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From Iran to Raleigh, a Family Legacy Continues at NC State

As she prepares to graduate, one College of Humanities and Social Sciences student reflects with her father on community, hospitality and the Wolfpack.

Kemmia and Hushang Ghodrat stand in front of the Memorial Belltower. Kemmia wears her red graduation robe and mortar board.
Thirty years after her father earned a degree NC State, Kemmia Ghodrat graduated with dual degrees in sociology and communication in fall 2023.

Hushang Ghodrat came to NC State by way of Texas, Pakistan and Iran. An Iranian refugee, he would bring his dictionary to class as he was learning English, and he got by on pita bread and sweet tea during finals season. With the support and encouragement of his professors, friends and the Wolfpack, he earned his bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and biochemistry in 1993.

Now, 30 years later, Kemmia Ghodrat — Hushang’s daughter — is adding to the legacy of success, graduating from NC State with bachelor’s degrees in sociology and communication, with minors in psychology and parks, recreation, and tourism management. Her father’s success at NC State inspired Kemmia to find her own path here while continuing the family legacy. 

“It means doing the best that I can possibly do,” Kemmia said. “If he can do it without speaking English, then I don’t really have an excuse to not go to class. I have to give 100% because I know I can, and I know that I can be really successful here.”

Watch: Kemmia and two other graduating seniors reflect on their time at NC State and share advice for future students.

Wolfpack Means Welcome

To prepare for a career in hospitality, Kemmia Ghodrat chose to study in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. She’s been a Chancellor’s Aide for almost two years and plans to work in the special events industry after graduation. Hospitality, she says, is “how you make other people feel in your presence and their interactions with you.”

“I want to provide that experience in any capacity that I can,” she said.

That hospitality greeted Hushang Ghodrat when he arrived at NC State in 1989. Years earlier, he was studying medicine in Iran. After the country’s revolution, leaders told Ghodrat he had to convert to Islam to continue his education or else join the army. 

“I said, ‘Well, if a country doesn’t let you have a higher education because of your religion, but they want you to fight for their country, I’ll bet this is not the place for me,” he said.

He fled to Pakistan, sought asylum and moved to Texas. There, a friend who had earned his Ph.D. at NC State recommended the university for Ghodrat’s bachelor’s degree. Ghodrat moved to Raleigh and found a welcoming community of fellow international students eager to make a difference in the world. 

“In the cafeteria at the Brickyard, we were a bunch of students who were smoking together and drinking coffee and solving the world’s problems,” he recalled. “We were from many different cultures and backgrounds — from Chile, Mexico, Ethiopia, Sudan, Canada. I was always joking that we could have a United Nations.”

And despite facing numerous challenges — learning English, worrying about his family in Iran, living off of scholarships and awards, to name a few — Ghodrat graduated summa cum laude. He credits hard work and late nights in the libraries as well as his professors who guided him along the way. 

There was a huge sense of helping you to succeed.

“There was a huge sense of helping you to succeed,” Ghodrat said. “It wasn’t like, ‘OK, we’ll leave you alone and see what you can do.’ They would try to help you to be successful. And I felt that while they are here to help, they are not out to get me. I thought of myself as a part of the Pack.”

Kemmia, too, is graduating summa cum laude.

Inside the Shrine Room

As Kemmia and Hushang Ghodrat were taking photos outside the Memorial Belltower, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Emeritus Tom Stafford walked by. He gave the two an impromptu tour of the tower’s shrine room, adding to their list of shared campus experiences.

Hushang Ghodrat looks at the camera while opening the door to the Memorial Belltower shrine room. Kemmia Ghodrat and Tom Stafford watch on the sides. Kemmia records the moment on her phone.
Kemmia and Hushang Ghodrat hug and smile for a photo inside the Memorial Belltower's shrine room.
Kemmia and Hushang Ghodrat stand on the staircase inside the Memorial Belltower. They hug and smile for a photo.
Inside the Memorial Belltower's shrine room, Kemmia and Hushang Ghodrat listen to Tom Stafford, who is holding poppies that symbolize remembrance of World War I.

Life Lessons Beyond the Classroom

Their time at NC State taught Hushang and Kemmia Ghodrat more than chemistry and communication skills. Their lessons were broader, on a Think-and-Do level. 

“Especially in CHASS, I’ve learned to be a good human being,” Kemmia Ghodrat said. “I learned to become empathetic. I’ve learned how to be a good professional in my soft skill set with timeliness and organization. I think that’s the biggest thing I’m taking away — how to be a good professional and a good person.”

I’ve learned to be a good human being.

In addition to being a Chancellor’s Aide, Ghodrat is a member of Lambda Pi Eta, a communication honor society, and Phi Sigma Pi, a social service and scholarship fraternity. She’s also the student representative on the NC State University Foundation, Inc., which promotes giving and development for the university. 

“I really built community by saying yes to everything,” she said. “All the opportunities that came my way, I just embraced fully.”

While Hushang Ghodrat was skeptical of how a liberal arts education would benefit him, he learned how to examine problems from a more holistic viewpoint. 

“At first, I was always complaining, ‘Why do I have to take this course? Why do I have to take humanities or English literature? What do I have to do with it?'” he said. “Now that I’m thinking back, it made me well-rounded. When I’m facing something, I see it from different perspectives.”

Carrying On the Pack Legacy

After earning his bachelor’s degrees from NC State, Hushang Ghodrat attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s dental school, graduating in 1999. Even there, the Wolfpack spirit was strong as several of his classmates had also attended NC State. 

“It might sound cliche, but the Pack always sticks together, helps each other,” Ghodrat said. “They howl together, they party together, they suffer together. The spirit of being a Pack is, I think, helping each other, being a community. It’s not about individuals. It’s about the whole Pack.”

It’s not about individuals. It’s about the whole Pack.

He was excited when Kemmia came to NC State. Over the past four years, they’ve been able to connect over their shared experiences.

“You kind of relive some of your memories when she starts talking about different classes, different people,” he said. “It brings back a lot of good memories.”

Kemmia Ghodrat places her red mortar board  on her father's head. The two are standing in front of the Memorial Belltower.

Kemmia Ghodrat will miss daily life at NC State — playing spikeball in Stafford Commons, studying in D.H. Hill Jr. Library, relaxing on the Court of North Carolina. She’ll miss sunny tailgates and football games — “A sea of NC State students is something out of this world,” she said. 

But she knows that, once she turns her tassel and walks out of PNC Arena as an alumna, she’s joining an even bigger Wolfpack community.

“I know that there have been thousands of students who have graduated before me, including my dad, and I’m just contributing to like the next generation of the whole Pack family,” she said. “All of the people who get to say that they’ve graduated from NC State, they share that commonality. I think that’s super special. It’s a lasting legacy of sorts.”