Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.
When Danyela Hinojosa graduated from high school in 2002, she embarked on a journey of self-discovery that included culinary school and a trip around the world.
“I opened a sushi bar in Corpus Christi, and worked in LA, Houston and Seattle with some of the best chefs in the U.S.,” she said. “In 2015, after years of traveling and cooking and burnout, I sold everything I had and took a journey across Southeast Asia in an effort to reconnect with my purpose.”
At the conclusion of her travels, Hinojosa returned home to Corpus Christi, Texas, and started working at a local Starbucks. She was also determined to complete a college degree.
The Starbucks College Achievement Program (SCAP) — a first-of-its-kind partnership between Arizona State University and Starbucks, which offers eligible U.S. partners 100% upfront tuition coverage — allowed Hinojosa to enroll in the organizational leadership degree program through ASU Online and the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts.
“The Starbucks partnership with ASU helped me achieve my educational goals by allowing me to earn a degree I would not have been able to financially afford,” Hinojosa said. “I had the benefit of working while my degree was paid so I could go to school and earn a paycheck.”
Hinojosa said she felt supported by leadership and the Starbucks community during her journey. As she progressed in her degree, she also progressed in her career, starting as a shift supervisor and eventually becoming a Starbucks store manager.
In the workplace, she was able to immediately apply the principles she learned from her courses. Hinojosa learned how to balance inner and outer perceptions, leading to more impactful workplace interactions and better communication skills.
She also felt supported by her SCAP cohort. Even though Starbucks partners attend ASU from around the U.S., Hinojosa found a strong support system within the online community.
“I made connections and built my network across the U.S.,” she said. “Connecting with students from all over the country helped me realize that I have value and a strong network and that through collaboration we can achieve great things.”
We spoke with the new graduate about her experience with ASU Online and her plans for the future.
Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: I met my wife at Starbucks. We were partners in the same store. She was the one who introduced me to the SCAP program, and I would see her studying and the books she was reading and it was so interesting. These were skills I needed when I was working as a chef. I started asking her questions, and she introduced me to the organizational leadership degree plan.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU Online — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: I was surprised and impressed with my self-discipline. It took tremendous amounts of focus and dedication to hold myself accountable to deadlines. I also demonstrated to myself my capabilities for planning, prioritizing and managing multiple priorities. There were times in this program when I wasn’t sure I would ever reach the end. I wasn’t sure I had what it takes to complete a long-term goal, and I did it. This program changed my perspective of myself; I now see myself as capable of achieving anything.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU Online?
A: In OGL 365: Reinventing Organizations, Dr. Michael Pryzdia taught me that we can unite our life's purpose with our work and incorporate our whole selves into what we do. We no longer need to lead dual lives where we hide parts of ourselves for success.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Use this time to learn to plan and prioritize. This is a skill you will use infinitely in your work, personal lives, and family. Learn how to prioritize what is most important, and plan to take care of the rest.
Q: What was your favorite location for power studying?
A: My home office. It is quiet and a space just for me. I study with my dog sleeping on my feet in my own room, in the home that I own, and I am happy.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: To stay in my current professional role and spend some time with my wife.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I would feed the people in my city and incorporate community gardens into every neighborhood. Ending world hunger is a virtuous goal, but there are people here, within a 10-mile radius of me, hungry, who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. That is what I can help with today, and $40 million can feed my city for a long time.
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