Meet graduating sustainability master’s student Liana Skibbie

Liana SkibbieLiana Skibbie is graduating this May with a Master of Sustainability Leadership from the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University. Skibbie, a long-time employee of Starbucks, created a capstone project that aims to build a network of sustainability leaders within Starbucks to foster more sustainable behaviors, especially in regards to waste. Though it’s not always easy to complete a master’s degree on top of a full workload, Skibbie said she would recommend the program to anyone interested. “This program has been incredible,” Skibbie said. “The professors have been extremely helpful and supportive through the entire thing.” Learn more about her experience in the Q&A below. Question: Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Answer: Originally from Wisconsin, I started working for Starbucks in 2013 after getting my Bachelor’s degree in environmental policy from the University of Wisconsin. Moving to Seattle with Starbucks in 2015, worked my way up in the company from barista to store manager. Currently I am working in the digital marketing department of Starbucks in the HQ in Seattle as an administrative assistant. Working full time, raising a puppy and going through a master’s program has been a struggle — but so eye opening — and I have come out a stronger leader and better communicator! Q: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study sustainability? A: My "aha" moment was when I had the urge to change career tracks. I knew that I would need more education and experience under my belt to work in corporate sustainability. Q: Why did you choose the Master of Sustainability Leadership? A: The School of Sustainability at ASU is very highly rated and being able to attend online was ideal for my life. Q: Can you tell us about your capstone project? A: The capstone project I chose is about building a coalition of field leaders — store managers and district managers from Starbucks — and creating a network in which we share ideas and activities that can help make changes within stores across the country. I initially wanted to focus on waste that stores create by employee use. I wanted to change behavior in stores so that employees don't use our single use cups, lids and straws. The project shifted from focusing on the waste, and instead focusing on building this group of leaders, to build relationships and trust with one another to get long-term results. Q: What are your plans beyond graduation? A: My plans beyond graduation are to continue working in my current role and continue my work with this employee network, building up this coalition of leaders. Q: Are there any particular classes or nuggets of information that have really stuck with you or inspired you? A: The focus on storytelling within this program was something that really stuck with me as I didn't feel very confident in that at the beginning of the program. Now, however, I feel much more adequate with telling a story and communicating. Q: How did you balance your classes with your work/personal life? A: Knowing that assignments and projects had to get done — they got done. I have supportive friends and a supportive partner who was able to help with normal life stuff. I won't lie — there were some nights I was wondering if I could actually do it. And I am SO glad I did!