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Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Inspires Students with Values-Focused Bottom Line

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz
Starbucks Coffee Company Chairman, President,
and CEO Howard Schultz was the 2011 University of
Arizona Executive of the Year. Click photo for
gallery of event images.

Photo by Thomas Veneklasen.

By Liz Warren-Pederson

View Video of 2011 Executive of the Year Award Keynote Address by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz

View Photo Gallery of 2011 Executive of the Year Luncheon

Some 200 undergraduate and Eller MBA students joined Eller faculty, Starbucks partners, and community members to honor Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz with the 2011 University of Arizona Executive of the Year Award on April 15.

UA president Robert Shelton and alumnus and retired PepsiCo executive Olden Lee — who sits on the board at Starbucks and at the Eller College — presented Schultz with the award. In his address, Schultz discussed the challenges Starbucks faced as a result of overexpansion and the economic crisis, and how he returned as CEO in 2008 to guide the company through a complete turnaround – not by cutting corners, but by returning to the company’s founding values.

“As an audience member I could feel that it wasn’t just money that motivated him, but that he truly cared about his company,” said Melissa Shanahan (BSBA Business Management ’11).

“During his speech, he described how consumers have changed and businesses need to adopt new models in order to become successful,” said Scott Bradley (BSBA Business Management ’11). Schultz cited three changes influencing consumer behavior – the economic downturn, a shift in marketing to building trust vs. traditional selling tactics, and values. “He pointed out that consumers are looking for companies with a social conscience,” Bradley said.

“I had been reading his book Onward before the luncheon and he spoke in it about how your career can either be work or it can be your passion,” said Shanahan. “He wants everyone who is a part of his company, no matter what position it is, to love what they are doing. I think this really translates well to the customer and is inspiring to someone like me just about to begin a career.”

“Mr. Schultz seemed like the kind of guy I would like to work for,” added Blake Hlavaty (MBA ’11). “He was calm and collected but inspiring at the same time. He made a point to emphasize the importance of taking care of your employees.”

Olden Lee, Howard Schultz, and Robert Shelton.
Howard Schultz (center) receives the UA Executive
of the Year Award from Starbucks Board and Eller
College National Board of Advisors member Olden
Lee (left) and UA president Robert Shelton (right).
Click photo for gallery of event images.

Photo by Thomas Veneklasen.

“What I enjoyed most about his discussion was that it was intimate and personal,” said Vicki Agrachov (BSBA Business Management ’11). “Additionally, Mr. Schultz was very optimistic about the future of Starbucks despite the recession and current challenges and threats.”

The students were among a select group of 70 MBAs and undergraduates who were invited to attend an Up Close & Personal session with Schultz following the luncheon.

“Most of the questions that had been addressed in both the larger address and the smaller session were directed toward the corporate social responsibility of Starbucks, and at Eller this notion of corporations maintaining a social conscience has always been stressed,” said Bradley. “It was really interesting to hear such an influential executive put such emphasis on social responsibility, which really has linked what I have been taught at Eller to real experiences in the corporate world.”

“The up-close session was great because we could see him in a less formal gathering and he was asked questions on the spot,” said Jaryd Hickman (BSBA Business Management ’11). “He carefully considered each question and addressed each person with respect. He has seen a lot since he founded Starbucks, and the way he treated everyone really showed his great character. It is no surprise that his employees and peers hold him in such high regard.”

“It was obvious that Mr. Schultz is passionate about Starbucks and loves the company and that there is nothing he would not do to better it,” said Agrachov. “He even made a comparison of loving his family the same way that he loves his job and Starbucks.”

“I believe that I have had many great opportunities to interact with executives and various companies surrounding the Tucson area, but until this point have never been able to shake hands and ask questions to a CEO of such a large corporation,” Bradley said.

“It was one of the best opportunities that I have had here at Eller,” Agrachov said. “Meeting with such a successful CEO was an experience that I will remember when I think about my four years at the UA.”

Shanahan got a slightly different look at the event: this was the fourth Executive of the Year she worked on behind-the-scenes with the Eller College dean’s office. “Being able to work at Eller and help with events has really added to my overall experience in college,” she said. “I feel that it has provided me with amazing opportunities, getting to meet so many people.  I don’t think my experience would have been the same without working for Eller.”

“Having someone like Mr. Shultz visit the UA gives me a sense of connection between Eller and the larger business community,” said Hlavaty. “Mr. Schultz works closely with members of Eller's National Board of Advisors so I can directly see how the UA is involved with important companies like Starbucks. It gives me a lot of hope for the opportunities that are out there for me and my fellow classmates.”

2011 University of Arizona Executive of the Year Keynote Address by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz
April 15, 2011

Learn more about the dynamic corporate and nonprofit leaders who visit the Eller College through the Eller College Distinguished Speaker Series.

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