Ayesha Hassan

School:  College of Engineering
Major:  MS, civil engineering 2020
Hometown: Lahore, Pakistan 

Even as the daughter of a civil engineer in Pakistan, Ayesha Hassan, ENG ’20, faced societal hurdles to follow in her father’s footsteps. So, she instead followed her dreams to Temple, and she’s now well on her way to building a better world, both physically and socially.

Driving change

Growing up in Lahore, a city of 13 million people in Pakistan’s Punjab region, Hassan came from a family whose emphasis on education didn’t match the gender norms of much of her country’s culture.

“In terms of gender equality, it’s not great. It’s not really accepted for girls to pursue higher education, or even go to high school or college,” Hassan said.

But Hassan knew from early on she wanted to be a civil engineer. After all, it was the profession of her father, whom she watched, fascinated, as he worked to improve water infrastructure. But she also noted flaws in her country’s transportation infrastructure, driving a desire to fix them.

“I realized how we as communities rely on infrastructure and how much impact it has when there’s an issue,” Hassan said. “My grandparents used to live in a village, and whenever it rained, the roads would be dangerous to drive on so it would be nearly impossible to visit them.”

“I did not feel alone in my journey,” Hassan said. “I saw so many people from all these countries who were struggling just like me … it really helped me broaden my horizons.”

A soft landing

Still, even among her family, there was debate about Hassan’s path. Her sisters were studying medicine, as there was a perception that engineering was work better suited for a man. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree from the University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore, she knew she’d have to look abroad for graduate school. That’s when she found Temple.

Her initial weeks in Philadelphia were a culture shock. She struggled with a significant language barrier at first, and something as simple as walking alone outside as a woman, a social taboo in Pakistan, felt strange.

But she soon found her footing and took comfort in the university’s diversity, particularly the international students.

Ayesha Hassan standing in front of her desk.
Ayesha Hassan looking into the camera.

“Even here, the I-95 collapse also impacted so many. It became national news because over 150,000 vehicles used to drive on it. When something goes wrong with infrastructure, it impacts everyday life so much that sometimes things are nearly impossible to do. That ignited a passion.”

–Ayesha Hassan
Civil engineer, highway

Road work ahead

During her final semester at Temple, Hassan secured an internship with Michael Baker International, an engineering firm with offices located throughout the United States. That led to a job with the firm, where Hassan is climbing the ranks.

Hassan primarily works on transportation projects in the Philadelphia region, helping design everything from highways to traffic circles to crosswalks. While such projects can take many years to come to fruition, Hassan got an early taste for success: A pedestrian safety project in Lower Makefield, Bucks County, she designed was constructed, and she was given a Top Transportation Demand Management Professional Under 40 Award from GVF, a transportation-focused nonprofit, for her work on the project.

But Hassan’s passions go far beyond engineering. In her five years in the U.S., Hassan has dived into a variety of social causes and organizations. At Baker, she helped create and chair a DEI committee in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. She’s also now on the executive board of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO), a professional organization for minorities working in the transportation sector. Additionally, Hassan serves on the board for the American Society of Civil Engineers Younger Member Forum and is part of the 2023–2024 Women’s Transportation Seminar Emerging Leader Program.

In 2023, she received the Emerging Leader award from COMTO for all of her efforts in the transportation field.

Her work, recognition, and a U.S. citizenship obtained last year have helped Hassan solidify a sense of belonging in her adopted country. But, she can’t help but dream of taking her skills to the next level.

“Maybe one day, I’ll have my own consulting firm,” Hassan said with a smile.