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ASU Online student reaches graduation milestone through Starbucks College Achievement Plan


ASU Online Student Carrie Hough

Carrie Hough pursued her business communication degree without debt thanks to the Starbucks College Achievement Plan.

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May 02, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

ASU online student Carrie Hough had a lifelong goal. She hoped to be able to complete her bachelor’s degree with little to no debt. With this goal in mind, Hough enrolled at Arizona State University in the Fall 2015, just a year after ASU and Starbucks announced their first-of-its-kind partnership.

“As a store manager with Starbucks for 17 years, I was thrilled to be able earn my lifelong goal of having a bachelor’s degree without debt. I chose to attend ASU in order to earn my degree through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan.”

When it came time to choose her degree program, Hough decided to major in the Business (Communication) program through the W. P. Carey School of Business, which has allowed her to grow her expertise as a manager and strengthen her communication skills within her current role at Starbucks.

During her time at ASU, Hough also developed an interest in history after taking four courses with Brock Ruggles, an instructor with the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. According to Hough, “These history courses opened my eyes to the role and level of responsibility that the United States has to the rest of the world. I now feel like I have the ‘big picture’ and can use these lessons to educate and help others be better citizens and corporate leaders.”

In order to celebrate this milestone, Hough is traveling from her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, to Tempe in order to attend commencement and other graduation events with her classmates and fellow Starbucks partners. Hough also recognizes Starbucks’ partnership with ASU that has allowed her to complete her degree while receiving full tuition coverage from her company.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? 

Answer: In one my communication courses, COM 430, the textbook clearly stated, “Communication is leadership.” I’ve always felt that I am a good leader and a good communicator, so being able to formally study communications has reinforced that this skill is essential for building meaningful, lasting relationships.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: I took all four of Brock Ruggles’ online history courses as part of my elective courses (Contemporary America, Vietnam War, the Modern Middle East, and Immigration and Ethnicity). Being a business major, I was able to connect our actions as a country to the broader world theater and understand our impact on other countries’ economic well-being, military actions and cultural identities.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I have had so many great experiences with professors at ASU. Being an online student, personal interactions were very intermittent; I’ve only ever met one professor in person. I think that every interaction that I’ve had with a professor at ASU has been one full of compassion, reason and understanding. This is a very important life lesson for me to remember when I get busy: Take time to recognize the individual and their struggle. Act with compassion and provide reasonable expectations and solutions.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: If I were to give advice to someone who is still in school, it would be to not be afraid to ask for help when needed. The staff and professors at the school want to see you succeed. They will help you find resources if you are struggling! Ask your friends and family for help; they don’t know you need it until you ask. This journey is not one that we take alone.

Q: As an online student, what was your favorite spot for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: When my oldest son moved out of the house, I was able to turn his bedroom into an office space. I love schoolwork and studying, but it was great to be able to separate schoolwork from home life by being able to shut the door. Being present at home and at work is important to me, so it was beneficial to be able to feel like I could break away when needed.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My immediate plan after graduation would be to read a book for fun! I have an interest in pursuing an MBA but will probably give myself some time to rest before pursuing that option. As far as a career options go, I have no pressing plan to leave Starbucks, as I would prefer an internal promotion, but would be open to other options if the perfect position in a great company was presented to me.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would hope to build a crowdfunded microfinance company similar to Kiva. I believe that by empowering people, especially women, to find a way to support themselves and their families through their own work, we can start the elimination of poverty. By connecting funds to those that are needy, we can provide them a sustainable way to enrich their lives and protect themselves from the inherent risks of unemployment and poverty. There are many very brilliant people in the world that have much better ideas than I ever could imagine about how to improve their lives — they just need a chance to prove it!

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