Alex Cavgalar was looking for an American education when he arrived at Wichita State University in 1993.
But the 37-year-old electrical engineer from Turkey chose to stay and become an American.
The co-founder and chief technology officer of Ulterius Technologies — a high-tech startup in Wichita developing a secure, wireless-based networking device for companies — originally planned to leave America once he got his undergraduate degree from WSU.
But while pursuing that degree, he met his future wife, Andrea. Together, they had a son, who is now 15. Between having a new family of his own and a number of career and academic opportunities that were presented to him during his studies, Cavgalar made the decision to call the U.S. his home and start a three-year-long process to become an American citizen.
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“My obligations are to the United States,” he said.
His mother in Turkey supported his decision.
“My mom said … ‘Home is not where you’re born, it’s where you’re fed,’” he said. Cavgalar said he is the youngest of six. His father died when he was 2. He said one of his sisters spent half her monthly salary to pay for his daily transportation to an advanced high school, which was 37 miles away from his home.
He said it was a scholarship that allowed him to come to college in America. Cavgalar was “floored” by the support and counsel he received from WSU professors and from the university. He was also able to work for a couple of American companies — the former Symbios Logic and Lucent Technologies — while pursuing his master’s and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering that allowed him to advance his knowledge, skill and education.
He doesn’t think he would have been able to do all of those things in any other country.
The day in September 2001 that he became a U.S. citizen was also the day he gave up his Turkish citizenship.
“I have no intentions of living there,” Cavgalar said. “This is my home. This is what made everything possible for me and my loyalty resides in America.”