Forum: What Does Thunderbird Mean to You?

By Emma Livingston, Co-editor

I want to start a conversation at Thunderbird about our vision for this school’s future. For the next few weeks, I will be writing a series of articles about what we value in the school, what people are worried about, and where we would like to see Thunderbird five, twenty, fifty years down the road. My hope is that if we, as a community, can articulate a clear, coherent vision for Thunderbird’s future, it will make that future easier to achieve.

Let’s start the conversation by talking about Thunderbird’s value proposition. I asked a variety of stakeholders – current students, faculty members, staff members, and alumni – this question:

What does Thunderbird mean to you?

“Thunderbird is the place where I learned a lot of things from great people around the world. Beyond just a physical place, Thunderbird is my unforgettable experience, which I thrived upon. In job markets, Thunderbird is my brand that helps me get a job. I hope that Thunderbird’s reputation will be better and our alumni community will keep its strong.”

“Thunderbird is a meeting across cultures and disciplines, a safe intellectual place in which to think through ideas, solutions and strategies for making the world a better place.”

“Thunderbird for me is a life changing decision. I wanted to be a part of Thunderbird for the past four years. I wanted to do a course in global management and that’s when I figured out Thunderbird is the only school that offers this degree. So I had it at the back of my mind, but immediately you can’t take a decision to quit your working career when you’re doing well…It’s a decision of life, when you decide that you are going to put everything on the side and once again start with studies. For me it was a very passionate choice. I wanted to come to the US. I am from advertising background, sales, so I wanted to work in the US as well. So everything put together, Thunderbird has given me the platform. For me it’s a great decision.”

“It means a way for the world to put more energy into wrestling with how to build each other up and spend less of its blood, sweat, and tears on how to win at other’s expense. It means breaking down the barriers of my own ignorance and apathy to reveal and launch a worthwhile life.”

“Thunderbird means reducing the size of the world into a small platter and sharing all cultures. There is acceptance and curiosity for each other’s culture and ‘ways’ of doing things. Thunderbird means it’s no longer just a country I belong to, it’s the world on my platter.”

“I have lived a half mile away from Thunderbird since 1990. I had no clue of what was actually here. So when I came to work for Thunderbird, just to know what they have offered on the campus is amazing to me. It’s such a unique campus to have a hotel and a pub and students from literally every corner of the world. The history of the place…I talk up Thunderbird to people. When new students come in or when alumni come to visit, I want them to enjoy the history of this place and be aware. For me, being here has been a total educational process. What was in my own community that I had no idea about.”

“For me, being a Thunderbird means being open to everyone – no matter where he/she is from, and being open to any possible idea – no matter who is saying it.”

“Thunderbird has been the best platform to enhance my professional profile. Since I arrived at Thunderbird, I have had the international experience and the exposure to global managers and global professionals that I was looking for. Second, I’ve learned much more about global business objectively. I’ve read a bunch of business cases related to what is happening in all the continents of this world. And third, through Thunderbird I had the chance to have a work experience here in the US. Something that happened through our international academic experiences, which in my case was the Winterim in New York.”

“I have been blessed to be a professor at Thunderbird, an authentically mission-driven, globally-minded, intimate community of people who are caring, smart, entrepreneurial and, even just the right amount of crazy. TBirders are different in valuable ways that equip them to make a valuable difference in the world.”

What does Thunderbird mean to you? Leave your comment and help us expand the conversation.

3 Comments on Forum: What Does Thunderbird Mean to You?

  1. Bill Youngdahl // February 2, 2016 at 3:17 pm // Reply

    Thanks, Emma, for starting this dialogue. Thunderbird is certainly going through a significant transition in becoming part of ASU. Despite many dysfunctions that come with being acquired by such a large institution, Thunderbird is a family. Our future depends on us not losing site of this.

    When I arrived in 1997, faculty collaborated constructively with the administration. We treated one another with respect even when we disagreed. We dreamed big dreams and gave 110% because our mission and vision were clear and crafted from our own ideas and sweat. We built programs, transformed lives, and generated opportunities beyond our imaginations. We had students join us at our homes for dinners and we joined the German club for a beer on Thursday afternoons.

    Deep inside, this is what Thunderbird still means to me — a family, dreaming big dreams, transforming lives, and exceeding our imaginations. There are some specific actions and behaviors that strengthen the Thunderbird family. Here are just a few.

    As T-Birds, we maintain the courage to be different, to be global vagabonds even if the broader organization might call for conformance to local norms. Being different and being curious about differences is part of our DNA.

    We lift one another up and serve others so they and we can succeed. This is the very essence of being a leader within the Thunderbird family.

    We balance an earnest will to move forward with empathy for those impacted by changes and we appreciate the need to retain and strengthen traditions that define Thunderbird.

    We focus on the practical, on what it takes to make the right decisions and take the right actions in complex global settings.

    As entrepreneurs at heart, we push relentlessly toward opportunities. We don’t allow ourselves to be constrained by our own thoughts or others’ actions.

    We live by a code of ethics, our Oath, and take a stand even if those around us remain mute.

    We collaborate with one another and invite others to join us instead of waiting for them to invite us.

    As Emma has exhibited so well, we are humble enough to admit that cannot always be certain. We respect others and know that we will learn something when we are willing to listen.

    That’s what Thunderbird means to me. And more broadly, it’s what being a T-Bird means to me.

    Keep the faith.

    Bill Youngdahl
    Associate Professor of Project and Operations Leadership

  2. Emma Livingston // February 4, 2016 at 2:17 am // Reply

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Professor Youngdahl. I hope that the entire Thunderbird community can have a meaningful dialog about our school and where we would like to be in the future.

  3. To me, Thunderbird has been a life-changing experience, both from the academic and the professional perspective. I decided to enhance my professional profile with the “signaling” that comes from Thunderbird in the International Business arena and I did not make a mistake. The first person who described Thunderbird to me for the first time was one of my bosses at Goodyear Latin America, who told me that if I wanted to develop a successful international career, I should study at our school. With more than 10 years of experience working in sales and marketing, studying here has given me a remarkable return on my investment over my time (opportunity cost) and my resources. I took advantage of almost all the tools available and I have confirmed the prestige of our faculty. Indubitably, Thunderbird has forged on me one of the most important assets a professional can acquire: a truly different profile. What makes it different? Well, I tapped into a notable international professional network, I explored the European economy through a business education exchange (module abroad), and gained experience in the biggest economy of the world working as an associate during the summer in one of the Fortune 100 companies. The list, nonetheless, is even larger.
    Of course Thunderbird could be better. In fact, Thunderbird needs urgently to be reinvented. However, as it is nowadays, Thunderbird delivers enviable education all over the world that is recognized by the top-notch executives I have had the chance to talk with here in the US and in Latin America. How could I not be proud of being a T-Bird? Thunderbird means that substantial change I wanted in my personal and professional life at this stage of my life. I am ready to play in the big leagues of the corporate world after Thunderbird and I feel fortunate to have substantially enriched my life exploring the world through and with my new fellow T-Bird friends.
    I hope our faculty, alumni, and leaders keep enhancing our legacy. Let´s preach what we are so proud of through our actions: being the #1 School of International Business. It is a collective commandment for T-Birds.

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