President’s Medal/ECS: Mohammad Rawi Dawoodzada’s dreams followed him from Afghanistan and were realized at Sac State
May 17, 2022
Mohammad Rawi Dawoodzada excelled in high school in Gardez, Afghanistan, but his dreams of obtaining an engineering degree seemed remote in his home country, where high school graduates rarely choose their career paths.
Still, Dawoodzada never let go of his desire for higher education, and eventually he found his way to at Sacramento State. Despite numerous roadblocks, he graduated in December with a perfect GPA, an Engineering degree, and a record of giving back to others. For his stellar academics and service, he has been honored with the 2022 President’s Medal, awarded to the University’s top graduate.
“My goal from childhood was becoming an engineer,” said Dawoodzada. “It was really hard in the beginning, but I decided that I would make it happen no matter what.”
He faced many obstacles.
While employed in Afghanistan by a several nonprofit groups with ties to the United States, Dawoodzada was able to obtain a visa, and chose to settle in Sacramento. He enrolled in community college, but his English skills were limited and he had to work to support his wife and a growing family.
In 2019, after four years in junior college, he enrolled at Sac State to pursue a degree in Electrical Engineering. By then, he and his wife had two young children.
“I worked as an Uber driver in San Francisco on weekends,” Dawoodzada recalled. “I would leave Sacramento very early in the morning on Friday, and go to San Francisco and work 18 to 20 hours each day. Then I drove back to Sacramento for classes on Monday.”
In between classes and study sessions, he was involved in various activities, including conducting research on power outages and causes of California wildfires, and tutoring Afghani high school and college students online. He was part of a group of engineers who designed a project to build a microgrid to one day provide 100% renewable energy to the city of Elk Grove.
“Mohammad has noble aspirations” and pursued them despite circumstances that might have discouraged others, said Kevan Shafizadeh, interim Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
After moving to Sacramento, Dawoodzada helped and supported members of the Afghan community who had been discouraged from pursuing college. “Some of my peers believed that it was almost impossible for immigrants to pursue higher education in the United States,” he said.
But “I believed that my conviction of becoming an engineer would set a good example for others,” said Dawoodzada. He wanted them to realize “with hard work and determination it is possible.”
“My goal from childhood was becoming an engineer. It was really hard in the beginning, but I decided that I would make it happen no matter what.” - Mohammad Rawi Dawoodzada
Dawoodzada now lives in Fremont, where he works full time as an electrical engineer for Kinectrics Inc. But he is far from finished.
After a few years of working, he said, he intends to pursue graduate degrees, eventually becoming a professor with a research focus on green energy.
“It won’t be easy, but eventually I want to get my dream job of being a professor at a community college or a university,” he said. His first choice would be Sac State.
Dawoodzada is still wrapping his mind around the idea of being the University’s top graduate.
When President Robert S. Nelsen phoned him to deliver the news, “I couldn’t believe it,” he said. Later, “a happiness came over me that I had never really felt before.”
In that moment, he realized that his hard work and determination had paid off.
2022 Deans' Awards
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- A&L: Drawing helped Scott Azevedo overcome a difficult childhood and adult setbacks to earn his college degree
- Business: Emily Gonsalves credits Sac State for helping her achieve personal, educational triumphs
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