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ASU President Crow to fall 2022 grads: Make your life matter

December 12, 2022

As thousands of Arizona State University graduates celebrated with balloons and fireworks at their degree ceremonies on Monday, they were urged to remain positive in the face of negativity and divisiveness.

ASU President Michael Crow gave that message at the graduate commencement at Desert Financial Arena on Monday morning and at the undergraduate ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium in the afternoon.

“The rate and scale of positive change in all things is up,” he said, citing the new Marriage Equality Act, scientific breakthroughs in fusion energy and the global push to preserve Ukrainian democracy in the face of Russian aggression.

“We are leaving the Stone Age of our species,” he said, thanks to advancements in technology and the fight for social justice.

“… Because of the opening of our hearts and minds to other people and our willing acceptance of people different than us, the outcome of the world — if we stay focused and you all work hard — is going to be something we’ve never seen before. It will be unbelievable social progress and unbelievable economic progress.

“Here’s my message: Start realizing that all that negative energy you feel out there is you being manipulated by somebody else, usually for a profit and usually for some reason that isn’t wholesome,” he said.

“Start realizing that the world is making progress and is moving forward in better ways and that you have this unique opportunity to take your one life and your new empowerment by your graduation from this institution and to make it matter.”

RELATED: Meet some of ASU's impressive fall 2022 grads 

Fred DuVal, chairman-elect of the Arizona Board of Regents, also addressed both commencement ceremonies, telling the graduates that they persevered as the “class of COVID.”

“COVID tested your resolve, tested your adaptability and forced you to examine your choices and your responsibilities for others,” he said.

DuVal said that ASU gave them a healthy community during the pandemic.

“You acquired knowledge, learned how to discern facts. You engaged in respectful debate. You built trust in data, trust in science and trust in one another,” he said.

“As you take your place in our state and nation as educated citizens and as future community leaders, your skills in community-building will be tested and essential. We need you.”

Overall, more than 11,000 ASU students graduated this fall, including nearly 6,000 ASU Online students. About two-thirds of the total were undergraduates and the rest were graduates.

More than 2,000 students earned engineering degrees, representing a 36% increase from fall 2021. Boosting the number of engineers is critical to national security, helping to contribute to the New Economy Initiative and adding to the future workforce driven by the CHIPS and Science Act, which will distribute $52 billion to accelerate U.S. semiconductor manufacturing.

Top photo: Mary Babaya gives a congratulatory hug to her friend Florence Njoyi, who received her doctorate in behavioral health at ASU's Graduate Commencement on Monday, Dec. 12, at Desert Financial Arena on the Tempe campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


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Starbucks graduation forum full of emotional stories about the path to a degree

December 12, 2022

Interim CEO Howard Schultz, ASU President Michael Crow speak at reception, held in the fall for 1st time

At one special Arizona State University commencement event, a little bit of bright green joined the maroon and gold.

The Starbucks Partner and Family Open Forum on Monday celebrated its graduating partners and their families at an event hydrated with caffeine and more than a few happy tears.

Those graduates are part of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan (SCAP), through which the coffeehouse and roastery company provides full tuition coverage for its benefits-eligible employees, or partners, to earn their bachelor’s degree through ASU Online.  

SCAP, established in 2014, is approaching nearly 10,000 graduates, including more than 850 this fall. More than 100 of those new graduates were in attendance at Monday’s event, held for fall commencement for the first time.

Interim Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz spoke at the forum, during which graduating partners — wearing stoles edged with Starbucks’ signature green — shared their educational journeys.

“I am overwhelmed, just overwhelmed with the pride that we all have at Starbucks in congratulating everyone here for what you’ve accomplished,” Schultz said.

He was joined by members of the Starbucks team, incoming Starbucks Chief Executive Officer Laxman Narasimhan, ASU President Michael Crow and a range of ASU leadership, including Phil Regier, CEO of EdPlus, which houses ASU Online.

“Of all the things Starbucks Coffee Company has done over a 51-year history, there is nothing, nothing, more gratifying than this moment for everyone at Starbucks,” Schultz said.

Through an entrepreneurial partnership with ASU and the leadership of Crow, Starbucks was the first company in America to provide 100% upfront college tuition, Schultz shared.

“Starbucks shares our belief in the power of education and our driving desire for individuals to be successful, which is why we wasted no time in coming together to create the Starbucks College Achievement Program,” Crow said. “We are thrilled to have helped nearly 10,000 learners through the program, and we are excited to see what they — and future generations of learners — will achieve.”

Crow and Schultz had the same vision: Provide educational access and build a path for individuals who didn’t have access to a college education.

“We have demonstrated that college can be pursued while working and you can be successful, and that stopping out of college can create new opportunities for personal development on the return to college,” Crow said. “ASU is very proud of our Starbucks graduates, their determination, their commitment to each other and their drive for self-enhancement.”

Offered through ASU Online, SCAP students have access to the same ASU expert faculty who teach on campus, learning tools that enhance learning and student services equipped to support students through their academic journey. 

“We couldn’t have done this project with just any company,” Crow said. “We had to do this with a company that values the person, that wants its individual people to be successful.”

On Monday, student after student stood to share the journey that led to them earning their degree. 

Accompanied by her almost 2-year-old daughter, Maria Enriquez from Los Angeles spoke about starting her job at Starbucks in 2020. Not prepared to pursue a degree, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and finding out she was pregnant, Enriquez found her ASU Online success coach to be her biggest supporter. 

With the support and flexibility the ASU Online programs offered, it allowed her to achieve what she thought was impossible.

“When I was giving birth, I was able to take my final,” Enriquez said. 

The comment was greeted by laughter and cheers.

“It was a really big day,” she said. “Thank you, Mr. Schultz. Truly from the bottom of my heart, I appreciate everything you’ve done for me and my family.”

The event, marked with stories of first-generation college graduates, homelessness, learning disabilities, military deployments and starting families all while pursuing a degree, was full of expressions of relief and gratitude to Starbucks and ASU for the opportunity.

Jyni Wyse, a four-year partner, shared her story leading up to this day, including her struggle with a disability. 

“A lot of schools don’t accommodate or know how to teach disabilities because they’re not taught how to work with us,” Wyse said. “So, me being able to go to school was a privilege because not everyone has that opportunity.”

She found SCAP after joining Starbucks. Through ASU, she was able to find the accommodations to thrive and finish her degree.

“I want to say thank you for providing an opportunity for people like me,” Wyse said. 

Schultz turned that goodwill back on the new graduates.

“The story is not about Starbucks or ASU. It’s about you.” 

Top photo: Starbucks College Achievement Program graduate Annie Romano shares her education journey during the Starbucks Partner and Family Open Forum at the Westin Hotel in Tempe, Arizona, on Dec. 12. Photo by Deanna Dent/Arizona State University

Meenah Rincon

Public Relations Manager , ASU Online