By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)
In ancient Greek mythology, the phoenix is a symbol of strength and renewal, rising from the ashes. The amazing rise of Phoenix Dugger (B.S., ’17) has occurred in the course of his relatively brief professional career and, currently, in the time of coronavirus. The genesis of this career was a College of Business practicum.
A first-generation student from Colorado Springs, Dugger decided to attend CSU because he “liked the community”; it “felt like home.” He had been involved with his high school newspaper, which led him to attend several journalism events on campus.
Once enrolled at CSU, Dugger became involved in a variety of organizations and activities, including the Honors Program and Theta Chi fraternity. He served as ASCSU senator and vice president and worked with the SLiCE (Student Leadership, Involvement, and Community Engagement) office as well as in the office of Lory Student Center Executive Director Mike Ellis. He also served as chair of the Student Media Board of Directors. Most of his favorite memories are of “good times at Lory Student Center,” which he calls “the center of campus activity.” He also has fond memories of things that occurred on the Plaza, “where the whole world collides.”
The internship that propelled this extraordinary young man to his career was part of a course taught by award-winning professor Bill Shuster (B.A., ’88; M.B.A., ’00). Dugger had heard great things about Professor Shuster, which led him to enroll in Supply Chain Practicum, where he and two other students worked with Coca Cola. Shuster remembers Dugger fondly, saying he “approaches complex business problems with a combination of humanity, intelligence, and curiosity. The more complex the situation, the more those traits shine. He is a true class-act individual.”
Dugger later secured an internship in supply chain data analytics at Ardent Mills, the largest flour-milling company in the United States and the second largest in the world. Ardent Mills predominantly, but not exclusively, mills wheat; over 100 million people a day consume some form of their product. After his outstanding performance in the internship, the company hired Dugger. Following a rotational assignment that exposed him to various aspects of the company, he became a supply chain analyst. He grew to believe in what Ardent Mills is doing; their work is “impactful and has a start-up feel.”
Recently the company merged sustainability with corporate citizenship and giving, and it named Dugger corporate social responsibility manager. In that role, he identifies and implements company endeavors that positively affect the environment and local communities. He has been involved in Ardent Mills’ response to the pandemic, including donations of $250,000 to the Food Bank of the Rockies and approximately 160,000 lbs. of ingredients to various food banks, nonprofits, and bakeries. Upon learning a bakery in Ogden, Utah, was giving away loaves of bread to people in need, one of the company’s mills delivered it a free pallet of flour. “Little did our team know that the bakery’s usual flour supplier couldn’t fill their order, and this was exactly what they needed.” When the bakery owner discovered the pallet, it brought him to tears.
Dugger is excited about his new role and the trajectory of his career at the company; “it just keeps happening, very quick, very fast.” His story demonstrates what an intelligent and committed individual can accomplish when working on projects and for an organization in which they believe. Phoenix Dugger is a Ram on the rise!