Tanin Haidary M ’18, Ph.D. ’21

Pakistan to Afghanistan to Clemson

By Paul Hyde ’16

In his doctoral address, Haidary reflected on his personal journey — and honored his family

When he was asked to present the first-ever doctoral address at Clemson University, Tanin Haidary didn’t search very long for his topic.

He’d pay tribute to his parents who, he says, “sacrificed their careers and everything for me and my siblings.”

Haidary, who was receiving his Ph.D. in  planning, design and the built environment, faced an audience of 84 graduating doctoral students and hundreds of family members in early May at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena.

Striving to control what he calls his “stage phobia,” Haidary spoke in an emotion-laden voice about growing up as a refugee in Pakistan and about a family with a fierce devotion to education. Haidary was born in Afghanistan, but his family moved to Pakistan when the Afghan Civil War erupted.

His father had been a base commander in the military in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan, the only job he could find was fixing TVs. His mother, a doctor, was allowed to provide health care in Pakistan only to other refugees.

“New shoes and a good dinner once a year at the end of Ramadan were the only luxuries my siblings and I would get,” Haidary says. “For my parents, their only luxuries were the smiles on our faces.”

Despite their struggles, Haidary’s parents kept their eyes on the prize: the best possible education for their children.

When Haidary was 10 years old, his family was able to return to Afghanistan, where Haidary eventually secured a spot at the highly competitive Kabul University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 2012. For four years, Haidary worked in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, helping to build military bases.

In 2016, however, came the opportunity of a lifetime: Haidary earned a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to further his studies in the United States. He headed straight for Clemson University and its highly ranked construction science and management program.

Two years later, Haidary graduated with a master’s degree from the Nieri Family Department of Construction Science and Management and was immediately accepted into the planning, design and the built environment Ph.D. program in 2018.

“My Ph.D. adviser was Dr. Dennis Bausman, who has extensive industrial experience, so he teaches based on that experience,” Haidary says. “He’s amazing. I could not have asked for a better mentor, philosopher and guide.”

A recent graduate of that doctoral program, Haidary is now working as a project engineer with DPR Construction on the new multimillion-dollar Greenville County Administration Building near downtown Greenville. He’ll work on that project for two years before a new assignment that will likely take him to San Francisco.

During his doctoral address, Haidary’s parents and three younger siblings were listening in by livestream.

“They called me after the speech,” Haidary says. “They were all crying.”

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