Latasha Sessoms’ parents made sure she knew the value of an education. With six daughters, her father worked more than one job to make ends meet.
“Even though he didn’t have a high school diploma or any college education, he pushed education,” Sessoms says of her father. “We had to attend school and read daily.”
Sessoms received her high school diploma, an associate’s degree, and then her bachelor’s degree in 2011. In May of 2017 she completed UNCG’s online Master of Arts in Liberal Studies, now the Master of Arts in Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS).
“Coming from a very challenging background and how I was raised, it was just a dream and a desire I’ve always wanted,” Sessoms says. She was determined to be the first in her family to earn a master’s degree.
A master’s degree you can tailor
The MAAS program appealed to her because of its diverse content across disciplines. “I like the fact that I could design or create the program to be what I wanted it to be,” she says. The program’s flexibility allowed her to learn about peace and conflict, religion, marketing, and leadership.
The online program uses project-based courses to teach skills employers are looking for. Students solve real-world problems and are able to apply them to their job immediately.
Putting new skills to use
With a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Sessoms hopes to use her new skills to brand the business she started in 2010 from her Clayton, N.C., home making and selling all-natural Shea moisture butter, body scrubs, candles, and soaps. Before deciding to stay at home with her kids several years ago, she was an office manager for a psychologist’s office.
The MAAS Design Thinking course teaches innovative ways to solve problems, and Sessoms was able to pinpoint weaknesses in her business and redesign those areas.
“After taking the Design Thinking class, I realized how to market more effectively to my target audience,” she says. She learned to focus on what her customers want—beautiful, clear skin, and results. So her product reflects that, with natural ingredients that nurture the skin.
She also learned to look at the details—redesigning her labels for a more appealing look.
Learning skills for any work environment
Until Sessoms gets her business on track, she plans to find a job to help fund it. Her master’s degree and the knowledge she gained there can help. Sessoms learned about mediation and how to diffuse conflict in her peace and conflict course. She learned about effective communication in her leadership class.
The biggest surprise was a writing course—Creating Family Stories. “When I signed up for the class, I thought it would be me researching my history, where I came from, genetics,” she says.
But Sessoms learned a lot about herself, creating her own story. “I was able to heal from past pains and hurts that I thought I was over,” she says. “Professor Fragola really made us do some soul searching.”
Students had to critique one another’s work and learn to be sensitive to personal information shared. It gave Sessoms perspective about what other people have gone through.
“At the end of the day, I became more compassionate and patient when listening to other people’s problems,” she says. “These skills I have learned will equip me to handle difficult situations more effectively in my professional career.”