Jolene Johnson reaches graduation due to Starbucks College Achievement Plan
Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.
With a degree in organizational leadership and a minor in film and media studies, Jolene Johnson plans to climb the corporate ladder at Starbucks. Right now, she enjoys working in their human resources department as a recruiter.
When it comes to college classes, Johnson says slow and steady wins the race.
“It is not a race to get it done, but it is about the journey along the way," Johnson said. "Allow yourself the bandwidth to absorb what you are learning.”
Throughout her degree program, and especially leading up to her December 2019 graduation from Arizona State University, Johnson kept herself level-headed by jumping into a yoga class several times a week and loves to teach her family about the sustainability practices she has learned from class. She credits ASU and Starbucks with her ability to become a college graduate while also working full time in a career she loves.
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: My "aha" moment was when I started in my first major classes for organizational leadership. When I learned about all the different styles in leadership theory, it really helped me connect to my current career and how to better interact with different leaders. I am a mature student that started a career in retail management, so this class helped me to solidify what I already knew with my experience, but also expanded my understanding of different leadership styles.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
A: My minor was film studies and it changed my perspective of gender and race representations in the media. While we were studying over the course of this minor, I learned how film and television has provided social instruction and construction of race and gender. It has helped me understand how this has evolved overtime. I have historical context of why these representations are still an issue in the media today. This minor is more of a history lesson of how film has represented the social and historical context over the decades.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: To be honest, being a Starbucks partner, it was an amazing opportunity to fulfill a dream of becoming a college graduate. The online platform was also attractive with working full time in my current career. Being able to do my homework anytime and anywhere was a plus.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: Dr. Susannah Sandrin taught me a valuable lesson in my own impact on the environment. Her lectures were engaging and really enjoyable to watch. I felt compelled to be a better steward of the Earth after this class — it was literally life changing. It was small things like to stop running water when you are brushing your teeth, ensuring recycled containers are clean, bringing your own bag and containers to the store, and limiting your power use. I even involved my family in the small changes and we no longer buy bottled water to reduce the amount of plastic being used. This class opened my eyes to all the little things we can do to impact the bigger picture one person at a time.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: I would say it is okay to only take one to two classes at a time online because of the accelerated pace. Give yourself permission to adjust your course load to balance with your current life situation. It is not a race to get it done, but it is about the journey along the way. Allow yourself the bandwidth to absorb what you are learning. It is okay to do one class at a time, just keep going.
Q: As an online student, what was your favorite spot to study or to just think about life?
A: My favorite spot to study was on my couch, curled up with my favorite blanket, reading my handouts or books for class. I also spent a lot of time thinking and clearing my mind at yoga a few times a week to recharge and refresh myself.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: My plan is to continue working in human resources as a recruiter at Starbucks. I continue to grow with the company and work towards a leadership role within the next five years.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: After taking my environmental science class, I was enlightened by the damage we are doing to our planet by taxing our energy sources and pollution. I would invest in ways to find sustainable energy and ways to enforce recycling and rewarding companies to come up with ways to have sustainable products to limit waste. There is only one planet Earth and we must do everything we can to be good stewards.