01 Mar Starbucks director and Boettcher Scholar pays forward the college experience through new program
How does an economics major from Littleton, Colorado become the director of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan?
In her own words, “by continually taking on new challenges and pushing myself to try new things.”
Mary Dixon has spent two decades working for the largest coffee chain in the world, but before that, she was a 1986 Boettcher Scholar who attended Colorado College.
“I remember that moment of opening the envelope — it was so thin I thought it must be bad news—but when I saw that I’d received the scholarship, it was such a moment of pride,” Mary recalls. “It was in my nature to be involved in academics and in my community, and Boettcher validating those attributes strengthened my resolve to continue being of service to others.”
Serving others is what led Mary to her current role, directing Starbucks’ college reimbursement program for any employee who works at least 20 hours a week. Committed to its community, Starbucks aims to graduate 25,000 employees by the year 2025.
“We’re constantly thinking about how we can make this program better, or what’s the next thing we can offer to our partners that grows both the organization and each of them individually,” Mary explained.
Over the years, Mary has held several positions at Starbucks, ranging from retail to global responsibility, and though it may not seem like a traditional path, Mary credits her liberal arts education for the career she has today.
“The jobs of tomorrow don’t even exist yet today, so it’s more about teaching critical thinking,” Mary said. “My liberal arts education gave me that base, and I’ve felt comfortable taking on new challenges because of that. It also gave me communication skills that are useful in any job.”
After graduating from CC, Mary worked with foreign exchange students in Boston and Australia. From there, Mary realized she was ready for a new challenge and wanted to be back on the west coast working in the food industry.
“A friend told me about this little company called ‘Starbucks’ that had a few hundred stores,” Mary remembers.
She researched the company and liked the fact that it was centered around a mission and a set of core values. Shortly after Starbucks became a publicly traded company, Mary was hired into the manager training program in retail in San Francisco.
In fact, Mary was part of the team that helped Starbucks expand into Colorado and several other states for the first time. She then became the director of global operations and helped Starbucks expand internationally, opening stores in 17 new markets, throughout Asia and Europe.
“There are amazing people that work here, and we get to do amazing work — we are always pushing forward, giving back, and thinking about what is the role and responsibility of a public company,” Mary said.
After living in Amsterdam, opening stores throughout Europe, Mary returned to Seattle with her husband and infant son, transitioning into a role focused on corporate social responsibility. She helped to connect partners on a global scale and emphasized community service around the time of Starbucks’ 40th anniversary.
“Helping others and connecting people to opportunities just seemed to be the way I’ve approached life,” said Mary.
That “way of life” has been present throughout Mary’s journey. Serving others helped her to earn her Boettcher Scholarship, and it’s also a large part of her current role where she gets to pay it forward to the next generation of students, and help them attend college debt-free.
After 23 years with Starbucks, Mary continues to seek out new challenges, and is ever-appreciative to be in a place that remains driven by a mission and values that align with her own.