How a Partnership Between ASU and Uber Helped This 52-Year-Old Driver Finally Get His Degree

Darrell Hill graduating from ASU. (Photo courtesy of Darrell Hill)

By Alyssa Bickle

June 7, 2023

Darrell Hill graduated with a 3.81 GPA, making the Dean’s List seven times – all while completing his degree hundreds of miles away from any ASU campus. 

Darrell Hill started his college education journey decades ago at Utah State University on a football scholarship—and he finished it at Arizona State University at 52 years old with plans to attend graduate school.

Hill grew up in Oakland, California, as the oldest of three children to a single mother. He now lives in Los Angeles, where he was able to complete his Bachelor of Arts in organizational leadership through ASU Online

In 2020, Hill did not like the direction the country was taking, prompting thoughts of a career change. “I sat back and thought, how can I make an impact between different cultures, different ethnicities,” Hill said. 

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Hill chose the program after deciding he wanted to pursue a career in diversity, equity, and inclusion—as a trainer, consultant, or diversity officer to build bridges and create safe spaces for marginalized groups. 

Shortly after starting work as a security officer at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 2019, Hill began driving for Uber part time to supplement his income, leading him to learn about ASU’s partnership with the rideshare company

Hill applied, was accepted, and enrolled in ASU to begin his studies with all of his tuition costs covered through the partnership, while still driving 50 hours a week for Uber. 

Support from his fiancée, a lot of sleepless nights, and an intense motivation to start his dream career pushed Hill forward.  

“I’ve met people from all over the world, so many interesting people,”Hill said. “Believe it or not, Uber has done more for me than I’ve done for Uber.” 

Succeeding as an Online Student

Jennifer Chandler, associate teaching professor at ASU, teaches a foundations of project management class that Hill took. In this class, she often has a number of “non-traditional” students who are in their 40s and 50s.   

From what Chandler has seen,the ability for these students to weave the experiences they have had in their lives and the professional world into the coursework—using them as examples of the concepts being taught—is very striking.

“I met some fascinating, intelligent, well-rounded people [in class] who actually shaped me into who I am,” Hill said. “I’m a strong believer that iron sharpens iron and my classmates were brilliant.”

Even though an online format might seem sort of impersonal, it actually gives professors the opportunity to connect more directly and in more meaningful ways with each student, Chandler said.

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One of the things that Hill brought to the course was simplicity, making things clear when working with other students while at the same time providing great detail, Chandler said.

The professors in the organizational leadership degree program were very hands on and accessible when something did not make sense, offering help to navigate problems with a desire to see everyone graduate, Hill said. 

In addition to the option to log onto Uber at any time of the day, Hill had complete control of his time. 

“Going to school online was probably the most integral point in this whole relationship between me and ASU because I could come home and get on my laptop. I didn’t have to worry about going to a class and everything was accelerated,” Hill said. 

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A course in conflict management was one that particularly stood out to Hill, taught by ASU instructor Bill Erwin.

Erwin teaches a kind of martial art called the Aikido Way. One of the pillars of this practice is remaining physically centered, calm, and present in a situation involving conflict, Erwin said. 

“I’ve learned how to recognize conflict at home and at work as an opportunity to build stronger relationships, encourage growth and develop a more communicative approach,” Hill said. 

Looking to the Future 

Hill plans on pursuing a master’s degree at ASU and working with Teach For America, a program that places recent college graduates and professionals in urban and rural classrooms with the option to receive graduate education funding. 

Hill would like to teach in an inner city to be an inspiration to other young people. 

“Being an African American and coming from a really rough environment … I think that’s important for them [students] to identify with someone that looks like them, to give them hope,” Hill said.  

Hill walked at ASU’s commencement on May 11 with his father, son, and fiancée in attendance. “It was the best experience in my life,” Hill said. “I’ll never forget it. It was really really special.”

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the subject’s age. We regret the error.


  • Alyssa Bickle

    Alyssa Bickle is an affordability and LGBTQ+ reporting intern for The Copper Courier. She expects to graduate in May 2024 with degrees in journalism and political science and a minor in urban and metropolitan studies. She has reported for Cronkite News and The State Press and is an assistant research analyst at ASU’s Center for Latina/os and American Politics Research.

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