Adelaida Severson learned early in her career about the importance of remaining open to different job opportunities.
Severson originally wanted to travel the world and tell global stories as a foreign correspondent but worked behind the scenes in local television news.
She decided to change the direction of her career, co-founding her own company and becoming one of the most accomplished business owners in the Valley and among the most decorated alumni to graduate from the ASU’s Cronkite School.
Severson owns Bushtex, Inc., a satellite communications company, along with her husband and cofounder, Barry Severson.
She is one of 50 members in the Cronkite Hall of Fame and has been honored by the Sun Devil 100 four times, named Businesswoman of the Year in 2012 by the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce, and recognized as one of the Most Influential Women in Arizona by AZ Business Magazine and as an “Arizona Original” by the Arizona Republic. She is also a Trustee for ASU and Park University.
Severson originally graduated with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and international relations from the University of Southern California in 1987. She then earned an M.M.C. in mass communication from the Cronkite School in 1995 and later a Ph.D in Public Administration in 2006.
Coming out of USC, Severson started at a local news station where she was editing and writing rather than getting the camera time she desired. Fortuitously, a friend who graduated from USC was starting a satellite communications business and Severson decided to change course and join him. This is where she met her husband.
In 1994, they founded Bushtex, which has provided its satellite services for a number of high-level clients such as NBC, CNN, Qualcomm, NASA and different branches of the military.
It wasn’t until after the couple had their three children together that they decided to invest in Bushtex fully.
“It was like, okay, we’ve got to figure this out,” she said. “And so, because I wanted to stay at home and be a mom, we started our business in our garage and went from there.”
Severson believes keeping an open mind is one of the most essential attributes a Cronkite student can have.
“Don’t say that you only want to do one thing. I think it gives you direction, but you might want to be a little flexible and know there are different branches to that tree,” she said. “Don’t give up on your dream, but don’t pigeonhole yourself either.”
Before co-founding Bushtex, Severson worked with former ASU President Lattie F. Coor as a director of special events, where she planned events such as student breakfasts and itineraries of dignitaries. Coor taught her skills and characteristics that she embodies and uses in her own leadership role as well.
“I learned from him that you should always be present in the conversation. He knew my son’s name, the janitor’s name, the landscaper’s name and seemingly everyone’s name,” Severson said. “That was so personal, and I started to incorporate that into my life.”
Severson also said she learned to communicate with high-ranking professionals and not be intimidated by them based on their status.
“It was a learning experience of being able to talk to people regardless of their stature and just be personable with them,” she said. “Oftentimes, I’m the only woman in a room of four-star generals, in the Pentagon or a confidential, classified meeting and they would look at me like ‘Oh, so you’re taking notes right?’ and I have to explain myself because I am a civilian, but I actually know something.”
Severson describes her induction into the Cronkite Hall of Fame and other awards as great accolades to acknowledge things she’s done in the community and professionally, but they aren’t the motivating factors in her career.
“It’s just an exciting business to have where nothing’s ever the same because we get involved with so many different things,” she said. “And then there’s also the employees. I just love our employees because they’re really the heartbeat of our business and I love being able to help and provide for them and be a part of their process of growth.”