Community Engagement

Addressing the needs and interests of our diverse communities locally, statewide, nationally and internationally.


UofL dental faculty’s experience fuels passion to help those with special needs

UofL College of Education & Human Development to create state reading research center

UofL opens new west Louisville dental clinic

Inaugural Breonna Taylor Legacy Fellows work for social justice through legal service

Jasmyne Moore and Maggie Fagala receive fellowship awards at the 2023 Breonna Taylor Lecture on Structural Inequity. Pictured are Jasmyne Moore, civil rights attorney Ben Crump, Maggie Fagala and Melanie Jacobs, dean of Brandeis Law School.
Jasmyne Moore and Maggie Fagala receive fellowship awards at the 2023 Breonna Taylor Lecture on Structural Inequity. Pictured (l to r) are: Jasmyne Moore, civil rights attorney Ben Crump, Maggie Fagala and Melanie Jacobs, dean of Brandeis Law School.

The University of Louisville announced a $1 million donation in April 2022 from Amy Sherald, the artist who painted the iconic Breonna Taylor portrait that appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine in 2020. The donation was designated to fund the Brandeis School of Law’s Breonna Taylor Legacy Fellowships and the Breonna Taylor Legacy Scholarship for undergraduates. The gift was the result of distributions from the trust Sherald established through the sale of the painting to the Speed Art Museum and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The annual fellowship awards stipends of $9,000 for up to three law school students with 60 or more credit hours who secure a legal volunteer position over the summer with a social justice nonprofit organization or agency.

The 2023 inaugural fellows, Margaret (Maggie) Fagala and Jasmyne Moore, are now graduating with their law degrees and will participate in the school’s convocation on May 12. UofL News followed up to learn more about their fellowship experiences and how it has inspired their future goals.

UofL NewsWhat was your reaction when you learned you had been selected for the Breonna Taylor fellowship?

Fagala: I felt incredibly excited and very, very thankful. It’s hard to explain how grateful I was for the financial help. There is a lot of work in legal spaces that are entry level positions or internships and not with big law firms or personal injury work; if you want to do public service, they’re usually unpaid. The fellowship is designed for this, and it’s great there’s an opportunity for people who are accepting those jobs that don’t offer money or very little money to help offset the financial costs. This fellowship made it easier for me to take that unpaid job and still pay rent.

Moore:  I loved it. Often public service work, especially for minority communities, does go severely underpaid – if paid at all. I think this was the right step for UofL which is dealing with a lot of the DEI issues.

UofL NewsWhere did you complete your fellowship and what kind of legal work was involved? What was one of your biggest takeaways?

Fagala: I spent my summer with work focused mostly on capital cases in my home state of North Carolina. The biggest thing that I took away from my experience was just a better knowledge of the way that the death penalty is being used as a weapon across the country. There are multiple variances in how different states use the death penalty, but in any place where human beings are still capable of being sentenced to die, I can’t think of a more powerful weapon than the ability to leverage a person’s life. 

Moore: I worked at a local nonprofit called Hope Village, which helps clothe, feed, and provide other services for the unhoused and some of the population with mental health challenges. I was able to help them prepare contracts and do house general counseling.

My biggest takeaway was seeing many similar Black women doing similar work as me –  women that could have been Breonna Taylor. Being in rooms with them helped to empower me. In Kentucky, there are fears with new initiatives surrounding diversity coming down the pipeline. There is a phenomenon of “brain drain” and it felt good being in a room of similar minded, similarly educated people all struggling to figure out how to keep us. There’s just not a lot of incentive for young people to stay in Kentucky. Just being able to help with my little bit of experience in property law – to help Hope Village secure a new building with no liens attached – that was a big victory and a milestone.

UofL NewsWhat influence did your fellowship experience have on your future career plans?

Moore: I think it just solidified my intent. Even before law school, I was politically active. I believe that I have done everything I could with my bachelor’s degree in political science, law, and public policy. Now, my JD (juris doctorate) degree is going to give me and my community a chance to fight even bigger battles that we just don’t know are on the horizon.

UofL News: How does the legacy of Breonna Taylor continue to inspire you?

Fagala: It’s something that has really impacted my life in a unique way because I’m not from Louisville. I wasn’t here when it happened, but I was very aware of it and now, since coming to school here and being given this fellowship, her life and her legacy have affected me in a way that I never expected. I hope that I will be able to carry that opportunity the fellowship gave me into my career and give back, because that’s what the fellowship is designed for – people who are in any way doing the work that needs to be done.

Moore: When I am applying to more conservative fellowships or with conservative judges, I remove all my Kentucky Young Dems work, in fact I remove a lot of stuff. One thing I will never remove is being an inaugural Breonna Taylor Fellow, because a Black woman had to die for me to become that. I think this experience gave me hope that those with the means to do so will support people whose work they admire. Being on the list of Forty under 40, or 25 Attorneys to Watch in the Future; all those titles are beautiful, but they don’t pay my bills. I think people are realizing that if you want the work to continue, whether you are doing it or not, you do have to find a way to support those doing the work.

UofL researcher raising awareness of occupational cancer to firefighters

Future Healers impact study published in The American Surgeon

UofL Nursing secures $6.5 million to help increase Kentuckians’ access to health care

UofL School of Dentistry Partnership with Central High School Returns After a Successful First Year

By UofL School of Dentistry NOV 3 2023 

After a successful first year, the Central High School (CHS) Dental Magnet Program is returning and growing in the 2023-2024 school year.

The program began in the spring of 2023 as a partnership between the University of Louisville School of Dentistry (ULSD) and Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS). The goal of the program is to create interest in dentistry careers among the next generation, while also creating pathways into higher education for CHS students.

Rodshay Brooks, and 2013 University of Louisville dental hygiene graduate, leads the Dental Magnet Program. Brooks says the program met and exceeded its goals in the first year. “Students responded to the program with enthusiasm and the hunger to have a dental career intensified,” she says. “As an alumnus of CHS and ULSD, I am excited to continue the CHS/ULSD Pipeline.”

During the first year of the program, Central High School juniors and seniors visited the ULSD radiology clinic. During these visits, they had an opportunity to practice and test their skills taking X-rays.

In addition, selected students pursuing the dental assistant career pathway visited the school once a month. During these visits, they observed patient treatment in some of the dental school’s patient care clinics and participated in hands-on activities with ULSD faculty.

All participants had the chance to learn about the wide range of career options in dentistry, as well as the dental education programs at UofL.

Brooks says this combination of activities gave participants confidence to pursue a dental career. As an added bonus, she says they built a connection with the University of Louisville. “Upon graduating from the ULSD program, students felt a belonging on the campus,” she says.

For the 2023-2024 school year, the program will expand in two ways. The scope of the program will be broadened to include more activities and it will accept more students. The first cohort will begin their activities at ULSD in late September.

Hear from students who participated in the first year of the program at

Henry Cunningham recognized with the 2023 Barbara A. Holland Scholar-Administrator Award

By  October 17, 2023 CUMU News

The Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU) is pleased to announce that Henry R. Cunningham, Ph.D., University of Louisville, was awarded the 2023 Barbara A. Holland Scholar-Administrator Award. Now in its sixth year, this annual award recognizes the growing need for research-informed leadership in higher education.

“On behalf of our board of directors, I want to congratulate Dr. Cunningham,” said Valerie Holton, Ph.D., executive director of CUMU. “It’s clear that the depth and breadth of his scholarship, applied practice, and humility in leadership has helped to make University of Louisville a model for community engagement while also advancing the public mission across higher education.”

Dr. Cunningham is the inaugural director of community engagement at the University of Louisville (UofL) and is the co-founder and co-director of UofL’s International Service-Learning Program, which twice has won the national award from the National Association of Student Affairs Professionals (NASPA) as best international program in the United States.

“Dr. Cunningham has been recognized for his exceptional contributions to community engagement. Through his leadership and scholarly work, he has demonstrated how academia can make a real difference in addressing important challenges facing urban and metropolitan areas,” said Douglas Craddock Jr., Ph.D., vice president for community engagement at UofL. “This is a prestigious honor, reserved for scholars who have shown outstanding leadership and intellectual impact in the field of higher education. It is evident that Dr. Cunningham will play a crucial role in addressing key urban issues through his ongoing academic pursuits.”

As director of community engagement, he has developed policies, programs, structures, and has collaborated with academic and administrative units and community partners to institutionalize community engagement on his campus.

“As an R1 designated institution with a health science campus, we worked to develop an approach to community-based learning that is relevant to the entire campus. Today, there are hundreds of CBL courses being taught in every school and college, affording students the opportunity to engage with the community in meaningful activities to enhance their learning and contribute to the region,” said Cunningham.

Dr. Cunningham was instrumental in developing UofL’s Signature Partnership Initiative in 2007. Since data collection began in 2009, there have been over 21,000 instances of student engagement, and over 4,200 instances of faculty and staff engagement in hundreds of research projects, community-based learning projects, and outreach activities in west Louisville, in collaboration with over 200 community partner organizations. UofL has garnered over $30 million in grants and contracts for service and research projdects that directly benefit west Louisville residents. This work informed multiple publications, including in Metropolitan Universities.

“As an urban institution, community engagement is one of the pillars on which the University of Louisville stands,” said UofL President Kim Schatzel, Ph.D. “Since the early days of our coordinated community engagement effort, Dr. Cunningham has been the driving force behind so many of our programs and activities. He has left an indelible mark on the university, our city and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

The Holland Scholar selection committee, composed of emeriti CUMU presidents and chancellors, identified Dr. Cunningham as a distinguished scholar-administrator—like Dr. Holland—whose leadership and intellectual voice illuminates the transformative power of urban and metropolitan higher education in the lives of individuals and communities.

“Scholarship is an important part of my work and guides decision-making in developing practices and policies to institutionalize community engagement,” said Cunningham. “Engaging in the creation of new knowledge adds to the field and allows me to pull from research as well as personal experiences when working with faculty and others in promoting and guiding community engagement.”

In addition to his role as an administrator, Dr. Cunningham is a faculty member of the College of Arts and Sciences. Originally from Belize, he developed and continues to teach Introduction to Caribbean Studies, a required community-based learning course for Pan-African Studies minors and majors.

Dr. Cunningham contributes to the larger community of scholarship by serving on the executive board of the Engagement Scholarship Consortium, where he also serves as co-chair of the governance committee. Since 2018, he is co-editor of International Journal of Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement (IJRSLCE). Most recently, he was appointed by the American Council on Education as a reviewer for the 2024 cycle of the elective classification in community engagement.

“Receiving this award is uniquely special for me, and I am indeed honored to be walking in the footsteps of Dr. Holland,” said Cunningham

Empowering Tomorrow's Leaders: UofL and Notre Dame's Collaborative Internship Program Drives Community Change

Oct. 5, 2023 by Danielle Henson

Dr. Faisal Aqlan, Raymond Lawrence, William Leung, Jon McCarrick and project mentor Patrick Piuma-Director of UofL’s Urban Design Studio.

As the University of Louisville gears up to face off against Notre Dame in this weekend’s highly anticipated football  showdown, there’s another exciting collaboration taking place between these two esteemed institutions. Beyond the gridiron rivalry, UofL and Notre Dame are joining forces to drive community change and empower the leaders of tomorrow. 

The University of Louisville’s Aqlan Lab team, within the Speed School’s Department of Industrial Engineering, recently wrapped up its second summer hosting an intensive internship program aimed at engaging undergraduate and high school students in community-focused projects. Funded by the National Science Foundation, this dynamic program involved twenty-one interns working on six projects over an eight-week period. The initiative, led by Dr. Faisal Aqlan, focuses on improving educational environments to bolster the regional STEM workforce and effect positive changes in the Louisville Metro community. 

“The second summer of the program went exceedingly well this year,” says Dr. Aqlan. “Moving forward, we hope to continue to grow the program, connect with even more community members, and make a profound impact on the Louisville Metro.” 

Notably, this program collaborates with the University of Notre Dame, creating a synergy that goes beyond football rivalries. Together, they’ve formed a Community Engaged Educational Ecosystem Model (CEEEM), aimed at revitalizing Midwest cities by retaining local talent and encouraging research-driven community engagement. The ultimate goal of the project is to establish an interconnected network of STEM education initiatives to benefit the regional workforce.  

The impact of the 2023 projects was profound, addressing various local challenges such as food justice, walkability improvement in Downtown Louisville, waterway cleanup, virtual reality applications, and the preservation of native species. Throughout the internship, students were exposed to professional development workshops, including design thinking, networking, diversity, and time management.  

The diverse group of interns, hailing from various institutions, collected and analyzed data to develop practical solutions for their respective projects, subsequently presenting these ideas to the community. This program not only equips the next generation of STEM professionals with valuable skills but also instills a strong sense of civic responsibility and community engagement.  

“The CEEEM Internship was the best experience, and I couldn’t be more grateful for all that I learned through the program,” shares Ella Swigler, a 2023 CEEEM intern. “This opportunity allowed me to design a research project, work with very supportive team mentors, and meet some incredible community members in my field of study. Thanks to the CEEEM Internship, I have discovered my research passion for urban waterways- and even greater, I have gained the skills needed to apply scientific study to community change.” 

As the University of Louisville and Notre Dame take the field, they also stand united in their commitment to creating a brighter future for their communities. The collaboration internship program not only equips the next generation of STEM professionals with valuable skills but also instills a strong sense of civic responsibility and community engagement. Together, they aim to foster an environment that encourages participants to remain engaged in the Louisville Metro and other Midwest cities, ultimately leaving a lasting positive impact on the regions they serve. Through this program, students are gaining hands-on experience and contributing to the bet

UofL and partners will fund 15 promising solutions to improve health equity

Law students serve the community while clients enrich their experience


Guided by its namesake’s commitment to public service, UofL’s Louis D. Brandeis School of Law is constantly seeking opportunities to support, grow and engage with the local community.

Having served for years as the alma mater for many of the lawyers based in Jefferson and the surrounding counties, the law school makes its mission to serve the broader Louisville community while also helping law students obtain the practical legal experience they need under the guidance and supervision of experts in the field.

In pursuit of these goals, the Brandeis School of Law built three robust law clinics in the past 15 years. The Ackerson Law Clinic, Entrepreneurship Clinic and Trager-Brandeis Elder Law Clinic have become integral parts of the school in the tradition of Brandeis, the Louisville native and former U.S. Supreme Court associate justice for whom the school is named.

The three clinics operate throughout the academic year and cater to community residents who need support in areas such as housing and family law, business startup and estate planning, but who do not have the means to hire private law firms. 

Expanding help across the community – Ackerson Law Clinic

Founded in 2009, the Robert and Sue Ellen Ackerson Law Clinic is the longest running of the law school’s clinics, and has helped more than 1,400 domestic violence victims to date. It was created to work with emergency protective order hearings, divorce actions and housing cases, with many clients referred from the Legal Aid Society of Louisville. In its 14 years, it has expanded to include a mediation clinic. Most recently, a new translation pilot program has been pioneered with UofL’s classical and modern languages department to serve even more members of the community.

Clinic Director Heend Sheth has been with the Ackerson Clinic since 2018, serving as interim director for two years before her recent appointment. She sees the value to local law firms in hiring students who served in the clinic.

“Each student goes through intense training and is in the courtroom as soon as possible. They are first-chair on their cases in a matter of three or four weeks. I can’t describe how helpful this experience is when you are a new lawyer; we are sending students into the workforce having had real trial experience. Most of our students practice between 10 and 15 cases per semester,” Sheth said. “It’s amazing.”

The Ackerson Clinic’s work gives vital support to people of all backgrounds in the local community; thus, the Interpretation and Translation Pilot program was set in motion this year. Third-year law student Jason Raff conceived the program to help the clinic include potential clients for whom English is a second language, while also supporting the development of language students.

Having previously worked with the Kentucky courts system as an interpreter, Raff’s experience came to mind when he came to Brandeis School of Law. “I felt the Ackerson Clinic had possible language needs that were going unmet,” Raff said. “When I had more contact with the clinic, the idea began to crystalize and take shape.”

Given its success in the first year, Sheth can see this project expanding. “I see a lot of opportunity for growth here, including adding the mediation clinic to the mix,” she said.

Helping startups with their start – Entrepreneurship Clinic

The Entrepreneurship Clinic was founded in 2012 to provide law students with experiential learning opportunities by offering legal support to the Entrepreneurship MBA program at UofL’s College of Business. Here, MBA students are the clients, and representing them takes many forms. Law students at the Entrepreneurship Clinic help frame articles of organization, operating agreements, independent contractor agreements and option agreements for technology while offering opinions of counsel. The clinic runs as a corporate department of a law firm might, with weekly firm meetings covering agreements, accounting, intellectual property, ethics, Food and Drug Administration approval and other topics.

Abi McFarland, a third-year law student, participated in the Entrepreneurship Clinic’s cohort this year to expand her knowledge of the field. “The Entrepreneurship Clinic was a great way to learn practical skills and network with experts in the community,” she said.

With the supervision of clinic directors Will Metcalf and Carlos Hernandez Ocampo, McFarland and her fellow students gained real-world experience. “We were able to apply principles from our doctrinal classes to client interactions with University of Louisville students,” McFarland said. She and her fellow students also receive support from other members of the law faculty and several local firms. Students in this clinic also meet with MBA professors to develop an understanding of their student clients’ ideation process.

McFarland is one of many who benefit from the opportunity to engage with the everyday problems they will encounter in the business field after graduation. She and eight other students worked with the Entrepreneurship Clinic in the past semester, totaling 78 students who have benefited from the clinic in the past five academic years.

Respecting elders with legal aid – Trager-Brandeis Elder Law Clinic

The law school recently developed the Trager-Brandeis Elder Law Clinic in conjunction with the UofL Trager Institute. Designed to meet two important needs, it supports law students through real-life interactions and experiences in the field of estate planning and provides valuable legal advice to those with limited access to resources and legal representation.

The Elder Law Clinic, hosted at the Trager Institute, opened its doors in 2021. The original concept was brought to fruition by Clinic Director Misty Vantrease, an experienced and well-regarded local elder law attorney. Under her supervision, the clinic successfully served 22 clients in just its first year and provided client-facing experiential training to 19 students.

Emily Monarch, co-director of the Elder Law Clinic, is enthusiastic about its mission. “The clinic provides each client with important end-of-life documents such as a durable power of attorney, health care surrogate designation, living will and last will and testament,” Monarch said. “Many clients would not otherwise have access to this service.”

Sydney Dazzo, a third-year law student, demonstrated the impact the clinic has on both the community and the students.

“In talking and working with the clients, it was clear that our efforts were making an impact in their lives as well. The clients I worked with were so appreciative to be getting their estate planning documents in order, Dazzo said. “Being able to help actual clients with their estate planning needs while still in school was a great feeling and has made me even more excited for my future legal career.”

Vantrease is ambitious about the clinic’s future. “As the clinic prepares to take on more clients, we have a dream of one day being a full-time, five days-a-week law clinic. With the support of the community and the University of Louisville, the little clinic that exists today is just the beginning,” she said.

The critical services that these clinics provide are immeasurable and grow with each year. As these programs continue to grow, so do their legacy, true to the school’s namesake and his commitment to public service.

Community Dental Clinic to partner with School of Dentistry in Owensboro


Speed School open STEM+ Hub for K-12 students and community activities


UofL strengthens Ghana pediatric partnership


APLU recognizes UofL project for exemplary community engagement

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) has recognized the University of Louisville for its exemplary community engagement project Age-Friendly Louisville, a partnership of UofL’s Trager InstituteMetro LouisvilleAARP and the Kentuckiana Regional Planning & Development Agency Area Agency on Aging (KIPDA).

“UofL is committed to its role as an engaged institution passionate about partnering and collaborating with external constituencies and communities. This partnership between the university’s Trager Institute and its partners is a win-win for both UofL and the community,” said Douglas Craddock Jr., UofL’s vice president for community engagement. “The university benefits from engaged scholarship, and our elderly citizens receive necessary services that help them live their best lives.”

In 2015, the Trager Institute led efforts to support Louisville’s participation in the Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities by AARP and the World Health Organization (WHO), resulting in Louisville becoming the 120th U.S. Age-Friendly city.

With 40 percent of Louisville’s population projected to be 60 years or older by 2050, creating an environment where seniors could age well in place was essential to promoting well-being and ensuring the city continues to thrive. The Trager Institute guided the creation of a strategic plan using a needs assessment and participatory community engagement approaches, including listening sessions, concept mapping methods and presentations to the public.

“The Trager Institute started on this journey in 2015 to engage community partners in the vision of Age-Friendly Louisville. Community-based organizations, local government and residents across Louisville have worked tirelessly on the strategic plan to realize the dream of becoming age-friendly for all regardless of one’s age or abilities. It has been such an honor to engage in this collaborative leadership,” said Anna Faul, executive director of the Trager Institute.

The Trager Institute partnered with Metro Louisville, AARP and KIPDA to successfully implement Age-Friendly Louisville’s long-term plan to address the needs of the aging population and promote inclusive and accessible communities for people of all ages and abilities.

The internal nominating process for the award was coordinated by UofL’s Office of Community Engagement, which provides coaching and mentoring to faculty prior to final submission. UofL has been recognized for all five award nominations submitted in the past. These awards help to enhance UofL’s national profile in community-engaged scholarship.

APLU also announced that four of its member universities have been selected as regional winners of the 2023 W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Award. North Carolina State University, The Ohio State University, the University of Pittsburgh and Texas A&M University will compete for the national C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award, which will be announced at the 2023 APLU Annual Meeting in November.

Since 2007, APLU and the Engagement Scholarship Consortium, with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, have partnered to honor the engagement scholarship and partnerships of four-year public universities. The award recognizes programs that demonstrate how colleges and universities have redesigned their learning, discovery, and engagement missions to deepen their partnerships and achieve broader impacts in their communities. The national award is named for C. Peter Magrath, APLU president from 1992 to 2005.

Congratulations to the regional winners of the Kellogg Community Engagement Scholarship Awards and exemplary projects,” said APLU President Mark Becker. “Community engagement is a critical part of public universities’ mission and we’re pleased to highlight the work of institutions that are engaging communities to solve challenges. From the underserved areas of their communities and states to overlooked regions of the world, public research universities are engaging communities to solve the most pressing problems they face.”

A team of community engagement professionals from public research universities judged this round of the award. A second team will pick the national winner following presentations at the 2023 National Engagement Scholarship Conference.

UofL joins in celebration of SummerWorks, STEM partnership


Central High School, UofL Speed School partnership paying off


Partnership helps Kent School students discover ways to fight domestic violence


Metropolitan College partnership between UPS, local higher education celebrates a quarter-century of success




Back in the late 1990s, UPS’s Louisville air hub, known today as Worldport, was wrestling with a significant problem. Needing employees round-theclock, the company was finding it difficult to recruit and retain workers for its overnight shifts. As it planned a much-needed expansion, the company knew the problem would only grow.

The solution? Metropolitan College – a unique public-private partnership that dramatically increased tenure among workers during the wee hours each night and provided more than 22,000 students over the past quarter-century the opportunity to earn a college degree debt-free.

Metro College allows students at the University of Louisville or Jefferson Community and Technical College to work third shift at Worldport at Muhammad Ali International Airport. In return, they earn a weekly paycheck and payment of their tuition, academic bonuses and fee payment assistance. The program receives state support to fund up to 50% of tuition and fees. The company also provides academic bonuses that include semester and graduation bonuses.

The program launched in the fall semester of 1998 as a partnership among UofL, JCTC, UPS, Louisville Metro Government and the commonwealth of Kentucky. As it celebrates its 25th anniversary, it has proved to be a resounding success in providing access to education and bolstering the local workforce.

Metro College Counselor Patrick McKinney works with a student.

“Metropolitan College is one of those initiatives that seemingly has no downside,” said UofL President Kim Schatzel. “Prior to my academic career, I spent 20 years in industry, so I see the value of Metro College across the board. In making this program possible, the state of Kentucky, UPS, JCTC and UofL have created a national model of what a combined education-workforce-economic development initiative can and should be.”

High on the list of pride points is that students graduate 100% debt-free. They also have the benefit of the Metro College Career and Academic Planning Program that helps students navigate the higher education experience and find careers after graduation.

“In addition to paying for college, Metro College provides a student with a livelihood while they are in college,” said Ty Handy, JCTC president. “That is crucial for many students who must support themselves either fully or partially while they are in school. And the added value of the career and academic guidance they receive cannot be underestimated.”

Another major result of the program involves third-shift worker tenure. Prior to the program’s launch, the average tenure of a third-shift worker was eight weeks. As of fall 2022, tenure increased to three years.

“For UPS, the success of Metro College has been integral to our ability to deliver what matters to our customers around the world,” said UPS President Jim Joseph. “In addition to the steady source of talent to help us run our Worldport operation, the program provides student-workers the opportunity to pursue their dreams debt-free, while also receiving competitive pay, benefits and work-life experience and guidance. Our community benefits by growing and enhancing the talent pool within the commonwealth. The program really is a win-win-win for all involved.” 

Thalia Almenares

Thalia Almenares came to Louisville in 2016 from Cuba and began work at UPS in 2017. Through Metro College she started taking classes at JCTC before transferring to UofL where she is poised to graduate in May as a dental hygienist.

“UPS was the best bet for my dreams,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it when they told (me) they were going to pay my tuition 100% in full. But also, with the help of the UPS team, I was able to overcome the language barrier and have a job to support my family while earning a great education. The program also provides you with a great work-life balance. I wasn’t sure if it was possible to be a student and work at the same time, but UPS opens that door.”

Another program benefit is the chance to learn leadership skills and to rise in the ranks while still enrolled in college. Just ask Jeff Wafford ’03 and Donovan Neal ’19.

“Coming out of high school, I knew I couldn’t pay for college. I was actually planning to go into the military until a friend of mine told me about UPS two months before the semester started,” Neal said. “I began in August 2012 in the UPS hub as a package handler and eventually got a role as a supervisor in finance and accounting.” He graduated from UofL with a degree in finance and today works in human resources for UPS.

Likewise, Wafford progressed through the ranks of the multinational shipping company. He enrolled in Metro College more than two decades ago and started as a package handler. “I then became a training and development supervisor, training new hires, and I’ve been lucky enough to advance through customer relations and business development.” 

Wafford, now director of public affairs in government affairs, continues to tout Metro College. “Today, I not only have the chance to talk about it to our leaders here locally and throughout Kentucky but also to the states I cover, in the Virginias and the Carolinas. They all want to know, ‘What can we do in our states to have a program like this?’ ”

Almenares and Neal talk up the program as well.

“I tell people that if UPS is my big family, then Metro College would be my mother,” Almenares said. “I say this because my mother makes sure that I have food, that I feel supported and loved, that I have everything I need. Well, Metro College provides me everything regarding school needs.”

Donovan Neal

“I was a supervisor in finance and accounting, but I knew my impact could be greater in an HR role because I wanted to actually talk to these students,” Neal said. “I tell them, all you have to do is work third shift and maintain a C (average) or better, versus having to pay for your tuition.”

The rigors of overnight work – Metro College students work 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. about 15 hours per week – coupled with college enrollment can be daunting, but Metro College staff at UofL and JCTC help students handle it. The staff members advise entering students to enroll as a parttime student to get adjusted to the new routine. And they provide advice on life skills that students may need.

“I am extremely grateful to all the Metro College staff because the wraparound services they provide are vital,” Wafford said. “I barely knew how to open a checking account when I started, so to have somebody explain things like this to me was so important. These are the things that are so vital to these students that make the program a success.”

As for handling the late hours that the job requires, Wafford notes that working overnight may not be as much of a problem as might be imagined.

“Twenty-three years ago, my then-college roommate and I were up at 3 o’clock in the morning, as college students sometimes are, and we saw this ad for Metro College,” he said. “We said, ‘You know what? We should do this. We’re up all night anyway. We have these loans we’re getting ready to take out, and we need some money.’ So the next day, we applied.

“I’ve talked about Metro College for 23 years and hopefully (because of) my son, I’ll get to talk about it for the next 23 years,” Wafford said “Let’s keep this program going, for the students, for the future of the commonwealth.”

For more information about Metro College visit

Community Engagement

University of Louisville

2323 S. Brook St.

Louisville, KY 40208

(502) 852-6026

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