California Starbucks manager grows support network as ASU technical communication major

Starbucks College Achievement Plan student says she came for the scholarship, ‘stayed for the professionalism and passion’

December 12, 2016

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2016 commencement. See more graduates here.

Madison Bales lives and works in Northern California, where she is a retail store manager for Starbucks Coffee Company. This week she is graduating Summa Cum Laude from Arizona State University’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts with a bachelor of science degree in technical communication and a minor in media analysis from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Madison Bales completed ASU major in tech comm and minor in media analysis from home in Northern California Madison Bales, with associates at the Starbucks Coffee Company store she manages in Northern California. The technical communication major and media analysis minor earned summa cum laude honors while working full-time. Photo courtesy Madison Bales. Download Full Image

“The Starbucks College Achievement Plan [a partnership between Starbucks and ASU] has allowed me to complete my degree free of charge,” Bales explained.

She is excited to practice the craft of technical communication, in which she finds both passion and purpose. 

"Technical communication is all about producing workplace communication that makes technical information understandable and available to many audiences. I chose this major because I want to help make people's daily jobs easier," Bales said. "Thanks to developing technologies, the way we engage each other is evolving: the world is getting smaller and public attentions spans are getting shorter—which means storytelling and brevity skills have never been more valued! I truly enjoy creating descriptions, instructions, presentations, training materials and other documents that have the potential to make technical information engaging for its readers," she continued. "At the very root of being a technical writer are collaboration and consultation skills, since most projects are sharing knowledge the writer may not possess. It's a very interesting way to learn about various occupation fields and communication media choices!"

She said that some of her favorite assignments were ones that required she work with real-world clients. For example, Bales created a full proposal for a training plan for a business: she conducted a needs assessment; researched the company's history, values and successes; developied the content to be taught; and determined the training methods and timeframes. For another client she made comprehensive edits to a union contract and wrote a letter of transmittal. 

"The client brought my findings to her board for review and, ultimately, my changes were adopted," Bales said. "The client was very grateful!

“I worked full-time while schooling full-time and I have a piece of advice for those juggling work and school: utilize the professionals in your personal support group to provide perspective and advice,” Bales said. “So many of my projects were collaborative with friends, mentors and peers — this has taught me more about these people and now I appreciate them even more!”

Bales offered some additional insights about her ASU experience.

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: My scholarship is why I came to ASU, and I stayed because of the incredible level of professionalism and passion from the faculty and administration. ASU is undoubtedly invested in its students, and the impeccable online degree program is what made my education a success.

Q: What’s something you learned while studying with ASU that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: Along the way, I was surprised to discover how much I enjoy the discipline of project management and I may continue further in this direction at a later date. My professors were professional, passionate about their curriculum, inspiring, and invested in my success. I now have professional connections with a few of my most engaging professors and I look forward to utilizing them as a resource in the future.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Most technical communication jobs require both a degree and knowledge in a specialized field. I've been with my company for 13 years and I plan to apply my degree while continuing to work for Starbucks. I've always enjoyed writing, and contributing to the success of my company while doing something I love is a skill that will take me many places. I am most interested in our departments of Retail Operations, Training & Development, Human Resources and Labor Relations. 

Maureen Roen

Manager, Creative Services, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


Passion for environment turns into sustainability major for ASU student

December 12, 2016

Name: Jason Tibbetts
Major, school/college: BS in Sustainability, Energy, Materials and Technology Track, School of Sustainability
Hometown: Mesa, Arizona

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? (Might be while you were at ASU or earlier.) man standing next to tree Sustainability student Jason Tibbets stands next to a full-size mango tree in Mesa. Download Full Image

Answer: I have always had a passion for the environment and self-sufficiency, but I never had a name for it until I heard about the sustainability program at ASU ... I grew up going camping every summer with my family and going on scout campouts every month. I thought that I would own a farm someday, maybe in the woods somewhere (and it may still happen), but I also wanted to change the world through teaching others. I own a business teaching gardening classes, doing edible landscape design and consulting and really feel like it can be a big solution to many of the current environmental, societal and economic problems in the world today.

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

A: It's hard to choose just one thing that I have gained from ASU that I feel is the most important contributor to my success, but I would say that being willing to take the required classes that I may not feel are quite applicable to me and learn as much as I can from each one. I sit up front and try to take every subject and see how I can apply it in my own life. I feel that this has been such a great benefit to me. I have been able to learn more completely the concept of systems thinking, scenario planning, and many other concepts that are so crucial to effectively implementing sustainability strategies.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I originally planned on attending an out-of-state school, but I decided to attend Mesa Community College because the school was the top community college in the country and it was conveniently located in my hometown. While at MCC I learned of ASU’s sustainability program and recognized that I had the opportunity to attend the best sustainability program in the nation, which was also right in my backyard.

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

A: I would tell any student at ASU that the most important thing they can learn at school is not what they learn in a classroom, but what happens when they find their own passion. Living a world with purpose is an entirely different experience than just going to school to get a piece of paper so that someone else can determine your value. You determine the value that you will contribute to the world. It's up to you.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I hope to continue developing my professional networks and professional knowledge and continue to maintain my relationships with people from ASU. I am currently working part time as a research assistant for professor Scott Cloutier, as a research manager for Agriscaping Technologies, running my own business (Eden Institute LLC) to support a family (wife and three kids) all while going to school full-time. I'm definitely very busy, but it’s pretty awesome! I also want to be a community educator teaching people how to support themselves by developing the resources that they have. It's not just my passion, its my mission and I feel that I am part of a movement. I also want to start a backyard gardening foundation in which economically disadvantaged people can acquire the necessary materials to make their own beautiful, productive landscapes. (I don't have the details worked out yet.)

Q: What does “sustainability” mean to you?

A: I am often asked what a degree in sustainability is. After much thought I have concluded that a degree in sustainability is a degree in complex environmental problem solving. Sustainability is being able to not just survive but create environments where everyone can thrive. Understanding that we all play a part in solving these complex problems is crucial. We each have a mission to fulfill.

Michelle Schwartz

Senior Manager, Marketing and Communications, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability