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'Summon your compassion,' Howard Schultz urges ASU's newest grads

Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz congratulates graduating ASU class.
Pres. Crow to ASU Class of 2017: "Do not accept the status quo" — change it.
May 8, 2017

Starbucks executive chairman tells Class of 2017 at Undergraduate Commencement that they give him hope for the future

After years of intense study and hard academic work, the newly minted college graduates of Arizona State University’s Class of 2017 are enjoying the well-deserved kudos of family and friends for all that they accomplished as undergraduates. 

But at the Monday evening Undergraduate Commencement exercises in Sun Devil Stadium, they were also encouraged to go beyond what they learned in the classroom in order to create the future that they want and deserve.

“Summon your compassion, your curiosity, your empathy towards others and your commitment to service,” Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz told the graduating class. “Give more than you receive, and I promise you it will come back to you in ways you can’t possibly imagine.”

Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks and the partner with ASU President Michael M. Crow in the creation of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, delivered the commencement address at ASU’s May 8 ceremony and received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from the university. 

He encouraged graduates to be mindful of how they will, throughout their lives, respect and honor their families, share their successes and serve others with dignity, and lead with humility and demonstrate moral courage.

And he said that the graduates are ready to change the world. 

“You’re leaving this campus as the best-prepared generation in the history of our country,” Schultz said.

A personal journey to a new kind of business 

Throughout his remarks, Schultz shared personal details of growing up poor in Brooklyn with a father who had to work a series of “terrible blue-collar jobs,” and talked of his success as the CEO of Starbucks and his opportunity to build the kind of company his father never got to work at.

Starbucks has been at the forefront of providing employee benefits such as health insurance and an ownership stake to its employees. 

Most recently, Starbucks has focused on providing an education as well.

In 2014, ASU and Starbucks collaborated on a first-of-its-kind program designed to allow the coffee giant’s employees, whom it calls partners, to earn a bachelor’s degree, with full tuition reimbursement through ASU’s digital immersion courses. More than 7,172 partners are now participating in the Starbucks College Achievement Plan.

Schultz congratulated the 330 Starbucks partners who graduated on Monday, but his speech was aimed at all graduates.

“Your generation can bring people together like no other,” he said. “You can innovate, create and lead.”

Change the status quo 

In his address to the Class of 2017, Crow reminded graduates that their time at ASU was not designed to merely train them for a job.

“We’re training you, enabling you to be able to learn anything so that you can do almost any job,” Crow said. “So that you can accomplish almost anything. … A bachelor's degree to me means that you have found a way to begin the process of the mastery of learning itself.”

And he encouraged graduates not to accept the status quo no matter what field they enter, be it art or science, engineering, business or philosophy.

“Begin today to understand that it is the status quo itself which holds us back from attaining all of the things that we dream about as a society,” he said. “We cannot sit back and accept the way things have always been. Because we always must be advancing them towards these higher goals.”

“Do not accept the status quo; change the status quo.” 

Earlier Monday, ASU hosted a luncheon in Schultz’s honor. After being presented with his honorary degree, Schultz described the work between his company and the university as doing exactly what Crow called for.

“The ASU-Starbucks partnership is a beacon of hope, not only to the students who have benefited from it, and our company’s culture and pride in what we have done, but it’s a demonstration that you can disavow the status quo,” Schultz said. “You can reinvent it. And you can be the kind of leader serving people that demonstrates that we are at our best when we do everything we can to lift people up.” 

He also praised Crow, describing him as a “force.” 

“You probably all know that,” he said to laughter. “He is a force for good, and the Starbucks coffee company has benefited from his partnership, and I have personally benefited from the enduring friendship that I have built with Michael Crow.”

After the luncheon, Schultz and Crow hosted an open forum for the graduating Starbucks partners. Partners from all kinds of backgrounds — single parents, military personnel, first-generation college students, Iraqi refugees — shared their personal stories of achievement.

Health sciences major Susana Mojica said she signed up for the Starbucks College Achievement Plan the same day she learned of it. The daughter of Mexican immigrants had always wanted to go to college but had to drop out after one year at Syracuse because of the cost. Because of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, she now has a four-year degree and will be starting a master’s program in the fall.

“I know that a degree is not a waste of money,” Mojica said.

Many who spoke were overcome with emotion, embracing Schultz and thanking him for what the program has made possible. Schultz responded by reminding them that the “unorthodox partnership” wouldn’t have been possible without “the unbelievable innovation of ASU and its president, Michael Crow.”

Both Schultz and Crow referred to America’s broken education system, where mounting student-loan debt and lack of access are signs that there needs to be a disruption of the status quo.  

“We can bemoan it, we can criticize it all we want,” Crow said. “But we need to do something about it. ASU and Starbucks, we have, we are and we will do something about all of this. And you all are benefactors of that.”

Even more stand to benefit from the program. Starbucks and ASU announced in March an expanded Pathway to Admission, which gives academically ineligible partners another opportunity to seek admission to ASU by successfully completing a series of courses offered through Global Freshman Academy.

A reason for hope 

At Monday’s ceremony, Schultz alluded to the political situation in the country, saying that many of the graduates may be questioning the strength of the American Dream. 

“Today you may question that dream and the promise of America,” he said to graduates. “And that’s fair. My generation has not made it easy for you. Our political leaders on both sides of the aisle have not acted with enough courage nor honesty in addressing the long-term challenges we face.”

But, he said, he has reason for hope.

“Despite all that, when I look to the future, I am extremely optimistic, especially when I look out and see you.” 


Top photo: Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz speaks at ASU Undergraduate Commencement on Monday evening at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

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ASU researchers have their sights — and ears — set on listening to Europa.
May 9, 2017

An ASU-designed 'planetary stethoscope' could help us find out what lies in Europa's global ocean

Jupiter's moon Europa is definitely an odd place. Discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei, it was first seen in detail only in the late 1970s, after spacecraft visited the jovian system.

Slightly smaller than our own moon, Europa could hardly appear more different. Both have interiors of rock and metal. But Europa is wrapped in a global saltwater ocean and covered by a bright shell of ice. The shell is scarred with cracks and faults and mottled places where the ice has been breached by liquid from below.

Scientists have speculated for decades what lies within that ocean. It is larger in volume than all the oceans of Earth put together.

A NASA-funded seismometer under development at Arizona State University holds the promise of landing on Europa's ice shell — and listening to it.

The seismometer would use Europa's natural tides and other movements to discover the shell's thickness, see whether it holds pockets of water — subsurface lakes — within the ice, and determine how easily, and how often, ocean water could rise and spill out on the surface.

"We want to hear what Europa has to tell us," said Hongyu Yu, of ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration. "And that means putting a sensitive 'ear' on Europa's surface."

Exploration systems engineer Yu heads up a team of ASU scientists that includes seismologist Edward Garnero, geophysicist Alyssa Rhoden, and chemical engineer Lenore Dai, director of the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Technology investment

While there are no current plans to send a lander to Europa, the team has received a grant from NASA to develop and test a miniature seismometer no larger than about 4 inches (10 centimeters) on a side, which could be crucial in advancing future Europa exploration. Fittingly, considering where it is being created, the project is titled Seismometers for Exploring the Subsurface of Europa, or SESE.

Most seismometers, whether for use on Earth or other planets, rely on a mass-and-spring sensor concept to detect passing earthquake waves. But that type of seismometer, says Yu, has to be set down in an upright position, it must be put in place carefully with no major jolts or shaking, and the chamber where the sensor operates needs a complete vacuum to ensure accurate measurements.

"Our design avoids all these problems," Yu explains. The SESE seismometer uses a micro-electromechanical system with a liquid electrolyte as the sensor. "This design has a high sensitivity to a wide range of vibrations, and it can operate at any angle to the surface.

"And if necessary," he adds, "they can hit the ground hard on landing." Yu notes that the team tested the prototype by hitting it with a sledgehammer. It survived.

Besides being extremely rugged, the SESE seismometer promises to push ahead the state of the art in sensors as well. "We're excited at the opportunity to develop electrolytes and polymers beyond their traditional temperature limits," says team member Dai. "This project also exemplifies collaboration across disciplines."

Firm touchdown needed

The ability to withstand a hard landing is a great help, says team member Garnero. "Seismometers need to connect with the solid ground to operate most effectively." Sitting on loose surface materials can isolate the instrument from seismic waves passing through the body of the moon or planet — or, on Europa, its ice shell.

Landers, which would carry seismometers, "typically have four or six legs," Garnero said. "If each leg carries a seismometer, these could be pushed into the surface on landing, making good contact with the ground."

In addition, he said, having a number of sensors on a lander gives scientists the opportunity to combine the data recorded at each. This lets them overcome the variable seismic vibrations recorded by each instrument, and it allows scientists to tell what direction quake waves come from.

"We can also sort out high frequency signals from longer wavelength ones," Garnero explained. The wider the spectrum the instrument can sense, the more phenomena it will detect. "For example, small meteorites hitting the surface not too far away would produce high frequency waves, and tides of gravitational tugs from Jupiter and Europa's neighbor moons would make long, slow waves."

So what would Europa sound like?

Garnero laughed. "I think we'll hear things that we won't know what they are."

But, he said, "ice being deformed on a local scale would be high in frequency — we'd hear sharp pops and cracks. From ice shell movements on a more planetary scale, I would expect creaks and groans."

Ocean world

Europa can be glimpsed in binoculars from the backyard as it circles Jupiter once every 85 hours. But it's just a point of light, looking no different from what Galileo saw when he discovered it.

The Europa that scientists study today, however, is more properly considered an ocean world. This is because of two flyby spacecraft (NASA's Voyager 1 and 2) and an orbiter (NASA's Galileo) that spent eight years at Jupiter. Long-distance observations of Europa also have come from the Hubble Space Telescope orbiting Earth, which detected plumes of water vapor erupting from the shell in 2012 and 2016.

"At Europa, we're trying to use seismometers to determine where the liquid water lies within the ice shell," team member Rhoden said. "We want to know how active the ice shell is."

The answers to these questions are important to the future exploration of this moon and its habitability, she said. "An active shell with pockets of water creates more niches for life and more ways to transport nutrients from the ocean to the surface."

Locating these pockets on Europa would allow future lander missions to possibly sample ocean water brought up through the ice shell.

Just how active is Europa?

"We don't know," Rhoden said. The surface is geologically young, with an approximate age (based on numbers of craters) of 50 to 100 million years. "It may have undergone an epoch of activity early in that period and then shut down." But it's equally possible, she says, that the shell is experiencing fractures, uplifts, offsets, and melt-throughs today.

"Hubble's recent plume observations last fall appear to support that."

As Europa orbits Jupiter, it gets repeated tugs from the gravity of neighbor moons Io and Ganymede. These tugs keep Europa's orbit from becoming circular and that lets Jupiter stress the shell — and then let it relax — over and over, endlessly. Thus, Rhoden said, seismometers on the surface should detect any ongoing activity in the shell.

The team developing the SESE seismometer has its sights on Europa, but they are also looking beyond, because the design is robust and adaptable. This could let it become something of a universal instrument for seismology on other worlds.

As team leader Yu explains, "With modification to fit local environments, this instrument should work on Venus and Mars, and likely other planets and moons, too."


Top photo: Europa's surface is a shell of ice covering a global ocean and displaying amazing features. Long, linear cracks and ridges crisscross the surface, broken by regions of disrupted terrain where the surface ice crust has cracked and refrozen into new patterns. The colors seen in this image from the Galileo mission in the late 1990s are approximately what the human eye would see. Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech

Robert Burnham

Science writer , School of Earth and Space Exploration