Sarah Cooley has long felt a strong desire to do right not only by customers, but by her community and the planet. Today, as vice president of marketing, e-commerce and corporate responsibility at Orchard & Vineyard Supply – a McMinnville, Oregon-based company regarded worldwide as a leader in orchard, vineyard and hops supplies – she is getting the opportunity to do just that.

A recent graduate of George Fox’s Doctor of Business Administration program, Cooley is responsible for overseeing the building and maintaining of the company’s website, marketing efforts and merchandising opportunities for an outfit with 16 retail locations nationwide, 36 outside sales reps, two E-commerce sites, and three owned subsidiary companies.

But it’s another element of her job – that of leading Orchard & Vineyard Supply’s social responsibility efforts, which includes donations, sponsorships, partnerships, volunteering and community development – that truly resonates with her.

“I have found, over the last decade, that I have become more sensitive to the damage a business or corporation can do, simply through their daily business activities,” she says. “Throughout my last few roles at other companies, I aimed to increase their social responsibility and sustainability, in which the efforts were often met with hesitation to adopt those practices. There is a misunderstanding that the efforts aren’t worth it for the company or don’t matter to consumers.”

“I wanted to change that. I wanted to show that it’s not a gimmicky thing to make you feel good; it’s doing what’s right. It’s making an effort to better the community we live in.”

With that mindset, Cooley did her doctoral dissertation on the topic of sustainability in the wine industry – a decision that, she hopes, inspires others to get involved in their communities and put an end to business practices that put profit over the planet.

“I am fortunate to be able to use [what I learned in the DBA program] every day,” she says. “At Orchard & Vineyard Supply, we have really grown our social responsibility efforts in the last year, and being able to write my dissertation on similar efforts in the wine industry has increased my understanding of needed improvements in this segment. I am also able to use my research abilities on a daily basis, looking for key market insights to grow our market share, provide the team with crucial market data, and take a forward-looking approach with my marketing and social responsibility strategies.”

Beyond improving her business acumen – including her communication, statistical analysis, leadership and customer research skills – Cooley also grew personally during her four years in the DBA program.

“From a personal level, I have grown more patient and more understanding,” she says. “I have more self-respect, now seeing how much I had to juggle to pull this off, and I have grown in my personal way of thinking. Professionally, my work has become more data driven, bringing strong data analysis to every decision, and looking for statistically significant correlations in varying situations.

“Ultimately, I would have to say that my biggest takeaway is how much those four years changed who I am and how I think. Learning to balance the workload, stress and difficulty of a doctorate, while working full time in an executive-level role, maintaining relationships and friendships, traveling nearly full time for a job, and keeping up with a household will absolutely change you.”

One day, she hopes to pass along what she has learned to the next generation.

“My goal is also to use my practical experience to teach at a university level, bridging the gap that is sometimes present between book learning and practical experience,” she says. “I want to share what I have learned and help others reach their personal and professional goals.”

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