For Shakir Shukor, driving a bus isn’t just a job – it’s an investment in his future. Shukor is using UTA’s tuition reimbursement program to complete his MBA, with plans to become an operations supervisor or work in human resources. It’s vastly different from his life just a few years ago, when Shukor was reporting for the BBC in Iraq.

“I was covering news across the whole county, but my life was in real danger,” he said. “Because I was a journalist working for a British agency, the militias were targeting me.”

Eventually, the situation grew so dangerous that in 2006, he sent his wife and three young children to live in Damascus, Syria. Shukor couldn’t leave the office unless he had a body guard or rode along with a U.S. military patrol.

Over the next three years, Shukor would see his family only periodically as he continued reporting in Iraq. He finally moved to Syria and worked briefly for an Iraqi satellite channel in Damascus before bringing his family to the United States in 2009.

“I came with big dreams,” he said. “I wanted to find a safe place for my kids to grow up, to get to finish their educations. I wanted the same for me – I wanted to finish my education.”

Shukor was drawn to Utah by the state’s reputation as a family-friendly place to raise children. He worked at KSL, as a pharmacy technician and as a FedEx driver before starting work for UTA in 2013. He said he appreciates the company’s health and tuition benefits and uses breaks in his schedule to complete online classes. After eight months of graduate school, Shukor said his grades are higher than many of his classmates who are native English speakers with business experience.

“I’ve finished six classes, all with A-minuses and B-plusses,” he said.

Shukor’s wife is a programming coordinator for a daycare, his oldest child is completing engineering prerequisites at Salt Lake Community College and the two younger kids are in 11th and sixth grades. When Shukor asked them if they’d consider returning to a safer part of the Middle East someday, the answer was clear.

“They said, ‘We cannot leave,’” Shukor said. “They grew up here, and all their memories are here.”

Learn more about a career as a UTA bus operator here. Bus operators receive $14 an hour after training and receive tuition reimbursement, health and medical benefits.