Alumna feels ’empowered, independent and limitless’ with Penn State grad degree

Anisa Sadat, who is from Afghanistan, is the first woman in her family to go to college. She’s inspired the girls and women in her family to follow in her footsteps (Photo courtesy of Penn State World Campus and Anisa Sadat).

From Penn State World Campus

Note: Employees of all Columbia Montour Chamber members, their spouses and dependents are eligible for a 5% discount on tuition through the PSU World Campus.  

When Anisa Sadat received her master’s degree from Penn State in 2018, it marked the conclusion of an odds-defying, educational journey that began decades ago in Afghanistan.

Sadat had finished the degree online, through Penn State World Campus, while working full-time. She traveled with her husband and two children to attend Penn State’s commencement last May, and her family watched as the wife and mother crossed the stage wearing her graduation robe.

None of it would have been possible in her home country of Afghanistan, where women do not have the same opportunities as men.

“It’s a great sense of honor to be able to inspire so many other girls and women in the country where I was born,” said Sadat, 34, the first woman in her family to go to college. “Besides the professional and career advancements this degree has helped me achieve, as a woman, I feel empowered, independent and limitless.

“Now every girl and every woman in my family wants to go to college, work and be independent in a country where culturally the existence and survival of a woman is directly linked to a man.”

Growing up in Afghanistan, Sadat’s educational opportunities were limited: Under the Taliban, girls’ schools were closed, women were no longer able to work, and her future looked bleak. But in order to allow Sadat to go to school, her father defied social stigma and moved the family to Pakistan.

“I felt like I was always very lucky to have a dad who always wanted me to go to school and continue my education,” Sadat said. “He used to say that in any male-dominated society, a man will always survive, but a woman with no education and no independence will never survive.”

The move cemented a lifelong love for learning in Sadat. After later moving to the United States and getting her undergraduate degree, Sadat still found herself wanting more.

“I was looking for a program that would help me as a woman,” Sadat said. “Women are not equally treated as men in the workplace, and as a woman, you have to study something that not only helps you but also helps other women.”

Sadat decided the organizational development and change master’s degree would be the best fit for her. With her husband in Afghanistan while she was in New Jersey with the kids and working, Sadat didn’t have the time to add driving to and from a campus for classes.

But World Campus allowed her to study at home and use what she learned in her coursework in her day-to-day life.

“What I learned not only helped me in my professional life, but it really helped me even in my personal life,” Sadat said. “How to manage my relationship, how to use my emotional intelligence talking to my husband and talking to my kids. You are becoming a better person and you learn something every day.”

Today, Sadat works for the U.S. Department of Defense in a role that encourages veterans to utilize the GI Bill.

“I think everyone’s job should be to motivate and empower people to seek knowledge, seek education, and go back to school, because education is the only way out of a lot of trouble,” she said. “The key to solving every problem is education. It helps you get to a better place.”

Visit the Penn State World Campus website for more information about learning online.