Seeing double: student winds up with two diplomas after advising mix up

First GW told Ambareen Jan she had graduated. Then it told her she hadn’t. Then, the University told her it turned out that she had after all. After a peculiar turn of events that spanned the globe, Jan wound up with two diplomas – a testament to the mixup that left her with quite a headache.

The unusual story begins when, four months after graduating from GW with a bachelor’s degree in psychology last spring, Jan went to Egypt to study Arabic. Shortly thereafter, her parents told her about a letter sent to her home from GW informing her that she really did not have enough credits to graduate, and she would have to reapply for graduation once she made them up.

Jan set up a conference call from halfway across the globe with an adviser in GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, who told her that her previous adviser – who no longer worked at GW – had made a mistake and that she had not graduated.

At that point, Jan said she was furious with the University. ‘I thought, ‘You gave me a diploma,” she said in an interview this week.

Karima Selehdar, one of the advisers Jan dealt with following the recall of her degree, said in an interview that she remembers Jan’s case and said that “these things don’t happen very often – rarely in fact.”

Jan said she double-checked that all of her credits taken at another institution were successfully transferred to GW before applying for graduation. When she discovered in September that the reason her diploma was retracted was because she was eight credits short, she realized that the credits never appeared on her GW transcript.

“It was once again another fault on GW’s part,” she said.

Once the issue was cleared up Jan received a second diploma in the mail and was sent tickets to the May 2006 Commencement ceremony.

While Jan said that Selehdar was helpful when she contacted her about the problem, she said “the entire process was completely unacceptable.”

“Try to get a letter of confirmation from the adviser who is auditing your credits, creating a way to hold the University liable for instances of improper advising,” she said.

Landon Wade, director of academic advising for the Columbian College, said the school does its best to prepare students for graduation and that instead of placing blame on the University, students should remember that it is ultimately their degree, so they need to take the appropriate steps to ensure that they are prepared to graduate.

Wade believes that if the University and students work together, they can avoid incidents such as the one Jan experienced.

He said, “We all want the same endpoint of graduation, and we are all here to help students reach their goals.”

As for Jan, she and her family have requested an official letter that acknowledged that the graduation process has finally been completed.

“We wanted it for our own personal records in case of future problems,” she said. “We are still waiting to receive that letter.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.