Aspen’s 2023 Commencement Ceremony this past October in Phoenix, Arizona.  Keep reading to hear Zahid’s words of wisdom for our graduates.


“In my early 50s, working my day-to-day job in the field of computer science, a field I learned to love, I was met with personal recollections of what got me to the place I’m at today and what made me able to provide for my four kids, wife, seven siblings, and more family back home in Pakistan…not only the subject matter itself, but the impact of education holds on me and so many others sitting in the audience today. I made the somewhat both daunting and brave decision to go back to school and pursue my doctorate after being out of school for decades. In my doctoral experience, I learned about artificial intelligence, and data mining, which launched my research, but most importantly, I learned about myself. The renewed work ethic I somehow conjured after years and years of not being in a classroom, and the happiness that was filled up within me every time I had a simple conversation with my professor or even a chat with a peer.

On behalf of this student body, I can proudly say that it was thanks to Aspen that I was able to not only learn about the field I have loved my entire life, but gain an understanding of myself in the process. I hope that by receiving this doctorate at 57 years old, I can inspire others that no matter what point you are at in life, education and knowledge are the most powerful way to impact a community, a group, or even your own four children all pursuing college degrees despite difficulties their own family has faced. So please, embrace lifelong learning. The internal passion to learn more, study more, and discover more is the first step in remaining curious.

Now I started this speech off by speaking to you all about recollections of my past, but I would like to teach my fellow graduates one final lesson about our future that I learned during my time at Aspen. We should know that graduation is not just an endpoint; it is a steppingstone into a world that desperately needs our expertise, our passion, and our compassion. For me, I hope to use my education in the field of computer science to enable other newfound learners through teaching and leading students inside and outside of a classroom. The beauty of education lies in its ability to transcend borders, so I hope to teach those in other continents and countries, so that one day a child once like me can learn whatever it is that fills their curiosity with just even a little bit of my impact.

As we bring this chapter of our lives to a close and embark upon the next, may we always keep in mind the remarkable power of education that resides within each of us. We are more than just graduates; we are catalysts to ignite change in our fields, champions driving progress, and ambassadors of wisdom. Let us venture forth, embrace lifelong learning, and fill the holes of curiosity within ourselves and everyone else who aspires to impact others with the power of knowledge.”


Zahid’s story reminds us that it’s never too late to keep reaching for your goals!  As you prepare to start a new year, what are your goals?  If you’re ready to pursue a higher-level degree, check out Aspen’s Master’s and Doctoral programs.




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