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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.

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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