Life lessons, followed by a six-and-a-half-year degree: Jonathan Hoopaugh catapults from academic suspension to graduating with honors
Jonathan Hoopaugh was nervous when he reenrolled at Georgia Southern University in 2016. It had been six years since he’d written a college paper. However, the Statesboro native who is on the management track with Starbucks, graduated this week with honors, earning a bachelor’s in psychology and a minor in management.
His first attempt at college was a let-down.
“The problem was like with a lot of students, I wasn’t prepared for the adjustment,” said Hoopaugh. “Partying was a little higher on my priority list and I found myself quickly on academic probation and then complete academic suspension.”
He was out two years after entering, and devastated.
“I wanted to do well, but I didn’t know how to,” Hoopaugh ruefully remarked.
Hoopaugh entered the workforce for five years, first as a salesperson at Verizon and later, at Starbucks.
“I went through a few years of just working and trying to figure things out,” he said. “But the overarching goal was to get back into school and try to do it the right way. So I was fortunate enough to come on board with Starbucks here because I started out with Starbucks across town.”
The move to the campus coffee venue as an assistant manager came with educational perks. The University’ Tuition Assistance Program, which is an employee supplemental educational assistance program that is available to all full-time, benefits-eligible employees, allowed Hoopaugh to enroll and attend classes while completing a 40-hour work week.
The schedule wasn’t easy, but Hoopaugh found advantage in it.
“Getting my bachelor’s degree, you know, it was a little slower, but I’m glad that it went slower because it allowed me to take less hours and really focus on each individual class,” he said. “I tried to get the most out of my learning while I was here.”
As a new graduate, the plan is to stay with Starbucks, utilizing skills he learned in both his psychology and management classes.
“I feel like I have a lot to offer and I have a lot more to gain from it as well,” noted Hoopaugh. “Starbucks has been really good to me and our values align very well. I would like to get back to the company-operated side. So I really would love to be a district manager with Starbucks. There’s a lot of opportunity from the district manager level, and the ability to help other people who are already professionals. I can help them elevate themselves and give them tools to continue growing even further past the store manager and the assistant manager level.
“Starbucks formed because Howard Schultz loved coffee and he loved people. And I find myself feeling the same way. So to be in that situation is really a blessing.”
Another gift for Hoopaugh during his time at Georgia Southern was meeting his wife, Cat Bishop Hoopaugh, who is the assistant director in Student Activities. Now, with a successful wrap to his bachelor’s degree program, Hoopaugh is looking forward to a break from school so he can focus on work and spend more time with his wife.
“I’m relieved it’s over,” he expressed in earnest. “But earning my degree was something that I always wanted to do. I have a lot of pride in myself, and getting kicked out was one of the hardest things that I went through.
“To see it all come to fruition is probably, other than getting married, one of the greatest things that I’ve accomplished so far. But I’ll be back. I’ll get my MBA.”