MSF student achieves alongside mother and brother at FSU

April 23, 2024

Ibrahim Gillani, right, who graduates May 3 with a Master of Science in Finance from the College of Business, attends FSU with his mother, Amber Noor Mustafa, and his younger brother, Shahmeer Mustafa Gillani. Amber is pursuing a Ph.D. in international and multicultural education through the Fulbright Foreign Student Program, and Shahmeer is working toward a bachelor's degree in computer science.
Photo by Katie Xanders/College of Business Click to enlarge

Ibrahim Gillani appreciates the “tight knit” community.

His younger brother, Shahmeer Mustafa Gillani, beholds the “very beautiful” campus.

And their mother, Amber Noor Mustafa, embraces the “very welcoming” hospitality.

All three speak from the perspective of a current student at Florida State University. 

“How impressive is that?” said LJ Mahon, a senior lecturer in the Department of Finance in FSU’s College of Business. “When I was young, most students saw college as a way to get away from home and live the ‘college experience. And here we have a mother and her two sons at FSU.”

The three arrived at FSU one at a time by way of Pakistan, their homeland.

Ibrahim, a student of Mahon, graduates May 3 with a Master of Science in Finance, or MSF, while Shahmeer pursues a bachelor’s in computer science and Amber, their mother, works toward a Ph.D. in international and multicultural education through the Fulbright Foreign Student Program.

They personify FSU’s global reach, and they literally illustrate the university’s celebrated family atmosphere. 

“We are proud to be at FSU,” Amber said.

Amber began a five-year Fulbright program at FSU in August 2020, one year after Ibrahim began pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in economics at New York University. Amber did her first semester online in Pakistan, then moved to Tallahassee with her husband, Noor Mustafa Gillani, in January 2021. 

Amber calls her husband the family’s “scaffolding.”

“He left his work in Pakistan and made all of this possible,” she said.

Shahmeer came with his parents to Tallahassee but soon returned to the family’s hometown of Lahore, considered Pakistan’s cultural capital, to finish high school. He graduated in summer 2023 and applied to numerous U.S. universities, with a preference for acceptance to FSU so that he could join his mother and father in Tallahassee. He got his wish and started at FSU in fall 2023.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim completed his bachelor’s degree at NYU in May 2023. He considered starting work as a strategy consultant but decided to apply to FSU’s MSF program, which would reunite him with his family and give him time to prepare for the Chartered Financial Analyst level 1 exam as he worked toward a prestigious job in finance.

He liked the professional-development emphasis of the FSU program, which would allow him to help manage the college’s Student Investment Fund, a student-run vehicle now valued at more than $6 million. He also considered FSU’s Top 25 ranking among public schools and especially its value compared with the cost of tuition at many other schools.

He since has discovered even more to like about it.

“Even though it’s a big school, there’s a tight-knit community here,” Ibrahim said. “I’ve noticed that the faculty members, even the ones with the highest credentials, are very caring toward their students. They look out for us, and they’re there for us when we need help. That is a big difference at FSU.”

He has brought a big difference to FSU: a moustache that turns heads, amazes professors and inspires comparisons to William Howard Taft, Rollie Fingers and the guy on the Pringles can.

Ibrahim Gillani says his mustache comes in handy at job interviews and networking events. People "remember your face," he says.
Click to enlarge

“That is the best mustache in the competition and possibly the best mustache I have ever seen,” Darren Brooks, assistant dean and MBA director in the College of Business, said in March during the FSU/SouthState Bank Small Business Case Competition. He referred to the whiskers of Ibrahim, who participated on a team that took first place in the event.

Ibrahim noted that moustaches are culturally big in Pakistan, where they’re sometimes just plain big. He’s had his since 2022, and he plans to keep it, at least for now.

“It’s been useful in the job-searching process,” he said. “When you do an interview or you’re at a networking event, they remember you. They remember your face.”

His brother Shahmeer sports no moustache but bears “great professors,” enlightening classes and a growing passion for computer science at FSU.

“I feel genuinely excited about what I get to learn next,” he said. “And the campus is very beautiful, especially in the spring.”

Amber earned a Master of Philosophy in educational leadership and management in Pakistan in 2017, then decided to pursue a Ph.D. so that she could better contribute to Pakistan’s education system and policy, especially in rural areas. 

She eventually applied to the Fulbright Foreign Student Program and made FSU her preferred destination. She based that on a recommendation from a friend who participated in a month-long training program at the university. 

“As an international student, you come with a lot of anxiety because you don’t know what you’re going to face,” Amber said. “But on the FSU campus, people were very welcoming, and I have friends here from so many countries now. And the department really supports you and listens to your ideas.”

She found that Tallahassee featured prominent Pakistani and international communities, and she quickly got involved, interpreting for Afghan refugees in the city and launching a “Pakistanis in Tallahassee” page on Facebook.

“I really enjoy FSU, and I cherish the memories that I’m making here,” she said.

As fellow students and exceptional scholars, she and her sons rely on each other for news such as campus events, internships and research programs – and quiet time.

“It helps that all of us are studying or working toward something, so we have less distractions,” Ibrahim said. “We’re also driven toward our academic goals.”

“We are proud to be at FSU,” his mother repeated. “We hope that we can make FSU proud of us as well.” 

-- Pete Reinwald