Family Matters to New Graduates

Aadil Askar

Aadil Askar and his wife, Dalia Alyahya, not pictured, both received their doctorates in Educational Technology during UNC’s fall Graduate School commencement ceremony. Photo by Barry LaPoint

Many of those who walked in UNC’s 2010 fall commencement ceremonies played dual roles as both students and parents during their time at the university. Some of them took time out during finals week to share their stories.

Aadil Askar and Dalia Alyahya
The journeys of husband and wife Aadil Askar and Dalia Alyahya to the stage of UNC’s Graduate School commencement ceremony have been arduous. They’ve required more than a few sacrifices.

Askar put a career as an elementary school teacher in Saudi Arabia on hold to move to the U.S. to first learn English, and earn his master’s degree from UNC in Educational Technology before transitioning into the program’s doctoral studies. He successfully defended his dissertation this past summer.

After they were married in 2005,Alyahya, an award-winning Saudi artist, put her passion on hold to move to the U.S., immerse herself in a program to learn English and then started working simultaneously on UNC’s master’s and doctorate degrees in Educational Technology.

They both left large families behind, temporarily. But along the way, they started a family that today includes three-month and three-year-old sons.

Working on doctorates and raising a family at the same time required juggling schedules so that the children had at least one parent with them day or night. Meals were usually the only time the busy pair were together and could talk. Coffee and catnaps between classes supplemented the few hours of sleep they got most nights. They even took courses during the summer instead of going home to see their parents or taking vacations.

“We concentrated on our educations as an investment for the future,” Askar said. “We reminded ourselves of that frequently.”

He noted that Alyahya was unavailable to be interviewed or photographed for this story because she was putting the finishing touches on the defense of her dissertation, scheduled for the following day.

Because their educational endeavors were supported by scholarships from the Saudi government, the couple didn’t have to work to support themselves and their growing family. Askar did work one summer as an educational materials designer when none of the courses he needed were offered.

Now they’re ready to continue their journey together when they return to Saudi Arabia next month to put their educations to use, most likely as university professors.

Although neither of the couple’s parents were able to attend commencement ceremonies, they did have family members present.

“I speak very highly of UNC to our families, Askar said. “Now I have two brothers-in-law, a sister-in-law and a nephew attending here, plus we consider our faculty as family.”

- Gary Dutmers

Kathryn Zaggle
Kathryn Zaggle was just 17 and only halfway through her junior year of high school when she gave birth to her daughter, Hailey.

Although her family was supportive, she knew that it would be her responsibility to provide the best life possible for her daughter, no matter the struggles.

So the determined new mother made sure that she graduated from Eaton High School in 2003 on time with her class.
She then immediately enrolled as a part-time student at Aims Community College with a goal of earning an associate’s degree. She worked multiple jobs to support herself and Hailey.

“As my daughter grew older, I began to feel a need to set a good example for her as well as secure our future through my continued education,” Zaggle said.

That’s why she didn’t stop with the two-year degree and began her career as a full-time student at UNC in August 2008. She graduated Dec. 11 with a bachelor’s in psychology. She’s on the Dean’s Honor Roll and is a member of Psi Chi Honor Society.

“Rather than using my daughter as a justification for failure, she was my inspiration to succeed,” Zaggle said.

Zaggle pointed out that she had a lot of support from family and friends, financially and otherwise, so Hailey didn’t have to spend any time in daycare or afterschool programs while she attended her UNC classes.

“Without Hailey, I’m not sure I would have found the motivation to stay in school and complete my degree,” she said.
She’s currently entertaining the thought of attending graduate school at UNC. Hailey is a third-grader at McAuliffe Elementary in Greeley and will be 9 in January.

- Brittany Sarconi

Editor’s Note: For more information about the fall commencement ceremonies and a profile of the graduating class, visit