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During her 27-year career at Starbucks, Stacy Elwell-Chalmers worked her way up the corporate ladder from barista to regional director. When she retired in 2021, she managed a $300 million portfolio that included more than 150 retail stores in seven states.
Along the way, she opened the first drive-thru west of the Mississippi River, trained the first European leadership team, and revised beverage-making methods so baristas could be 50% more efficient.
However, the accomplishment she is most proud of was helping employees develop into leaders.
Stacy Elwell-Chalmers, Department of Management and Entrepreneurship professor of
practice Photo by Julie Bennett, Media Production Group
“To see [employees] progress in their careers and learn new roles is what I was most passionate about,” said Elwell-Chalmers, who joined the Auburn Harbert College of Business faculty as a professor of practice in the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship in August 2022. “I’m proud of the number of people that I helped find their leadership voice and who have gone on to manage other people.”
Elwell-Chalmers is now sharing her corporate management experience and mentoring skills with Harbert students. She teaches Principles of Management (MNGT 3100), Organizational Change (MNGT 4400) and Organizational Behavior (MNGT 3460).
“I worked for a Fortune 100 organization during a really incredible time in its life cycle—from the whole beginning, growth and maturity phases,” she said. “It definitely makes me a better teacher because I can speak to all those stages in a practical way.”
When she started making drinks in 1994, Starbucks had less than 500 stores, had yet to introduce Frappuccino beverages and had locations only in the United States. Today Starbucks has more than 35,000 stores worldwide and describes itself as “the premier roaster and retailer of specialty coffee in the world.”
According to Elwell-Chalmers, she was drawn to Auburn University for the same reason she enjoyed working for Starbucks—both have positive, strong organizational cultures.
“The reason I joined Starbucks was not only because I enjoyed coffee, but because of their mission statement, values and vision,” she said, which proclaims to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time. “They really lived that.”
As for Auburn, she said, she was looking for a similar environment to teach, where the mission really resonated, and you could feel it.
“People really live and breathe the [Auburn] Creed here,” said Elwell-Chalmers, who previously taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Denver and Clemson University after earning her doctorate from Colorado State University while still at Starbucks. “There is a level of hospitality that is unique here. The students are very respectful, and they have a loyalty to the university that is special. People are kind in a way that I haven’t seen in a while.”
An interesting fact about Elwell-Chalmers: she may have the longest faculty commute to campus as she travels weekly from her family’s home in Denver, Colorado.
Her husband and two children stayed in Denver for the 2022-23 academic year so her daughter could finish her senior year of high school there. This summer, the family will officially move to Auburn and her daughter will start school at the university.