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Arshiyan Khan Named ‘Student of the Year’

Graduating business admin major delves deep into how Suffolk has impacted his life
Connor Yee Kee/Compass News

Arshiyan Khan, a 24-year-old graduating business administration major who struggled in high school but has flourished at Suffolk County Community College, has won the 2024 Faculty Senate Distinguished Student Achievement Award.

“It gives an opportunity for any of our faculty and sometimes administrators to nominate and recognize a student that has excelled both in the classroom and also in the campus community,” says Frank Vino, a director of the Office of Campus Activities/Leadership Development. Vino nominated Khan for the award.

Khan, who was born in Nassau County and moved to Pakistan when he was 5, then moved back to America in 2021, has served in the finance committee of the Student Government Association, as vice president for Phi Theta Kappa, and as a member of the Business and Accounting Club, leading to his faculty nomination eventual award win.

Khan spent part of his childhood in Peshawar, Pakistan.

“It was hard. I sometimes ask [my family], ‘Was going back the right move?’” Khan said. “A part of me wants to say yes because of the cultural ties and how much we also need to understand what was my actual heritage, and that aspect I completely understand.” Khan also pointed to the instability happening around that time.

Khan struggled during his high school days, dropping out twice. “At the time when I was given my year 11 exams, I remember when the results were announced,” Khan said. “I went to my counselor’s office and she gave me the piece of paper, and I opened the paper, and it said ‘Fs.’” Khan failed all three exams he took for his medical school entry.

“It was quite devastating, and my heart sank,” Khan said. “And the thing that really bothered me was the fact that I did try, and I was hoping to at least pass it, and I did not. That was my first wake up call, because this was the first time I ever failed any exam in my life,” Khan said. He describes the failing as a huge jab on his face, which led to him dropping out.

After some convincing from his parents, he tried to pursue his education for a second time. He was watching YouTube with two of his closest friends when he got a call that would devastate him. “It was actually a call from one of my friends’ neighbors, and he told me that my friend passed away,” Khan said. Her passing took a huge toll on Khan, causing him to drop out again.

After dropping out, Khan played a lot of video games. He played Dota 2 competitively, and participated in a tournament. He made a deal with himself. “If I win this tournament, I will pursue Dota 2 competitively and not care about school,” and if that didn’t work out he would go back to school. His team lost in the finals of the tournament, leading him to enroll in the local high school near his house.

When the time came to take the final exams, Khan got Cs and Ds. “I was not going to get an admission anywhere locally at least,” Khan said. “And I was like ‘wow, what am I going to do now?’” He did not want to go back to e-sports or school, which led to the bold decision of packing his bags and going to the United States.

Moving in with his second cousins, Khan returned to the states on Jan. 5, 2021. Since he lived two minutes away from Selden, he drove by Suffolk every day. One December night when he was driving home from work, he saw a billboard that said “enroll now.” “Immediately I was captivated and I was like ‘you know what, I think it’s time to give school another shot. Why not?’”

Shortly afterwards, he went to the admissions office to enroll at SUNY Suffolk. “Afterwards, I took accounting 101, enjoyed it so much because for the first time I loved what I was studying,” Khan said. He said that everything he was studying made sense and he was doing well in school.

However, he expressed the difficulty of working while being a full time student. “Clocking in 40-45 hours was not the most pleasant experience for myself,” Khan said. Eventually, he found out about the opportunity of getting scholarships, as he was not getting full financial aid at the time. Khan would go on to win two scholarships the following semester, which was enough for him to change his hours from 40 to 30 hours.

“In my first semester, I felt that I was doing well in my classes. But I felt that I wanted to strive for more, I wanted to be more competitive.” Khan applied and got accepted into the honors college.

Khan would get the opportunity to meet Jose Riquelme, the president of the Student Government Association at the time. He told Khan about student government and told him to join. Khan was never involved in extracurriculars in high school, however he decided to give it a shot at Suffolk.  “I was like OK, let’s give it a shot,” Khan said. “So I went for treasurer, had my interview process and I was very fortunater to get it.” He was elected as the SGA treasurer for the 2022-23 school year.

Khan wanted to completely change the finance committee. At the time, the finance committee existed but the campus activities board was approving and rejecting club requests. He got a group of senators from the SGA and revamped the finance committee to make sure they had a connection to campus activities, and sat down every week to approve or deny a club event.

Khan learned about Phi Theta Kappa in 2024. “I changed my gears,” Khan said. With fellow SGA member Sean Chan interested in taking over for the finance committee, Khan felt that the “bird had to leave the nest.” “So I flapped my wings, and I moved on.”

Khan made his move to Phi Theta Kappa, where he became the vice president for leadership. He also ran for president of the business and accounting club, where he won that as well.

For Phi Theta Kappa, one of his projects was to bring awareness to the college’s food pantry. “We had a little treasure hunt game where students that came to the [Babylon Student Center], ‘hey do you know where the food pantry is?’ and if they said no, we would try to direct them downstairs.” Eventually he would help to bring a 46% increase in the food pantry, with almost 100 students coming in the fall 2023 semester compared to fall 2022.

Khan says that his biggest character growth was from the SGA and Phi Theta Kappa. The SGA was Khan’s first leadership role that he had at Suffolk. “It was an instrumental event for me, because of the friends that I made, and the people I was talking to,” Khan said. “Ideas that we were cherishing and ideas we were clashing on.”

“I think that whole community that was built there gave character to me. At one point I realized that I just enjoyed being here,” Khan said. “I would find reasons to be at the office.” Khan would come at 8 a.m. from a calculus class and would go back home at 5-6 p.m. Public safety would even have to kick him out because he would stay at the office for so long. Khan said the SGA made him believe that he belonged somewhere, and Suffolk opened its arms to him.

“This type of love, I never felt it. Even from any institution back from Pakistan,” Khan said. “Here, Suffolk gave me that love and that was the reason that really polarized me and changed my way to giving back to the community.”

Khan got accepted into Columbia University for economics, where he will be continuing his academic journey in the fall 2024 semester.

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Connor Yee Kee
Connor Yee Kee, Managing Editor
Connor Yee Kee is a freshman journalism major at SUNY Suffolk. He is the managing editor of Compass News.

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