ASU honors graduate Amanda Hinkle found educational inspiration at Sprouts Farmers Market

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May 9, 2022

For Amanda Hinkle, Sprouts Farmers Market is more than a place to get natural and organic foods. It’s where she found inspiration for a path of study at Arizona State University.

At 16 years old, Hinkle began working for Sprouts as a courtesy clerk and learning about the industry through first-hand observation. At 18, she was promoted to a cashier position.

She learned about supply chain, inventory, stocking, marketing, customers’ opinions, and the intricacies of businesses that operated in the food industry, and she wanted to learn more.

“Through these experiences, I discovered my passion for the food industry and determined that I wanted to study these aspects of business in my college career,” she said.

When she learned that ASU offered a degree in food industry management through the W. P. Carey College of Business and the Morrison School of Agribusiness, she decided that such a degree, paired with a business administration degree, would be the perfect fit for her.

Hinkle, whose hometown is Queen Creek, Arizona, graduates from ASU in May with concurrent bachelor’s degrees in food industry management and business administration with honors from Barrett, The Honors College.

Hinkle received many scholarships, including the New American University Provost’s Award, Morrison School of Agribusiness General Scholarship, AFMA Food Industry Management Scholarship, Barrett Community Scholarship, McCabe Family Scholarship, M. David Schwartz Memorial Scholarship, Joseph J. and Cecilia O’Neil Dawson Scholarship, Cerprobe Endowment, Jason R. Carlson Memorial Scholarship, Bruce Brooks Memorial Scholarship, Arizona Families for Home Education Scholarship, AZ Vegetable Growers Association/MO Best Scholarship.

We caught up with Hinkle to get her thoughts about her experiences at ASU. Here’s what she had to say. 

What was an interesting moment, story or accomplishment from your ASU career?

An interesting story and accomplishment that I have had during my ASU career regards my experience with Barrett, The Honors College, in which I was provided with the opportunity to design and conduct a unique and interesting thesis project regarding various facets of marketing and Sprouts Farmers Market.  

My “all-star” thesis committee included Dr. John Eaton, clinical professor of marketing at W. P. Carey, as director. He proved to be a helpful asset in directing my research, a wealth of business knowledge and a great network resource. My team also included Dr. Michael Mokwa, professor of leadership and marketing at W. P. Carey, as my second reader. He is a very creative individual who posed many thought provoking questions during my thesis defense that stretched my creativity and allowed me to explore my research results more thoroughly. I also had the honor of Dr. Mark Jacobs, dean of Barrett Honors College, attending my thesis defense. I have had the opportunity to get to know Dean Jacobs throughout my time at Barrett and he has proven to be a wonderful resource, encourager, and friend. 

Furthermore, as part of my thesis project regarding marketing and Sprouts Farmers Market, I was able to visit 20 Sprouts stores in the Phoenix-metro area and make observations at each location as well as interview store managers. With this opportunity, I was able to experience the value of field research while simultaneously practicing my interview skills and getting to know management personnel who work in my future industry. This experience was extremely rewarding, with the crowning success being that I was honored to have Sprouts' current CEO, Jack Sinclair, as the third reader on my thesis committee. I had the opportunity to meet with him several times throughout my thesis project and discuss my findings and receive feedback from him personally, as well as have him attend and participate in my thesis defense. I was able to build a relationship with and make my future work and career plans known to Mr. Sinclair, which has opened the door for me to move into the corporate level of Sprouts, even with the possibility of a created position in which I would continue and/or expand my thesis research. 

What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Throughout my time at ASU, I have learned many valuable and interesting things both inside and outside of the classroom. One course that particularly changed my perspective was my two-part Barrett The Human Event course. My professor, Honors Faculty Fellow Thomas Martin, had a remarkable expanse of knowledge on various theories, philosophies and perspectives throughout global human history. 

At the very beginning of the course, he told the class that he was going to make us comfortable with being uncomfortable. While this statement admittedly perplexed me when I first heard it, I quickly discovered what he meant. Throughout our readings and discussions, the class examined many conflicting philosophies and theories which were difficult to grasp at times and even more difficult — or impossible — to reconcile to each other. Dr. Martin did a wonderful job of explaining the backgrounds of these theories to help us grasp them while also playing the devil’s advocate to encourage us to really dig in and understand what the philosophers and theorists were communicating in their opposing views. 

Additionally in that course, the students engaged in mock tribunals, in which the class would be divided into two groups representing opposing philosophies, with a select group of students acting as judges. These scenarios were certainly impactful on my perspective as a student, as I had to really examine and grasp the nuances, as well as the overarching ideas, the philosophers expressed in their writings that we had studied. 

Why did you choose ASU?

I chose ASU for several reasons, not the least of which is that my older sisters both attended ASU before me, both graduating summa cum laude, as I did, and one of them also attained her master’s degree from ASU. Both of my sisters had many wonderful experiences with the university and the business and engineering schools, and strongly encouraged me to attend ASU. Additionally, ASU offered the degree programs I wanted to study, which are not commonly offered at other universities. 

Being in-state was also an advantage ASU had over other schools, particularly as the Polytechnic campus is geographically near for me. One of my degrees, food industry management, is even based at ASU Poly within the Morrison School of Agribusiness, which is part of W. P. Carey.

The appeal of Barrett, The Honors College proved to be more than justified in the many intriguing, engaging, educational and joyful moments I have had while a part of Barrett — not the least of which has been my friendship with Dean Jacobs.

Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

I have had so many wonderful professors and faculty that I have learned from during my time at ASU that it is exceedingly difficult to select only one who had the most impact on me!

However, a professor that I have gotten to know especially well and have worked very closely with is Dr. John Eaton, as he was the director for my Barrett thesis project. He has been such a wonderful support, encouragement and network connection for me and I am very grateful for his time and investment. 

One of things that he encouraged me to do over the course of my thesis is simple, but I think often overlooked, and that is to “just ask!” For instance, when I was first planning my research regarding Sprouts Farmers Market’s in-store marketing strategy, I had the idea to interview store managers at each of the 20 locations I visited. I asked Dr. Eaton if he thought I would be successful in getting managers’ time and attention to ask them each several questions, and he encouraged me to “just ask!” This, notably, was the same encouragement I have always received and was currently receiving from my father.

However, the pinnacle of the “just ask!” philosophy was yet to come. From the outset of my project, I had held to the thought that I would very much like to reach out to Sprouts’ CEO, Jack Sinclair, to see if he would be willing to be part of my thesis committee, review my work and attend my defense. As my project began to proceed and the time approached to inquire of him, I admittedly became a bit nervous and asked Dr. Eaton his thoughts. His response was again the same as my father’s: “Just ask!” So I did. 

I am exceedingly grateful for that entire experience, and it certainly revealed to me the value of Dr. Eaton’s lesson, “just ask!”

What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

I want to encourage you to continue your educational journey and to do all things with excellence. While I am certainly acquainted with the rigors of coursework, the late nights of studying and the discipline required to accomplish and achieve great things, it is all 100% worth it.

Whether you are going on to graduate school or launching into the work force post-graduation, your undergraduate experience is an essential building block in not only your education, but also in your personal development. The habits, patterns, disciplines and approach to life that you learn now will impact you for the rest of your life. So start building relationships, practicing discipline and being self-motivated now, as these practices will take you to the next level and set you apart from your peers. Be confident, be bold. You have the opportunity to change the future for better and impact your generation, as well as posterity, with your actions and your choices.

What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

My very favorite spot on ASU’s Polytechnic campus is near the flagpole and the Walk of Honor. In this place, there are large shady trees that keep the area perpetually cool, as well as a large field of plush grass that is perfect for sitting and thinking, having a picnic or just running around with friends. It is always quiet there, as it is removed from the center of campus, and it is a very peaceful and relaxing spot. 

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation, I will attend graduate school, likely pursuing an MBA at the College of William and Mary. After that, I plan to pursue a PhD in a business-related field, though that is a bit further down the road. 

I also plan to work for Sprouts Farmers Market’s marketing department in the near future, as my research has prepared me well for such a role. My ultimate career goal is to become the CEO of Sprouts. 

If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

If I were given $40 million to solve a world problem, I would use the money to tackle the issue of food security. Right now, the future of commodities such as wheat, corn and barley, as well as the future of fertilizer, is not optimistic.  

Thus, to mitigate this issue, if I were given $40 million, I would work to bolster the production of fertilizer plants in nations such as the United States and Canada as a means to counteract the loss of supply from Russia and Belarus. I would then work to ensure that farmers around the world have access to the fertilizer and the resources they need to plant large crops to produce a higher yield at harvest. 

Furthermore, I would provide incentives, support and resources for farmers to expand their crops and plant more acres to mitigate the impending shortage of commodities. This would reduce the potential for world hunger while making the global demand for commodities and fertilizer less dependent on the production of a concentrated region of the world, as more and other nations would have increased capacity for global supply. 

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