ASU Foundation thrives in open, healthy environment

The ASU Foundation held a water drive from June 9 to June 24. Volunteers collected 11,018 bottled waters to be donated to the Salvation Army. (Photo courtesy of ASU Foundation) The ASU Foundation held a water drive from June 9 to June 24. Volunteers collected 11,018 bottled waters to be donated to the Salvation Army. (Photo courtesy of ASU Foundation)

The ASU Foundation for a New American University was recently named to the list of top companies to work for by CareerBuilder and Republic Media.

It was the only foundation included in the list of 75 companies.

John Skinner, vice president and chief of staff for the Foundation, said the organization's mission is a reason why it has been honored as such a great place to work.

"We have a noble mission," Skinner said. "It's easy to come to work wanting to make a difference and feeling energized about our opportunity to help to advance the New American University."

According to the Foundation's website, the organization's mission is to "to ensure the success of Arizona State University as a New American University."

In addition to the mission of the Foundation, Skinner said the environment of open communication attributes to the positive work culture.

"We have really active communications," Skinner said. "And you're hard-pressed to find that elsewhere."

Skinner said the communication starts at the top.

"I believe it starts with the fact that we have a Chief Executive Officer who’s really committed to a positive environment," he said. "(Rick Shangraw) has invested a lot in making sure we have the type of positive culture where people can attain personal growth, a place where people can see their aspiration and helps them achieve those aspirations."

Skinner said Shangraw holds monthly meetings to keep the entire staff up to speed on what the organization is doing.

In addition to the meetings, Skinner said Shangraw gets lunch with all new hires, produces videos each month to enhance awareness on big topics and is available for communication with his employees.

"When he says his door is always open, he means it," Skinner said. "Our leadership sets the tone and everyone else has bought into this vision of a workplace."

Debbie Williams, vice president of development communication, has just began her second month working at the Foundation and has already come to appreciate the environment.

Williams, a self-described workaholic, said her decision to come to ASU factored in the work environment.

"It was important to me in my next career move to find a culture that is conscious of itself in trying to be healthy and sympathetic to people's lifestyles and personal needs," she said.

Already in her time with the Foundation, Williams said her expectations have been met and there have been many extra-curricular activities offered such as book clubs and health forums.

In addition to the supportive culture, Williams said that the Foundation is a unique take on the fundraising mentality.

"The Foundation as an organization is pretty unique to my experience in that it's an interesting amalgamation of nonprofit culture and entrepreneurial culture," Williams said. "It's my experience that you have one or the other. This is unusual in its dynamic in that it embraces both of those ideals."

Cheryl Shumate, executive director of employee relations, has worked for the Foundation for eight years and echoed the thoughts of Skinner and Williams when reflected on what made it such a good place to work.

"When people who are moving on are asked what they'll miss most about working there, they say the people," Shumate said.

She said communication among the staff was an important part of the environment.

She mentioned the monthly videos and contact between leadership and the rest of the organization as reasons why the Foundation's work environment is worthwhile.

Reach the reporter at or follow him on Twitter @ICBeck21.

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