ASU wins Digital Edge 25 award for work on Starbucks College Achievement Plan

January 13, 2016

Arizona State University’s technological support for the ASU-Starbucks College Achievement Plan has been recognized as one of the 25 best digital initiatives in the nation by IDG Enterprise in its Digital Edge 25 awards.

IDG Enterprise is a leading enterprise technology media company whose publications include Infoworld, Computerworld and CIO. Download Full Image

IDG honored ASU’s extensive technical work to ensure a tailored, supportive environment for Starbucks employees, known within Starbucks as partners, who take advantage of the program. ASU’s efforts grew out of a team effort among the University Technology Office, EdPlus, the Provost’s Office, the Marketing Hub and others.

The Starbucks College Achievement Plan (CAP) is a partnership that provides tuition reimbursement for benefits-eligible Starbucks partners — and, for partners who are veterans, a spouse or child — who work toward earning their undergraduate degrees through the ASU online campus.

“The award places emphasis not only on the digital innovation, but on how it furthered the strategic goals of the organization,” said Gordon Wishon, chief information officer for ASU. “Making quality education accessible is a critical part of ASU’s strategic goals, and digital and technological innovation are just a piece of that puzzle.”

Wishon described the project as leveraging technology to support innovative solutions and said this project was unique because of the partnerships involved.

“We are now the main provider of college education to a growing global company’s partners, providing them with an opportunity to pursue higher education. That’s a model we’d like to build on,” Wishon said. “The award also highlights the hard work and truly collaborative effort among an array of university teams.”

Success wasn’t just completing the technical part of the project and moving on to the next task.

“When we graduated the first student in the CAP,” Wishon said, “that was success.”

ASU’s teams worked on multiple fronts, said Leah Lommel, chief operating officer for EdPlus.

“While many of the educational services were already offered to ASU Online students, it was important that we work together across the university to continue to streamline the process, policies, services and technologies to create a seamless integration with Starbucks,” Lommel said. "Going to college is as much an emotional decision as it is a financial decision, and we need to ensure we surround our students with the tools and services to be successful."

This was a critical element to success, both she and Wishon said.

“It’s important that we make this process as easy and painless as possible, or else people won’t take advantage of the program,” Lommel said. “We want people to succeed.”

This award places ASU’s innovations at the same level as other winners, such as the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Kaiser Permanente and Verizon. Entries were evaluated on complexity, scale, outcomes and innovation, and winners spanned over a dozen industries.

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Instilling an entrepreneurial mind-set in high schoolers

Obama to speak at high school partaking in ASU innovation program.
ASU Innovation through Design Thinking program teaches entrepreneurial mind-set.
January 13, 2016

Obama visiting one of eight schools using ASU program that teaches students how to creatively solve problems in community

Just two days after his final State of the Union address, President Barack Obama will make his first trip as president to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he will speak Thursday morning at McKinley High School.

McKinley High is one of eight schools across the nation partaking in the Innovation through Design Thinking (iDT) program, a product of Arizona State University’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation that trains teachers to embed entrepreneurial thinking in their classrooms.

Katherine Clemens, manager of K-12 initiatives for the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, helped develop the program to meet the growing need for more entrepreneurial and STEM-based curricula at the high school level, and especially among underrepresented communities.

“For students to be successful in the jobs of the future, for students to be able to solve the challenges of the future, it is critical that they have an innovative mind-set,” said Clemens. “To do this, we need to teach students how to think entrepreneurially and how to use an innovative design process, which is essential to the creative problem-solving process.”

In the iDT program, all of that is tied to real-world problem-solving in the students’ own communities, where they collaborate with local businesses to find solutions through the development of a mobile app — a process that is beneficial to both the students and the businesses.

“The feedback from the businesses has been great,” said Clemens, who often travels around the country to check in on the different schools, assess what’s working and make changes where necessary.

“They have so much enthusiasm about being connected to education and the students because they feel value in the fact that they’re teaching the students a lot. The students have enjoyed learning about small businesses and nonprofits because many have their own entrepreneurial ideas, and one of the goals of the program is to teach them how to make their ideas a reality, to show them what the day-to-day of that looks like, what the process looks like, and why it’s important to support local businesses.

“As well, the students are able to apply their knowledge and skills in a meaningful way that shows them how they can contribute to their community, and [the local businesses] are able to get an outside perspective, which is great.”

A woman poses for a photo in a classroom.

Katherine Clemens, manager
of K-12 initiatives for ASU's Office
of Entrepreneurship and Innovation,
said the students and the teachers
training them in app development
have found the whole iDT process

One of the projects students at McKinley are working on is in collaboration with Knock Knock Children's Museum, a brand-new museum that will open this year down the street from the high school. Through the iDT program, students were trained in app development, marketing and business strategy to develop an app to schedule tours; provide directions and museum times; send push notifications for museum events; provide a museum map locator to let patrons know where they are in the museum; and offer a how-to-get-to-another-museum feature.

Clemens reports that both the students and the teachers who are training them in app development have found the whole process empowering.

“Overall, the teachers are very excited about it,” she said. “They have a lot of freedom to guide their students through the project to determine what will work best in their classroom. And the students are excited that they get to take on a leadership role, meeting directly with business owners.”

What’s more, many of the teachers who have participated in the program are eager to share what they’ve learned about teaching app development with other teachers in their schools, sometimes planning professional development courses to show other teachers how to do what they learned and serve the overall purpose of helping students develop an entrepreneurial mind-set.

“Entrepreneurial skills and design thinking are key to preparing high school students to thrive in an innovation economy,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, ASU's senior vice president for Knowledge Enterprise Development. “Using the train-the-trainer model as part of the Innovation through Design Thinking, ASU is empowering educators and their students to create solutions for challenges within their own communities.”

In iDT’s first year, it reached 12 teachers and 350 students. In its second year, those numbers have jumped to 24 teachers and more than 600 students. The Verizon Foundation has been a major player in helping to implement the program, awarding more than $1.2 million in grant funds to ASU since iDT’s launch in 2014.

According to Clemens, the program is a great example of how ASU is involved in embedding and advancing entrepreneurship in schools in underserved communities across the country and providing students a pathway to college.

“ASU is really creating a new higher-education experience that has a focus on entrepreneurship, social embeddedness and real-world problem-solving, so part of this project is to help share the knowledge and skills that we’ve developed to showcase ASU’s expertise in this area,” said Clemens.

On a larger scale, the iDT program is also poised to aid in showcasing the educational excellence of the U.S. as a country — one which President Obama passionately asserted in his address Tuesday is “the most powerful nation on Earth. Period.”