Starbucks graduate credits his store manager for inspiring his degree pursuit

June 04, 2021 · 5 min read · By ASU Online
Recent graduate and Starbucks employee David Bradley reflects on his time at ASU Online and shares tips for success.

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

David Bradley started his educational journey at ASU Online with the goal of a Bachelor of Science in sociology. His goal was to work in social work or the nonprofit sector and believed this degree was the best pathway to get there. Through his classes, he began to digest the vast array of social issues combating the world and how extremely limited the resources were to tackle these topics, especially in social work and the non-profit sector. “I slowly realized that resources and money were extremely important to create real change and uplift communities. I enjoyed my studies in sociology and continued it as a minor, but I really wanted to be a leader that could take action in the social issues I cared about.”

That’s when Bradley decided to change his focus and pursue a Bachelor of Arts in organizational leadership to attain the skills necessary to bring the right people to the table to make an impact that matched his goals. “Knowing the capacity for-profit organizations have to do good in this world if they only moved their resources to social responsibility would be astronomical compared to the limited resources that social work has available to them. That’s where I wanted to be, helping businesses take action and be a part of fixing an issue.”

Bradley credits his Starbucks store manager, Guy Tustin, with helping him make a college degree a reality. “He was assertive, in an enduring way," Bradley said. "He wanted me to go to school. He sat down, explained how the SCAP program worked and helped me fill out the form to talk to an SCAP enrollment coach. I always wanted to achieve a degree in higher education, but my manager took any doubt I had and helped me forge my pathway.” 

Bradley’s favorite aspect about being a Sun Devil was the open access he had to his education, 24/7, especially in the last year. When the pandemic hit last year, many of his friends and family had their education journey disrupted. The majority of those systems needed to switch to an online setting. “I felt no extra pressure from the pandemic in regard to my educational journey. All I needed to do was open my laptop and show up ready to learn, like I had in the years prior.”

Bradley stayed connected with fellow students via Handshake, Sun Devil’s Connect, the ASU Online subreddit and The Facebook Workplace SCAP Scholars page. “It helped with preparing for class and keeping me motivated.” 

For those thinking about attending ASU Online via the Starbucks College Achievement Program, Bradley says higher education not only helps you earn a degree in something you want to pursue, but it is also a tool that can create the next best version of yourself. “I believe the power of higher education can transform your life path and your general outcome as a human being. I would not be where I am as a leader if it wasn’t for school.” 

ASU Online graduate David Bradley.
ASU Online graduate David Bradley.

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

Answer: I really enjoyed my philosophy class and exploring the different ways of thinking about the world around me. A lot of my own biases and conventions of how I thought the world was was extremely challenged and helped my growth as a person and development overall. Before I began the class, I suffered a bit of existential dread because I had never been exposed to certain ideas or questioned the nature of my own existence. Philosophy is a deep dive into that emotional pool. It took me time to adjust to the material because I never thought about myself as a thinking creature in that way.

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

A: Charles Barfoot’s religion class: 301: Comparative Mysticism. It’s such a mind altering class. In this class, we explored faith perspectives and the idea that someone’s faith system or belief and values is how they interact in their world. It means no one is truly living in the same reality, we just assume people are assimilated into ours. The class was extremely challenging for me because I was raised in a traditional, secular household so being exposed to this type of belief structure was extraordinary. You have these walls of a belief system and when you start pushing on those walls and exploring, you see all the different perspectives and realities out there. It’s truly incredible. Sociology made me curious about people, this class made me more curious about how people motivate themselves and interact with their own environment.

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: My favorite place to study is in my living room. I have my bistro table, laptop, and cat — that’s really all I need. Most times, I will have social channels open like the Facebook Workplace SCAP Scholars page. While I’m studying, I try to interact with other SCAP students and check in with them and keep us all motivated.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am starting an internship with Starbucks working on their Starbucks Social Impact Team. It starts June 1 and runs along my final two classes at ASU. After the internship, I want to concentrate on my physical health. Once I complete my fitness goals, I plan to start my 5-year plan.

Q: Tell us about your best Sun Devil moment or experience.

A: I was at work one day and someone came into my store with an Arizona State University shirt on. Even in Tennessee, I recognize that shirt. Sure enough, they were also an online student, but not through the SCAP program. This customer and I had this entire connection over an ASU t-shirt; just two ASU students in the middle of Tennessee. I realized at that time that as I continue on in my life, I will continue to run into other students. Having that common ground outside of a laptop felt really awesome.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Anything to do with mental health. I feel that there are many people out there who feel isolated, lost, alone, or not supported. Giving those financial resources to form programs that normalizes the idea of ’it’s OK to not be OK’ and ‘it’s OK to ask for help’ would be something I would want to tackle immediately. People’s life value could benefit from therapy or counseling in big ways. Having friends who have struggled with anxiety and depression, I see that there isn’t a normalcy around mental health and I want to change that.


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