Sacasha Brown was living in New York City when terrorists crashed two passenger jets into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
She worked in midtown Manhattan, not close enough to actually see what happened, but she remembers the panic and confusion, the crowds of people wandering dazedly through the streets, a feeling of relief that she was not at Ground Zero but also a fear that the attack was only the first of many.
Eventually, the shock of those events began to subside, but for Brown, something equally powerful took their place – a resolution to re-examine her life.
“After 9/11, I started to reflect on my goals. I decided that I wanted to make a significant impact on the world, but for that I would need to acquire new knowledge and skills.”
The decision led her to Harvard Business School (HBS), from which she will graduate today (June 8) with a master’s degree in business administration.
Even before 9/11, Brown was never one to skimp on learning or to ignore the need for goals. The daughter of working-class parents, she was born and raised in Delray Beach, Fla., about 30 minutes north of Fort Lauderdale. Her parents always emphasized the value of education and hard work, and Brown still remembers the lines from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Ladder of St. Augustine” that her mother would quote to her whenever she seemed in danger of losing her sense of purpose:
Her hard work paid off when she was admitted to Georgetown University where she studied business management and finance. It was a long way from Delray Beach, but the support of her family and her Baptist faith helped to steady her on her upward climb.
“I always had a dream of going to college, and I found that each stage opened my eyes to bigger opportunities. God always dreams bigger dreams for you than you can dream yourself.”
After graduating from Georgetown, Brown took a job with Credit Suisse, the global financial services company. She worked in the firm’s New York office, remaining there for four years.
“It taught me a lot, not only about investment banking and finance, but about responsibility and self-discipline. It’s a very competitive environment, but I learned that if you’re adding value, you’ll stay. ‘Toiling upward’ takes on a whole new meaning.”
At HBS, Brown has taken full advantage of her academic opportunities while serving her fellow students as education committee chair and as a mentor to incoming students. She has also volunteered at Transition House in Cambridge, a shelter for abused women.
Now, as an HBS graduate, Brown looks forward to taking a job that will allow her to empower people and to have a positive impact on society.
“I want to help people grow an idea into something that will make life better, to provide jobs and resources. I’m willing to go anywhere where my sense of purpose and my passion can be utilized.”
As she thinks about where she has come from, where she’s been, and where she is heading, Brown feels an overwhelming sense of gratitude.
“God has blessed me. He’s guided me from a small town in Florida to graduation from Harvard. I didn’t always know the answers, but he always put someone in my path to help.”