The transfer student from San Mateo, California, graduates this weekend with a bachelor’s degree in human biology. Motivated by her family’s generational transformation and her experience as a female athlete, she will pursue a career in global women’s health.

Image credit: Andrew Brodhead

When Nadia Hemmat received her Stanford acceptance letter, she was more surprised than most. The first-generation student from San Mateo, California, was attending her local community college at the time and had largely dismissed any chance at admission.

Hemmat is among Stanford’s small group of transfer students. After two years of dual enrollment during high school and a year completing her associate’s degree, she applied to Stanford at the encouragement of her father. Hemmat moved to campus in 2021 and didn’t look back.

“Once I got here and became so involved, got to meet all these wonderful people, I felt like I fit right in, and like I belonged here the whole time.”

In her brief time on the Farm, Hemmat dedicated herself to Stanford Women’s Rugby, and to deepening her education in global health.

She had witnessed systemic inequities during travel, to South America and to Iran, and knew she wanted to focus her career on addressing them. And she had fluency in three languages – English, Spanish, and Farsi – to assist.

“There are so many problems in public health that are preventable, and easily solved, but it’s extremely dependent on where you live in the world,” she says. “That shouldn’t be the case.”

At Stanford, Hemmat chose women’s health as her concentration. She also explored outside her major with classes like Iranian Women’s Poetry, which helped connect her to her parents’ Iranian roots and also to process the country’s recent upheaval.

In summer 2022, Hemmat studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, working with Stanford’s Digital Medic initiative to create infographics about breastfeeding that have been posted in clinics in four African countries. She also worked on a clinical study that seeks to decrease the risk of preterm birth. Through the Wu Tsai Human Performance Alliance Undergraduate Program, she started her own research examining how female athletes perceive menstruation education.

In the fall, Hemmat will begin a master’s program in global health sciences at the University of California, San Francisco. She’s still deciding where in the world to pursue her career. But whatever path she chooses, she feels called to make an impact. Appropriate, she says, given the meaning of her last name in her parents’ native tongue: ambition.

“My grandparents are both illiterate, and now I get to graduate with a Stanford degree. It just shows you how much progress can be made within a few generations.”

Story by Andrew Brodhead, Harry Gregory, Kurt Hickman, Julia James, and Tara Roberts.