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SNHU Spotlight: Samiyah Muhammed's and Diana Sanda's Shared Journey

Diane Sanda, left, and Samiyah Muhammed, right, dressed in their SNHU graduation cap and gown.Partners Samiyah Muhammed '23 and Diana Sanda '23G faced their share of obstacles on their journey to receiving their degrees from Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), but they persevered — together.

“We are here walking the stage together after many, many long years of hard work and dedication and perseverance,” said Muhammed, who earned an online Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Human Services & Advocacy.

“We’re just happy to be graduating together,” said Sanda, who earned an online Master of Science (MS) in Information Technology with a concentration in Healthcare Informatics.

Muhammed and Sanda supported each other through many challenges, including homelessness and health concerns.

In 2013, Muhammed tested positive for systemic lupus and, only 2 years later, began having seizures. In 2019, she also tested positive for ankylosing spondylitis (AS). As a result, she lost her mobility.

“We’ve gone through discrimination and medical racism just trying to get access to care,” said Muhammed. “(We) ended up losing a home because of all these obstacles.”

But throughout these difficulties, the couple continued to encourage and motivate each other.

“We kind of force each other to take breaks. One step at a time,” said Sanda.

Though Muhammed said it had been a difficult journey, she was able to walk across the stage at Commencement to receive her degree — without a walker or cane.

Muhammed and Sanda had another important source of support, too: their 11-year-old son.

“Our son has been the main motivator because he sees our stressors and he’s like, ‘you can do this,’” said Sanda.

Through their journey, the couple hoped to show their son determination and persistence.

“No matter what is placed in front of you, if you want something, you can go get it,” said Muhammed.

“No matter how long it takes,” Sanda said.

The couple, who both earned their degrees online, said the flexibility online learning allowed was crucial. Muhammed, who did her coursework between multiple procedures and therapy sessions to regain mobility, said she felt that SNHU’s online format was accommodating.

While the flexibility offered was also important for Sanda, she said the online format gave her something to look forward to each day.

Moving forward, she said she hopes to gain new employment and work within the IT and healthcare fields. “My focus is just to improve quality of care,” she said.

Though Muhammed said she hopes no one will have to face the obstacles she has faced, she plans to use her experience and degree to advocate for others.

“If there’s anything that I can do to help, I’m glad to do so,” she said.

As a first-generation college student, Muhammed’s experience has already inspired others.

“My whole family is just ecstatic,” she said. “I’m hoping that it will continue to encourage my family to just go for whatever it is that they want.”

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Abigayle Mahnken is a writer from South Carolina, who is currently earning her master's in creative writing at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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About Southern New Hampshire University

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SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.