When Maymie Owens was a University of Louisville undergraduate, she blazed a new path as a first-generation student.
Seizing opportunities has since become her hallmark.
In December 2023 she graduated from UofL with dual Master of Public Administration/Master of Urban Planning (MPA/MUP) degrees from the College of Arts & Sciences.
It is a program she had not planned to pursue after she earned her bachelor’s degree in 2020 from the School of Public Health and Information Sciences just as the pandemic set in.
But there she was, and, given a chance to put her classroom learning to work through contact tracing, she jumped into the unknown. Soon, she was supervising UofL’s pandemic contact tracing team.
Owens, who had paid her own way through her undergraduate years, dreamed of getting a master’s degree. She was attracted to the dual degree master’s program because it offered a graduate assistantship that would pay for her tuition. She jumped again into the unknown.
“If I’m being completely honest,” she said, “I didn’t know anything about urban planning before I went into the degree. Then I fell in love with urban planning!”
She didn’t get discouraged by being one of only three African-American students or being younger than many of her older professional classmates. And soon, the more she learned, the more she connected what she was learning to her public health foundation.
This time around, Owens also took another leap and became more involved in student life on campus. Her undergraduate years were consumed by the demands of jobs and commuting, but the graduate assistantship meant she had more time to explore being a student.
Owens “got involved in anything I could get my hands on,” she said. “I was like, well, I have the free time. I’m going to try to pour myself into the school.” One highlight was presenting research at the 2022 Southeastern Conference for Public Administration (SECoPA), where she was a runner-up for a prestigious award for most outstanding paper.
“I was that kid that got taken out of class to take extra reading classes and needed tutors,” she said. “Just to be where I am today and do as well as I’m doing, I’m really proud of that because it took a long time to get over those hurdles growing up.”
Owens, a graduate of Louisville’s Butler Traditional High School, said she has always been inspired by her mother, a server who works multiple jobs as a single parent of three. She hopes earning her master’s degree will help set her on a career path that leads to financial longevity for generations to come. She even earned her state license to sell life insurance to help others plan for the future.
For now, she plans to pursue a career in philanthropy. Owens is a coordinator of corporate and foundation relations in UofL’s Office of Advancement. She thinks often about the generous donors whose gifts made her graduate assistantship possible.
“I don’t know who to thank, but someone out there made that possible,” she said. “I want to learn all that I can learn to better help other students and our university be successful.”