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5 years later, still going strong

First SCAP partners began taking ASU Online classes in October 2014.
>3K have earned ASU degree through tuition program while working at Starbucks.
October 15, 2019

More than tuition: Trailblazing Starbucks College Achievement Plan continues to offer partners support, flexibility with ASU Online

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. Read more top stories from 2019.

Thousands of Arizona State University graduates will forever associate the heady aroma of piping hot coffee with their hard work in completing college. At the fifth anniversary of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, more than 3,000 people have earned their bachelor’s degree while working at Starbucks.

More than 80 degrees are offered through ASU Online. For many, the plan — in which Starbucks employees, called “partners,” are reimbursed for tuition every semester — was a chance to get back on track with a dream that was temporarily delayed.

One of the proud graduates is Robert Lamb, who had to put college on hold in order to go to work.

“My parents had always told me from a young age how important education was, and I had an opportunity to go to Howard University right out of high school,” he said. After five years, he was close to graduating but had to leave school to work.

“I was always determined to go back,” he said.

He started working at Starbucks in 2010 and last year joined the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. He was able to transfer more than 100 credits, but he was still a little nervous about returning to school.

“I liked the flexibility of online classes, and having eight years of real-life experiences helped me to be structured and disciplined,” he said.

After three semesters, Lamb graduated with a degree in liberal studies and is grateful for the help he had along the way.

“I had the support of my district manager, my regional director, the other partners,” he said. “We have the Workplace Scholar Group, with encouraging messages to each other. That combination helped me get through it. Starbucks has a really great structure and support system, and there’s someone to support you every step of the way.”

Lamb recently finished a temporary assignment with the SCAP program in Seattle and now is a store manager in Baltimore.

“It was amazing to be able to give back to the program that gave me and my family so much,” he said.

ASU President Michael Crow accepts coffee trees from Starbucks partners

Starbucks partners Alexa Kerege (center) and Amber Lawson — who are pursuing their ASU Online degrees in community health and communications, respectively, through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan — present ASU President Michael Crow with seedling coffee trees at a surprise celebration for the fifth anniversary of the Starbucks-ASU partnership Oct. 9 in Tempe. Photo by Alisha Mendez/EdPlus at ASU

Kaede Balazs was the first Starbucks partner to graduate using the program, the first classes for which began in mid-October 2014.

“I originally began college in 2002, and that’s also when I applied to work at Starbucks because I heard they were really accommodating with school schedules and I could have access to benefits even working part-time, which was great for a college student,” Balazs said.

She earned an associate degree and then decided to pause her education while working to save up for a bachelor’s degree.

“That turned into six or seven years,” she said. “But I always wanted to go back to school.”

In 2011, she moved to the Valley and the following year began classes at ASU’s Tempe campus. She wanted more flexibility, so she switched to ASU Online.

“It was perfect because we moved to Germany for a temporary work assignment and I could go to school while living abroad,” she said.

She was in her last semester when the Starbucks College Achievement Plan began. Because she needed only a few credits to complete her mass communication and media studies degree, she graduated in December 2014, after only one ASU Online half-semester session. She now works on the team at Starbucks headquarters in Seattle that handles communications with retail stores.

“It’s so rewarding because it feels like I came full circle. To do work in my degree field and support the stores, where I started, is great,” Balazs said.

“I was kind of hesitant to go back to school because it had been so long. I was worried about whether I could keep up, was I too old, did I miss my window? But it really helped me to grow as a person, and it’s so special to fulfill a promise I made to myself so many years ago.”

Corporations and universities working together

When ASU and Starbucks announced the plan in 2014, it was one of a kind. Since then, other companies, including Uber, have partnered with ASU to provide tuition assistance to their employees. That’s important because increasing the number of college graduates is vital to the economy. According to data from the Department of Education, bachelor's degree-holders typically earn 66% more than those with only a high school diploma and are far less likely to face unemployment.

More than 13,000 Starbucks partners are now in the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, according to Lisa Young, executive director of Starbucks initiatives for EdPlus at ASU.

“Our partnership with Starbucks is the exemplar of how corporations and universities may come together to create real impact at the individual, community and macroeconomic level,” she said.

Over the years, the program has flourished.

  • In 2015, Starbucks expanded benefits to family members of veterans who work at Starbucks.
  • Starting in 2016, graduates were given a “stole of gratitude” to wear at commencement, with the ASU and Starbucks logos on them. The company also started a contest for partners to win an all-expenses-paid trip to graduation at ASU.
  • Starting in 2017, partners who wanted to pursue a degree but who didn’t qualify were offered Pathway to Admission, in which they could take up to 10 college-level courses, with costs covered.
  • Also in 2017, the company began the Workplace Scholar Group for students who wanted to connect and support each other.
  • Earlier this year, ASU added Starbucks-specific support teams in the enrollment and success centers.

After 20 years away from school, Diane Trimble was nervous about resuming classes. She had started college years earlier but dropped out when she had a family. Then in 2015, her manager at Starbucks encouraged her to sign up for SCAP.

“At that time, my son was asking me about college and what he should major in,” she said.

“And I had to think, ‘How can I be an advocate for college if I didn’t finish myself?’”

She was able to transfer a lot of credits, so she set a goal of finishing her degree before her son graduated from high school. And she did it. By taking 18 credits a semester, she was able to earn her degree in organizational leadership in December 2016.

But that wasn’t the end.

“I fell in love with Arizona State University, and I fell in love with education and I wanted more,” said Trimble, who is a Starbucks store manager and lives in Victorville, California.

So she enrolled in a master’s degree program in sustainability leadership and finished that last year. Now, she’s pursuing a doctorate of education.  

“I realized there was a big gap in our education system when it comes to our youth, and I wanted to do more in my community,” she said.

Trimble also is a leader of the new SCAP Alumni Association and is an ambassador for the Starbucks program, visiting high schools and attending career fairs.

“I’m continuing to do the work to move the needle one partner at a time to educate them and help them become a SCAP partner.”

Top photo: Sparky visits Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson for a fifth-anniversary celebration Oct. 8 in Seattle. Photo by Connor Surdi

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


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ASU theater students tap into fantasy for 'Kiss of the Spider Woman' costumes

Student costume designers tap into fantasy for 'Kiss of the Spider Woman'
October 15, 2019

Halloween do-it-yourselfers can get tips from the pros

The “Kiss of the Spider Woman” is a play about politics and fantasy, and the Arizona State University student production that will debut on Friday allowed for a lot of creativity in the costuming.

The female dancers in the show are imaginary — conjured in the minds of the two male characters who are in prison.

The show, a production of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, will feature costumes designed by Paige Lockwood, a senior majoring in theater design and production, and created by Niamh Murphy, the draper for the show who also is a senior majoring in theater design and production.

The students started working with the director, Guillermo Reyes, professor of theater, back in the spring semester to create the otherworldly vision of the costumes, according to Sarah Moench, clinical assistant professor of costume technology.

“This show, with the theatricality of the dancers’ costumes in particular, is a great way to illustrate how we go about making costumes and to showcase what our students are doing,” she said.

“We get a lot of interest in this around Halloween.”

Here are some ways to come up with a costume like the pros:

colored pencil sketch of costumes for 'Kiss of the Spider Woman'

Costume sketches were created by Paige Lockwood, the costume designer, who is a senior majoring in theater production and design with a minor in studio art. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Start early

“Some people start planning their Halloween costume the day after Halloween for the next year,” Moench said. “For us, the theater production schedule starts 23 weeks out from the opening.”

For “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” students were cast in the roles and Lockwood’s costume research and preliminary sketches were done by the end of the spring semester. Her final designs were due shortly after fall semester started.

“About 13 weeks out is when I come to the first meeting and talk about the production side,” Moench said.

back of a woman wearing spider-themed costume

The silk shawl worn by Ausette Anderies in "Kiss of the Spider Woman" was hand painted with silk dye for a "spidery" effect. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Do your research

Lockwood started the costume design process by collaborating with the director and then researching the era.

The play is set in a prison in 1970s Argentina, a politically turbulent time. The 1985 movie starred William Hurt, Raul Julia and Sonia Braga, although Lockwood did not see it.

“I try not to watch movie interpretations because I don’t want to be influenced by other designers’ choices,” she said.

In the play, the character Molina passes the time in prison by discussing a movie from the 1940s, so Lockwood took inspiration from that for the “femme fatale” character’s costume.

“I looked at images of 1940s noir films and those powerful female characters with the long silky black dresses that are slender and have movement and are sensual,” she said.

“I wanted to get that sleek look and I also got inspiration from Argentinian tango because that started in Buenos Aires in the 1940s. That’s why I have the slit up her leg.”

Lockwood emphasized the “femme fatale’s” arms with black lace to get that sensuality and darkness of the character.

She also created the “spider woman” character’s costume.

“For that, I had a lot of creative freedom because there isn’t really a time period or exact look, because she’s in his imagination and it’s surrealism.

“So I looked at surrealistic artwork from that time, I found paintings of women who looked dangerous and mysterious and I was inspired by that.”

women kneeling to tailor dress worn by other woman

Niamh Murphy, costumer draper for "Kiss of the Spider Woman," makes an adjustment on the "femme fatale" costume worn by junior Ausette Anderies at the Nelson Fine Arts Center costume shop. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Consider professional touches

Murphy created the “femme fatale” costume out of silk charmeuse, which stretches, so it’s comfortable for the dancer.

But the fabric is expensive. So first, the drapers make the costume out of inexpensive fabric to perfect the fit and tweak the design. For example, the “femme fatale” costume was modified to have princess seaming in the bodice, which works better for a dancer.

“We did the mockup so that’s always comforting, and so you know how much fabric it will take and any roadblocks you might face,” said Murphy, who learned to sew in high school and refined her skills at ASU.

For the shawl that goes with the “Spider Woman” costume, Moench and Lockwood created the spidery effect by hand-painting the white silk with silk dye. Then, they sewed dress weights to the corners to enhance the graceful motion as the actor walked with the shawl flowing behind her. Do-it-yourselfers can add coins to a hem or edge to create the same finished effect.

woman trying on a costumer

Costume designer Paige Lockwood, left, watches as Ausette Anderies tries on the "femme fatale" costume for the "Kiss of the Spider Woman" production. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

 Don’t forget “extras”

“People making their Halloween costume have a budget and we have one too,” Moench said.

The students had $750 to spend on all the costumes, including shoes, plus hair and makeup. Some of the items, such as the black lace for the “femme fatale” costume, were in the costume stock. The silk was expensive but actually cost less to buy in bulk, so there’s plenty left over for another costume in the future.

Moench’s tip for Halloween costumers:

“We always set aside 10% of that budget as a contingency, so if we find out we need another pair of shoes or we need to add a hat or some jewelry, there’s a little bit of money set aside,” she said.

“So figure out what kinds of pieces you need, set your budget and set 10% aside because inevitably, you’ll want something else at the end and you’ll end up at the store trying to find black fishnets and you’ll have to spend a bunch more because everybody has bought them all.”

Top image: Production crew members begin attaching the silk web to the "Spider Woman" costume, worn by actor/dancer Ausette Anderies, for the "Kiss of the Spider Woman" production at the Nelson Fine Arts Center costume shop. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now


Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News