As a first-generation college student, mechanical engineering major Malik Khuram ’25 is pursuing his dream in the industry—making his mark at Vaughn College 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 emphasizes the well-rounded experience at Vaughn, 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.”

In keeping with such a great all-around experience, Khuram said he 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!


The dream of earning a college degree is becoming a reality for students, thanks to opportunity programs that include the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) and the Collegiate Science and Technology Program (CSTEP), both of which are funded by the New York State Education Department (NYSED). Through a partnership with Vaughn College, these programs are giving New York State students a jump-start on their future—a futureproof education that begins at Vaughn.

This month, we are proud to share the amazing educational opportunities these programs offer and spotlight some of the success stories of Vaughn students who are pursuing their dreams because of these programs.

About HEOP

HEOP was designed for New York State residents who, without academic and financial support, might not be able to attend college. This program is an important part of life at Vaughn. The primary objective of HEOP is to help provide a broad range of services to help students enroll and succeed in college, which aligns with Vaughn’s mission and vision – to inspire a diverse community of students to achieve success with a transformational education that creates a lifetime of opportunity. Some of the academic and financial support services HEOP offers include the summer immersion program, tutorial services, counseling services and financial assistance.

Who is eligible for HEOP?

Individuals must meet certain criteria to be eligible for HEOP. These include:

  • Being a New York State resident for at least one year prior to enrolling in a post-secondary institution
  • Being a first-time freshman student
  • Being a graduate of an approved high school, or having obtained a high school equivalency diploma
  • Meeting the economic eligibility guidelines established by NYSED
  • Meeting the academic eligibility guidelines established by Vaughn College HEOP program

Vaughn students find success through hard work and HEOP

Vaughn is proud to be a part of the success of its students. Through hard work and the help of HEOP, students like Xylene DeCoteau ’20 and Zarin Tasnim ’21 are one step closer to living their dreams.

Xylene DeCoteau

In May 2020, Xylene DeCoteau received her bachelor’s degree in aircraft operations after an impressive academic career at Vaughn. While she was a student, she earned several licenses, which included her private pilot license (PPL), instrument rating (IR) and commercial pilot license (CPL) for both single and multi-engine aircraft. She has also earned her certified flight instructor airplane (CFIA) and certified flight instructor instrument (CFII) certificates, and she currently teaches and supports other students at Vaughn on a part-time basis.

“Everyone at Vaughn has supported my success, and I am happy and honored to have achieved so many of my goals. HEOP and hard work really made a difference. Plus, I get to fly and go to college at the same time. What can be better than that?”

Zarin Tasnim

Zarin Tasnim ’21 graduated with a bachelor’s degree in airport management. She overcame many cultural barriers, which included learning to speak English after having moved to New York from the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. After enrolling at Vaughn in 2017, the hard reality of not being able to afford the program forced her to begin the process of withdrawing from the College. HEOP provided Tasnim with the financial assistance she needed to remain a student at Vaughn.

“Without the support and guidance from HEOP and the Vaughn family, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Working as an airport manager will give me the experience that I need—right out of college—to help lay the groundwork for my future.”

Applying for Vaughn’s HEOP Program

If you are interested in applying for Vaughn’s HEOP program, you can start the process by sending an email to Melissa Teixeira at or Lauren Cajade at . They can help you determine if you are eligible and walk you through the various steps for admission.


CSTEP is intended to enable students to apply to college-level academic programs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. Last fall, Vaughn implemented CSTEP to serve 100 students—at any given time and who are enrolled full-time—in a STEM-focused bachelor’s degree program. Like HEOP, CSTEP provides students with specific services related to the program. Depending on the student’s college level, the program will provide the following services to those enrolled:

  • Mentorship by professors at the College
  • Free gateway courses designed to increase student academic performance in fundamental courses
  • Supporting extracurricular activities, such as participation in student-led clubs and activities
  • Priority course registration for each semester the student is in CSTEP
  • Opportunities to participate in professional conferences, seminars and networking events
  • Opportunities to participate in career development events provided by the engineering department and the career services office
  • Eligibility to participate in the summer research program – a paid research program that is supported by CSTEP and Vaughn College under the supervision of faculty members
  • Participation in supplemental instructors’ program and tutoring services

Who is eligible for CSTEP?

The eligibility requirements for CSTEP differ from HEOP. A student who is eligible to be part of the CSTEP must be:

  • A New York State resident
  • In good academic standing (high school cumulative GPA of 3.0, or college cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher)
  • Enrolled full-time in an AAS or BS program in engineering or engineering technology at Vaughn

Additionally, the student must be one of the following historically underrepresented minority groups:

  • Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian or Alaskan Native


Applying for Vaughn’s CSTEP Program

If you meet the eligibility requirements and are interested in applying for the CSTEP program, fill out an application. For general inquiries about the program, please send an email to . For specific inquires or assistance, please reach out to Dr. Amir Elzawawy at or Cecelia Izzo at .

In summary, if you have your sights set on attending college – reach out to us and we can help you determine your eligibility for these programs and get you the support you need to achieve your dreams.