Ta’Shara Francis-Brown is currently working on her second master’s degree from Wayne State, but there was a time when she wasn’t quite sure if she would ever earn a bachelor’s.
She first enrolled at Wayne State in 2009, but took some time off and started a family, having two sons — Carter in 2011 and Cruz in 2014.
With encouragement from her aunt and grandmother, Francis-Brown enrolled in online classes while pregnant with Carter and graduated from Wayne State in 2015 with a bachelor’s in sociology.
“From a very young age, we're kind of all taught that higher education will get you to a better place in life,” Francis-Brown said. “But I don't think we're really told much about what to do when there are obstacles, or what to do when the path is not as straight as you might have anticipated.
“I didn't anticipate having kids prior to really getting into my career. And so, it was tough having to navigate that and figure it out. But I'm very proud of that. I want to make sure that my kids know that, if you start school and have to leave for a little bit, it's still possible to go back. It’s still possible to do what you want and get that degree.”
After earning her bachelor’s, Francis-Brown set her sights on graduate school. She graduated with a master’s in employment and labor relations in 2021.
While Francis-Brown was finishing her master’s, she heard about the new master of studies in law in human resources program. She attended an informational session and decided she wanted to enroll.
“They gave us just a little bit more information about what the program entailed, and really how we could use it in the HR world and how it compliments an HR career if you're already in HR,” said Francis-Brown, who currently works as an HR manager for a nonprofit. “I was finishing my other program, and I was worried about how I was going to stand out graduating during a pandemic, so I enrolled in this program.”
Francis-Brown is now a Wayne State Graduate School Ambassador and recently took the time to answer a few questions about Wayne State, her program and the city of Detroit.
Why did you choose Wayne State?
I chose to stay at Wayne State for graduate school because I'm familiar with it. I started at Wayne State in 2009, and I think over the years it has really evolved. There's a major sense of community at Wayne State. We have a large population of nontraditional students, and there are a lot of resources here. And of course, Wayne State is in the center of Detroit, which is an amazing city. I'm not from Detroit originally, but I've learned to love the city. And Wayne State has been a part of me learning to love the city.
Whenever someone asks about Wayne State and maybe why I didn't diversify as far as getting degrees from other places, I tell them that I love the city and I love Wayne State. And I love what Wayne State means to the city. That's why I've stayed and that's why I keep going back.
What is your favorite thing about the MSL Human Resources program?
I think it's the attentiveness of the advisor, Nikki Taylor Vargo. It’s a new program, and I think they're still figuring out what works for the program and what makes sense, as far as the curriculum. The advisor is there the whole way, making sure that she's kind of in lockstep with the professors and the students. I’m very grateful for how attentive she is while we are navigating this new program.
What advice would you give someone thinking of enrolling in the MSL Human Resources program?
I would say to make sure to stay organized. It's a lot of information. I think that initially coming into the program, I thought that it would be super HR focused, and it's not initially. The first several semesters, it's heavy in the basic foundations of law. So being able to stay organized, being able to read and take notes, is super important.
What is your favorite thing to do in Detroit?
I love to eat here. There's so much stuff to do in Detroit, from sporting events to concerts, but my favorite thing is to eat. There are so many restaurants. I started at Wayne State in 2009, and I've been able to see the city evolve a lot. There are a lot of great restaurants. There are a lot of high-end restaurants, but there are also a lot of, kind of, mom-and-pop restaurants that I love. So, I love to eat in Detroit.
What are your plans after graduation?
Right now, I work as a human resource manager for a nonprofit that's centered around black maternal health. I am hoping that after graduation I can really build up the HR team. Get a couple of people under me and really expand. And then, at some point, move into a more director-level position, where I'm not necessarily doing day-to-day HR, but more of a higher-level management of HR. The road has not always been straight or easy, but it was my road to travel. I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason and in divine order. I have gotten so much educational experience and lived experiences at Wayne State that have molded me into the student and professional I am.