Sarah Grace Brown
M.Ed. in HRWD
"When I came to the university [of Arkansas], there was an opportunity to pursue a master’s degree through the online program. I was so grateful that they offered a human resources program through the online school at the U of A."
Whichever way you look at her, Sarah Grace Brown is a Razorback.
A native Arkansan, born and raised in Van Buren and now living with her husband in Fayetteville, Brown works for the University of Arkansas, where she learned about the tuition assistance program offered to full-time, permanent staff. In addition to working full time, Brown, 27, is enrolled in the Master of Education in Human Resource and Workforce Development Education online degree program and plans to graduate in May 2022.
“I have a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Ouachita Baptist University down in Arkadelphia, Arkansas,” she said. “When I came to the university [of Arkansas], there was an opportunity to pursue a master’s degree through the online program. I was so grateful that they offered a human resources program through the online school at the U of A.”
Brown began her employment at the University of Arkansas as a communications coordinator for the Division of Research and Innovation in December 2019. Her job duties include internal communications, handling social media and writing news articles for both internal and external release. She has also interviewed three researchers as part of the Short Talks From the Hill podcast series. Brown’s ultimate career goal is to move beyond communications and help people become better at what they do. Human resources is a great avenue to make that happen, she said.
“The [new staff] orientation program mentioned that there were online degrees, and they supported, even encouraged women, minorities, all employees to pursue a higher education, to build upon what they’ve already learned,” Brown said. “It was already in my mind to maybe complete a master’s degree while working at the university, even more so once I actually got in here and experienced the encouragement and the support from the administration.”
Brown wanted to work full time but retain the flexibility offered by an online program. Learning online lets her follow a regular work schedule without needing to request special permission to attend in-person classes during what would normally be working hours, she said.
“One of my personal goals is to do better than the generations before me,” Brown said. “I was one of the first in my family to complete a four-year degree right after high school. I’ll also be one of the first in my family to receive a master’s degree under the age of 30. I’m very thrilled to have achieved those milestones. My motivation has been to create the best future for my family. After I’m finished, I might stay in higher education or maybe move to the medical field. Organizations are built upon the individuals that work there, so by helping people become their best individually, I’ll also be helping organizations also become their best.”
Brown credits the university’s diverse and easily accessible resources for helping her toward her master’s degree. Resources include the University Libraries, tutoring, the Writing Studio, clubs and virtual events, among others. For Brown, the libraries have proved particularly useful, she said.
“The library has been a huge help, not only just their online databases but also their Interlibrary Loan (ILL) program,” Brown said. “I’ve been able to get books and articles from interlibrary loan and that has definitely helped me; otherwise, I would have had to buy them. I’ve been able to either have direct access through the library or they are able to acquire it through interlibrary loan, so that has been a huge help. I’ve even been able to have access to e-books as textbooks. I am very grateful to have a full-service library at my disposal throughout the program.”
Brown emphasizes the importance of time management in successfully completing an online degree program.
“Take it one day at a time and be sure to have boundaries in place,” Brown advises. “When I first started the program, it was a little hard. I was actually working from home at the time, and I would literally go from doing eight hours of work then straight into my studies, spending another five to six hours on the computer. That was really unhealthy. I then got the hang of it and was able to plan out what I needed to do before I attempted to do it. I would just say, time management and take care of yourself. Don’t overdo it. It’ll all work out in the long run so long as you don’t burn yourself out in the beginning.”
Brown was one of 25 people to receive the W.E. Manning Memorial Scholarship for online U of A students for the 2021-2022 academic year. She received additional financial support by being one of the Staff Senate Scholarship winners for 2021-2022.
“I feel very honored to receive this scholarship,” Brown said. “It actually propels me through graduation, so that is a burden lifted off of my husband and me. With the Manning Scholarship, I’ll be able to finish up my master’s degree on time. My first year, I only applied for the Staff Senate Scholarship. I didn’t apply for anything like this, mainly because I thought those scholarships were just for undergrads. When I saw the announcement for [the Manning Scholarship] in the campus News, I was, like, oh wow, I guess there are other opportunities for scholarships.”