Jolene Johnson reaches graduation due to Starbucks College Achievement Plan


December 17, 2019

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.  ASU Online student Jolene Johnson Jolene Johnson Download Full Image

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.

IMPACT Award winner and grad sees water management as a major issue


December 17, 2019

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

Olga Hart’s journey to a doctoral degree started as an undergraduate civil engineering major in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Olga Hart Download Full Image

In her time as an undergraduate at ASU, Hart was a Research Experiences for Undergraduates student researcher with the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER) project, interned at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and worked for ASU’s Sustainability Solutions Extension Service.

“That initial experience with CAP LTER put me on the path to hydrology, research, graduate school and numerical modeling,” Hart said. “I can’t say enough good things about undergraduate research opportunities, or about my first research mentors, Drs. Laura Turnbull, Steven Earl and Dan Childers. They set me up to succeed in graduate school and be able to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by my research advisor and mentor, Dr. Rolf Halden.”

Hart views water management as a major issue that needs to be addressed to help secure a sustainable future and this has guided her doctoral research.

“If I were to dream up a big reach goal for water resources engineers in my lifetime, it would be to balance the water cycle,” Hart said, “so we can avoid ‘wasting’ water on floods at the same time as other parts of the world are suffering from drought, and vice versa.”

Hart, who has a professional engineer license in civil engineering, currently works for the Arizona Department of Water Resources in the groundwater modeling section and plans to continue after graduation.

“I plan to continue modeling environmental resource problems, helping us understand and better allocate these finite resources,” Hart said. “Modeling has played such a large role in my academic and professional work. I would love to be part of a push at ASU to the introduction of numerical modeling into the undergraduate curriculum.” 

Outside of her plans to continue working with the Arizona Department of Water Resources, Hart would love to provide a safe place for animals.

“I would like to run a sanctuary for short and round animals with my husband, a fellow ASU engineering PhD and soon-to-be alum,” Hart said about her plans to help donkeys with her husband, Steven.

She encourages those still in school to not lose sight of their future after graduation.

“For better or for worse, school ends and the rest of your life begins,” she said, “so try to see the school portion accordingly.”

Hometown: St. Petersburg, Russia, and Phoenix, Arizona

Olga's favorites:

Hobbies: Being outside, hiking/backpacking, drawing
Movie: City of Lost Children
Performer: Leonard Cohen
Book: The Monkey Wrench Gang
Geeky possession: A drawing of Albert Einstein from 1983

Read about other exceptional graduates of the Fulton Schools’ fall 2019 class here.

Erik Wirtanen

Web content comm administrator, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

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