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Starbucks partner pursues passion for business leadership

April 27, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Starbucks has shaped nearly every aspect of Darton Nguyen’s college journey.

Like all students in the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, Nguyen received 100% tuition coverage to earn his bachelor’s degree online at Arizona State University. But even beyond that, it was in his job as a shift supervisor that he uncovered the natural leadership skills that would later shape his degree choice.

“I was leading my team at the age of 18 as the youngest at the time and realized I had an innate sense of leadership,” Nguyen said. 

This passion for leadership soon led to an interest in business and a strong desire to grow as a manager.

“It made me want to explore other facets and avenues of business administration,” Nguyen said. “What other methods of management could I learn and implement in my workplace or to better improve my skill sets?”

So when Nguyen, a Houston native, transferred to ASU Online in August 2019, it was a clear choice to pursue a degree in business with a concentration in business administration from the W. P. Carey School of Business. 

“Not only does ASU rank as No. 1 in most innovative schools but also in the online undergraduate business programs in U.S. News & World Report,” Nguyen said. “While Starbucks is partnered with ASU via the Starbucks College Achievement Plan and I am able to attend because of it, ASU’s reputation has far preceded itself.”

Nguyen is graduating from ASU this spring and shared more about his college experience below. 

Question: What accomplishment are you most proud of as an ASU Online student?

Answer: The proudest thing I’ve accomplished as an ASU Online student is challenging myself to greater heights. Between working full time, listening to hours of lectures, balancing a social life with tons of assignments, and of course, graduating summa cum laude, nothing makes my smile beam as hard as seeing my efforts in my personal and academic life come to fruition.

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

A: As someone who was accustomed to in-person lectures, it was certainly difficult to wrap my head around the aspect of online learning. It has certainly taught me time management and that there were a multitude of students who were taking on this rigorous but ultimately rewarding process with me.

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

A: I might be slightly partial to Lecturer Konstandinos Voutsas because I had the privilege of taking two of his courses — Negotiations and Leading Organizations — but his lessons have resonated with me the most and proved the most applicable in my everyday workplace. Whether it was effectively compromising with a customer or supporting my team, these moments were all enhanced due to the knowledge I picked up on being enrolled in his courses. 

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

A: The best piece of advice I can offer someone still in school is to never stop believing in yourself. I never thought I would find myself in the predicament of spending a couple of extra years to earn my degree, but I look back and realize that the path I took was just simply different from everyone else. I paved my own unique road to reach the same destination. No matter the time and circumstances it took, I just kept believing in myself. 

Don’t be discouraged from dreaming big and finding what it is you’re passionate about. Your journey is meant for you to trek, despite any odds or opposition. The struggles you face today will be your strengths tomorrow.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I’m thrilled to announce that I have actually accepted a position in benefits and compensation at Toshiba Corporation and will begin work after graduation. Furthermore, I hope to gain an extensive knowledge of the human resources world and will look to pursue certification from the Human Resource Certification Institute or the Society for Human Resources Management.

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

A: Personally, I would love to tackle the issue of food waste and hunger, specifically in America. Learning that food takes up more space in landfills than anything else while millions go hungry is extremely unsettling. While $40 million is a lot of money, 40 million tons of food is also what’s being discarded annually. This money would have to be invested in supporting those without food, controlling waste and essentially preventing a food famine from occurring. 

By Stephanie Morse, marketing content specialist, EdPlus at Arizona State University

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