TaShara Brown ’20
Class of 2020
College of Education and Human Development graduate
Operations Supervisor, UPS
As a Louisville native, TaShara Brown ’20 grew up with the University of Louisville and UPS in her backyard. But as a child, she didn’t realize the role that each of the local legends would end up playing in her life.
“UofL and UPS care about the people that are around them,” she said. “Just knowing they have a partnership helped me a lot because I didn’t know I would have a career here, but by just staying the course and finishing a degree, I got that opportunity.”
The Metropolitan College program, a partnership between UofL, UPS, Jefferson Community and Technical College, Louisville Metro and the commonwealth, allows students to earn a college degree for free while working third shift at UPS. For Brown, it was a game changer.
“There’s so much help and guidance through Metro College,” she said. “That’s something I think everybody should take advantage of because you’re not only getting a paycheck or only working for your schooling. You’re doing it for yourself and at the end of this, you get a degree, and you won’t be in debt. Your work meant something.”
Like many, Brown’s path wound through obstacles. After graduating from Pleasure Ridge Park High School, Brown initially attended a university outside of Louisville as an undergraduate. But as a first-generation student, she found it difficult to adjust.
“It was hard for me to navigate by myself. Being a first-generation student, I did not have a lot of help from home because of having parents that didn’t have any college background,” she said. “So, you feel like the perception was you have to know what you’re doing to be there, and I kind of got caught up with just not knowing what to do.”
She struggled for a few years, determined not to give up on her goal of earning a college degree. But one setback after another made her rethink how she was going to get there. At the same time, she was finding it difficult to juggle rent, work and paying for school on her own.
“The best thing for me to do was come home,” she said. “I had some background knowledge of Metro College and I wanted to go ahead and come back home to go to UofL.”
At UofL, she found the academic and social support she craved.
“Coming to a university that had been here my whole life, but I’d never seen the inside of it, as soon as I got there, it was just like ‘How can we help you?’,” she said. “I really appreciated someone stepping in and saying, ‘These are the steps you need to complete; get them done and we’ll move on.’ You see the finish line and that makes one heck of a difference.”
After another four years of taking college courses, participating in campus organizations like the Minority Future Educators Association and working at UPS, Brown was set to graduate in 2020 with a bachelor’s in education. She planned to be a teacher. Then came COVID.
She earned her degree, but the pandemic left her at a crossroads when it came to her career. She knew she was good with children and prepared to be a teacher, but she also enjoyed the job she had begun at UPS through Metro College.
“COVID really pushed me to think about what I was going to do,” she said. “And I thought, ‘I’ve been working somewhere for four years. I already have my foot in the door and I’m going to take a chance on myself.’ ”
Brown is now an operations supervisor at UPS, running a team responsible for package screening. She’s found a lot of similarities between her education in teaching and her corporate role, particularly in how to lead a team, and she is grateful that UofL and Metro College provided her the opportunity to discover a new path.
“You can wear many hats and do different things in your life. You don’t have to focus on just one career,” she said. “So, I’m really enjoying my time here at UPS.”
The Metro College partnership is an example of meeting students where they are to find their success, Brown believes. That kind of support is critical.
“I’m big on accommodations because not everybody is going to do college the same way,” she said. “With Metro College and UofL, they’re thinking about what they need to do to make you successful, to get students ready to develop and move through. I think that definitely makes a difference in education.”