Khalid Raza has never forgotten his Shocker roots. Now the chief executive officer of Graphiant, a next-generation networking technology company based in San Francisco, Raza’s first independent start-up began in 1992 when he was working as a graduate assistant at Wichita State University.
Thirty years later, Raza’s efforts in the field of networking technology have achieved both national and international attention. It is these accomplishments and his past as a Wichita State student that led him to be awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy as part of the fall 2021 commencement ceremony Dec. 12. WSU President Rick Muma selected Raza for the honor.
“As a computing visionary who’s had phenomenal success, Mr. Raza is worthy of the distinction of an honorary doctorate at Wichita State,” Muma said. “His success with digital transformation and making complex technologies accessible to all are values we wish to instill in future graduates from our institution.”
An honorary degree is an exceptional honor bestowed upon a person without fulfillment of the usual requirements. It is conferred only upon persons of notable intellectual, scholarly, professional, creative achievement or service to humanity consistent with the endeavors of WSU. Raza is the first international alumnus to receive an honorary doctorate from Wichita State. It’s an honor he doesn’t take lightly.
“I am really humbled and feel very honored that WSU decided to select me,” Raza said. “It’s a big honor and I don’t have the words to express my gratitude. I am successful because of what I got out of Wichita State.”
According to Raza, Wichita State is where he started to stand on his own. After receiving financial support from his family in Pakistan while working on his master’s degree, Raza didn’t feel comfortable asking for another year of aid from them during his last year. He asked one of his instructors — Hamid M. Lankarani professor of mechanical engineering at Wichita State, for work as a graduate assistant.
“I wanted to make sure I did it on my own,” Raza said. “It’s very critical at a certain point that you take responsibility for your own future and say, ‘I will go and fight for it.”’
"I am successful because of what I got out of Wichita State,” said Khalid Raza, Wichita State University alum.
Today, Raza is considered a pioneer in developing software-defind wide area networks that provide cost-effective connectivity for businesses. He was even one of the co-founders of a cloud-based networking company called Viptela, which sold to Cisco for $610 million in 2017.
Despite all his accomplishments, Raza hasn’t forgotten the role Wichita State and his former instructors played in his success. He makes sure to keep in touch with his professors, including Lankarani, who is still on the college’s faculty and a senior fellow for the National Institute for Aviation Research. He was also the 2016 commencement speaker for the College of Engineering
Raza also pledged $500,000 to the College of Engineering in 2017 to endow a scholarship for engineering students. The scholarship has helped about 150 students pursue their degrees at Wichita State.
“Nobody should forget the school that got them to the place they are today because that school is always the starting point,” Raza said. “Institutional gratitude should not go away.”
Raza will receive his honorary degree during WSU’s 124th fall commencement ceremony, where more than 1,100 Shockers are eligible to graduate.