Vaughn College celebrates Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month with the story of a first-generation Pakistani college student, Malik Khuram ’25, who came to New York at the age of 10 and discovered his passion for aviation and engineering at a young age. Now as a junior mechanical engineering student at Vaughn, Khuram  is pursuing his dream in the industry—making his mark at Vaughn while getting hands-on work experience at Con Edison East River Generating Station located on 14th Street in Manhattan.

His Passion for Engineering Led Him to Vaughn

“I grew up in Pakistan and moved to New York with my family when I was 10 years old,” Khuram said. “I attended the Aviation Career and Technical Education High School—also known as Aviation High School—in Sunnyside, Queens. It was there that my future career path took flight.” As an institution that prepares students for careers in the aerospace industry, Aviation High School also partners with Vaughn to recruit high-achieving students who wish to pursue careers in the engineering and aviation industries. Little did Khuram know that he would be one of those fortunate students that Vaughn selects each year to receive the one full scholarship that is awarded each year. “I worked very hard throughout high school to maintain a competitive grade point average,” he explained. “Vaughn was always on my radar as a college I wanted to attend. I was shocked when the vice president of the school and my guidance counselor told me that I had been selected to receive that year’s scholarship to Vaughn!”

Khuram solidified his decision to attend Vaughn during an Open House event. “The low student-to-professor ratio and impressive curriculum really excited me. But most of all, I was grateful for the full-ride scholarship to attend such an amazing college.”

Support from CSTEP

In addition to his full scholarship, Khuram is also part of the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), which provides him with additional funds for books, software and travel to internships. “I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the financial support I receive from Vaughn,” Khuram said humbly. “They have eliminated that burden which is giving me the opportunity to focus on earning my degree and planning my future.”

Engagement Beyond Academics

NASA Rover Challenge 2022Khuram emphasized the well-rounded student experience at Vaughn which has enabled him to apply his mechanical engineering skills to real-life scenarios, actively participating in the robotics club serving as the current president of the NASA Rover Club. “Last year was an exciting time for our team. We attended the Human Exploration Rover Challenge in Huntsville, Alabama where we competed against students from around the world. It was a great all-around experience.”

Khuram said he also enjoys being a member of Vaughn’s student chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). “Being part of a larger organization made up of individuals who share your heritage and interest in engineering is empowering,” he stated. “It’s great to know that I belong to a community that recognizes and supports my potential and impact in the industry.”

Internship and Co-Op at Con Edison

Ambition, hard work and persistence make up the foundation on which Khuram is achieving his life goals. He explained how Chaundra Daniels, director of career services at Vaughn, was instrumental in helping him land his internship at Con Edison. “She sent me an email about the internship, and then helped me apply and prepare for my interview. I was accepted as a summer intern and I knew the opportunity would be the gateway to something bigger for me.”

At the end of the summer internship, Con Edison offered Khuram a co-op position with the company. “It’s a little challenging—balancing college and work—but it’s all worth it,” he said. “I’m taking 18 credits this semester and working 18-20 hours each week. The best part is how Con Edison gives me the flexibility I need to be successful both in my studies and at my job.”

Industry Experience

Khuram said he loves working at Con Edison. “I work at the steam plant in Manhattan that controls the hot water and electricity for various parts of the city. It’s a massive plant that occupies three city blocks,” he explained. He said he assists with scheduling the work in the office and also shadows the engineers when they work out in the field. “I have the opportunity to interact with so many people in different areas. In my co-op position, I’m able to ask questions, experience different roles and figure out what I like best. I learn something new every day and love the relationship I’ve built with the management team.”

When asked why he believes engineering is one of today’s most in-demand fields, Khuram replied: “Technology is everywhere and changing constantly. We need engineers for every sector. They look for ways to make things work better, which in turn, will make our lives better.”

Advice to Students

For anyone interested in becoming an engineer, Khuram said it’s important to remember that you have options: “Not every engineer works in the field. Some work at a desk. The key elements come down to three things: problem solving, persistence and patience.”

At 23 years old, Khuram looks to the future with hope and positivity. “I would love to be offered a permanent position with Con Edison after graduation. I love the work I do there. My plan is to apply for an associate engineer position where I could make up to $75K to start. The rest is up to fate.”

If you share Khuram’s passion for engineering, explore the possibilities with a futureproof degree in engineering, technology, management, or aviation. Apply to Vaughn College today!


As Vaughn College continues to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we are pleased to highlight Vaughn mechatronic engineering graduate Ryan Tang ’17. We caught up with Tang to hear his inspirational story after graduating from Vaughn and how his journey post-graduation has circled back to the classroom.

Steeped in his roots

Tang is proud of his Asian heritage and says being raised with strong cultural connections by his Taiwanese parents gave him the confidence he needed to be the inspirational professional he is today. Born in Ecuador, Tang explained how at an early age, his parents insisted he learn their native language of Mandarin. “We speak Mandarin in our household,” Tang said. “I’m grateful to my parents for being strict with me about learning our language. Being fluent in Mandarin is giving me a competitive edge in my career.”

Finding his passion

Even at a young age, Tang said he loved engineering, and says that his high school experience led him on the path to becoming an educator and mentor. “I believe my high school years fed my inner passion to want to help students, particularly in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs,” Tang explained. “My sisters are educators, so I suppose this passion to teach runs in our family,” he continued.

As a lover of robotics, Tang discovered Vaughn and was drawn to its mechatronic engineering program. “I knew Vaughn was the perfect college for me,” Tang said. “Sharing my passion for engineering and robotics with my classmates who were equally as excited gave me the inspiration and encouragement to excel.” Tang quickly made his mark on campus. In 2015, he co-founded the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) team, which he remains involved with to this day as a consultant and adviser. Tang said it was this type of role—as mentor and teacher—that shifted his path from future engineer to educator.

Teaching mechatronic engineering

After graduation, Tang didn’t need to go far to land his first job. He began teaching at Vaughn as an adjunct professor, leading courses in robotics and mechatronic engineering. “I owe my passion for both teaching and engineering to my Vaughn professors, Dr. Rahemi and Dr. He,” he said humbly. “Their dedication to their students’ success inspired me to do the same for others.”

Tang decided to take his passion for learning one step further and is pursuing a master’s in engineering education. “It was important to me to continue my education in both engineering and education,” he explained. “I want to be the best I can be for my students.”

Currently on the weekends, Tang works as the head coach and STEM coordinator at KG CompuTech, a computer-training center for young students in Flushing, Queens where he teaches computer technology and robotics to middle school and high school students. “I love motivating and encouraging my students to learn critical thinking skills. They love competing in the robotics competitions.” Tang says his students see him as combination of drill sergeant and big brother. “I work my students hard to keep them focused, but I always make it a point to spend time with them after our work is done. They need to talk, and I’m there to listen and mentor them. It’s a rewarding profession and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

His advice to students

As an Asian American, Tang said he’s proud to be represented during AAPI Heritage Month. Coming from an Asian American household, he encourages students to embrace their culture, work hard, stay motivated and not fall behind.

When asked why he chose to teach engineering instead of working as an engineer, his answer was simple: “It’s more rewarding to inspire 100 students to become engineers than to work in the field as one person. There’s power in numbers. I believe motivating and encouraging students to pursue their dreams is the perfect equation to creating a future of leaders and innovators.”

Vaughn College’s core values place an emphasis on embracing diversity in all of its dimensions. We offer some of today’s most sought-after degrees in engineering and technology, management and aviation. Find out where a Vaughn degree can take you. Apply today!

Welcome to a special edition of the Vaughn College Blog. This month, we’re celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month and recognizing Asian and Pacific Island Americans at Vaughn who are preparing for futureproof careers and whose heritage has made a powerful impactful on their experience and growth. See why choosing Vaughn has given them a place to feel excited and empowered.

Sadia Afrin: Breaking gender and cultural barriers
Sadia Afrin, AAPI student
Sadia Afrin’s ’24, Aircraft Operations

Breaking gender and cultural norms are the driving forces behind 19-year-old Vaughn student Sadia Afrin’s ’24 journey, as she pursues a career in aircraft operations with the hope of someday becoming a commercial airline pilot. Born in the United States and raised in the South Asian country of Bangladesh, Afrin always knew she wanted to become a pilot but realized it would take determination and the right institution to make it happen.

At the age of 15, she moved to New York with her family and attended high school in Queens. Her passion for flying was prevalent throughout her high school years, but she was aware of the gender disparities that she would need to address as she pursued this path. “In some cultures, life and careers are gender-specific,” Afrin said. “Becoming a pilot was not on my radar as a child. It was important to me to break that barrier and pursue my dream. Settling for another profession was not an option for me. That’s when I found Vaughn College.” As the oldest of three girls, Afrin said she feels a responsibility to her younger sisters to lead by example and pave the way for more diversity in aviation. “One of the greatest things about Vaughn is the campus’ diversity. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming. I never felt out of place.”

When it comes to flying, she said there’s no greater feeling. “You forget all your problems on the ground. You’re living in the moment. It’s empowering.” Afrin said the key to unlocking her dream of becoming an Asian female pilot was never allowing traditional gender roles to stand in her way. She instead took those challenges and used them as her motivation and inspiration to pursue her career. She said she is grateful to her parents for supporting her dreams. Becoming a female pilot may not be part of her culture’s traditions, but she hopes that—someday—her goal of flying for a commercial airline will inspire other Asian American girls to follow their dreams, too.

Anton DeGuzman: Building a dream
Anton DeGuzman, AAPI student
Anton DeGuzman ’24, Mechatronic Engineering

For 19-year-old mechatronic engineering major Anton DeGuzman ’24, having a curious mind about how things are built is just one of the reasons he’s pursuing an engineering degree at Vaughn College. Another reason: diversity. Although he was born in Saudi Arabia, DeGuzman’s family is from the Philippines and they moved to Corona, New York when Anton was only three years old. And even at that early age, he was fascinated with how things worked.

In high school, he began researching the best colleges for his future when he discovered Vaughn. “I was very impressed with Vaughn College. It’s one of only a few colleges in the country that offers a mechatronic engineering degree that is accredited by the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET),” DeGuzman said. Being able to afford a college education was a concern, as it is with most students. During his senior year of high school, DeGuzman applied for—and was the recipient of—one of five Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Scholarships, which rewards selected students with a full four-year scholarship to Vaughn, paid summer internships and a guaranteed job after graduation in a “futureproof” career. “I was shocked and thrilled when I received the news of receiving the scholarship,” DeGuzman said excitedly. “I knew I was on my way to pursuing my dream career.” Knowing he had college paid for was a huge weight off his shoulders, but his concern for inclusion was his last hurdle. “Diversity played a major role in deciding on Vaughn to pursue my degree. Being a part of the Vaughn community made me feel welcome and safe. As an Asian American, I found a place where I knew I would fit in. That was important to me.”

Alexa Rae Cruz: Leading the way for women
Alexa Rae Cruz, AAPI student
Alexa Rae Cruz ’22, Aeronautical Science

At 21 years old, Vaughn aeronautical science student Alexa Rae Cruz ’22 says pride, leadership and an ‘A-ha!’ moment defined her goal of becoming a pilot. “As an Asian American, I always felt a sense of pride and responsibility to lead the way for other Asian girls like myself,” said Cruz. She explained how her mother and stepfather were both shoe designers who travelled extensively for their jobs. Growing up, Cruz would travel with her parents. She enjoyed her time at different airports where she watched the planes take off and land. “One day, I was sitting in the window seat of a plane and had an ‘A-ha!’ moment. That was the day I knew I wanted to work in the aviation industry.” She said she never imagined she would aspire to become a pilot, since she had close ties to the fashion industry and the medical field. “I knew at an early age that the medical field or the shoe business would not be the paths for me,” said Cruz. “You could imagine my parents’ reaction when I told them I wanted to be a pilot!” Cruz said her parents are supportive of her decision and want her to live a life that makes her happy. She emphasizes her love for her family and states that these strong bonds kept her close to home when applying to colleges. She chose Vaughn for its diverse student community and said living on campus (prior to the COVID-19 pandemic) was a great experience.

“The student diversity brings so many unique perspectives to Vaughn,” Cruz explained. “It’s what brings the College to life!” Her leadership qualities have paved the way for her passion to be a role model for other AAPI women. “You don’t see many women of our culture in the industry right now,” Cruz said. “I feel the responsibility to represent my generation and be that person to help others feel like they fit in.”

Their thoughts on Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

When asked how they felt about this month’s celebration of AAPI Heritage Month, the common thread among Afrin, DeGuzman and Cruz is their overwhelming feelings of pride, inclusion and acceptance.

“As an Asian American woman, this month marks a special time and a great opportunity for me to share my goals, culture and passion to work for gender equality.”

—Sadia Afrin

“My hope is this month’s celebration brings more peace, less violence and more awareness and understanding for all people and cultures.”

—Anton DeGuzman

“It’s a beautiful thing that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are being recognized. I believe it’s way overdue. I am making it my mission to be a light and a leader for us all.”

—Alexa Rae Cruz

Are you looking for a college experience that makes you feel like you belong? Vaughn College keeps diversity and inclusion among its top priorities. We offer some of today’s most sought-after degrees in engineering and technology, management and aviation. Find out where a Vaughn degree can take you. Apply today!