By Nash Wills, Staff Writer
On Thursday, January 14 the MAGAM class convened in Lecture Hall 54 in order to participate in the first town hall of the semester. Designed as a follow-up needed in order to address unanswered questions from last semester, this meeting fed off of the momentum of previous decisions which had changed the MAGAM schedule, allowing students to take more business related classes, thereby giving them the chance to take advantage of their time with the reputable Thunderbird professors. Attendance was high, interactions were congenial, the administration had truly worked hard over the break in order to make practical changes to the program, solutions had been developed, and generally speaking, everyone left smiling.
The original problems within the MAGAM program had stemmed from some confusion that had arisen over the proper balance between business classes taught by Thunderbird and affairs classes taught by the School of Global Studies within ASU. During the first semester, students found themselves taking more of an affairs-centric load, which caused concern to develop over not only when, but whether or not it was even in the plan for them to take Thunderbird business classes. Simply put, there was confusion between the administration and students over the original strategy behind the degree, and the two sides have since had to collaborate in order to more definitively define said strategy. The schedule changes that were previously mentioned are the product of those collaborations and things seem to be improving now.
The main developments that came out of this past town hall surround additional certificates that can be earned on top of the Masters degree, along with the available classes that work in conjunction with the certificates, and the immersion program that has been developed for MAGAM students that is meant to be similar to a TEM Lab. Concerning the certificates, in the past, if MAGAM students wanted to earn a certificate, they had to take an extra 15 hours on top of their required 45 hours needed to earn their degree for a total of 60 hours. Even though students had to take 12 credit hours of electives, none of those credit hours would have counted towards the 15 hours needed for a certificate. The idea was that you couldn’t “double-count” credits. Even if a student were to take all of the classes required to earn a finance certificate during their electives, the finance certificate would not be awarded to the student because the credit hours would have been counted towards the 12 hours of electives. Due to a compromise, all of this has somewhat changed. Now students can count 9 hours of their electives towards a certificate, thereby leaving 6 extra credits that need to be earned separately from the Masters degree for a total of 51 credit hours. Concerning the immersion program, the school has developed a consulting program that will send a couple of teams of students to Peru in order to work on projects with companies or the government.
What the students thought…
Generally speaking, students were very pleased with how the town hall went and with the current state of affairs within the program. Acknowledging that there were many hurdles that needed to be overcome in the past, Travis Hookham (MAGAM ’17, US) finds the program is “now headed down the right track.” He also noted that “as the program has progressed, we have gone from opaque to translucent in regards as to what’s to be expected of our program. Now we have a sort of outline of what our program should look like. We also have a number of different routes we can explore. If anything, now our program looks a lot better than it did six months ago.” Ryan Todare (MAGAM ’17, US) reflected Travis’s sentiments, stating that he “likes where we are going and that the administration is working to create things for us.” He also believes that “it’s a process of building this program and it’s cool that we have the opportunity to do it, but we need to be more active and to constantly give the administration feedback on what’s working and what’s not.” On the other hand though, and similar to the majority of the class, Ryan is “happy with the Thunderbird professors but still on the fence about the ASU ones.” Also, Peng Gao (MAGAM ’17, China) commented that he “appreciates their efforts on graduate paths, but they seemed to exclude international students while making plans.” What Peng is referring to here is the issue that the international students face because their visas are only valid for a 45 credit hour Master’s program, and if they were to choose to earn a certificate, they will have to go over this limit.
What I thought…
One of my main goals when I decided to come to school here was to get involved. I have always taken pride in Thunderbird and that pride has only compounded after having gone through a semester of classes with 45 people who I personally believe to be among the best and brightest. I want the best for both my colleagues and myself, and because of that I always tried to be as involved as possible when it came to organizing and articulating our issues within previous town halls. This is all a preface in order to say that I was pleasantly surprised to find that this last time, instead of taking the town hall to them, we were all able to sit back in silence and let the town hall come to us. And that’s how I would always rather have it. For myself, I have learned that whenever it comes to town halls, silence is golden. Silence means that everything is smooth, flowing, and copacetic.
It is difficult to say whether or not any of this could have been avoided. A merger between two schools with completely different structures is bound to have some side effects, and getting something right usually takes correcting a few mistakes along the way. Am I happy with the steps that our program is taking? Yes. Do I think that there is plenty of room for improvement especially in terms of strategy pertaining to the program? Of course. For right now though, I will just sit back and enjoy this win for the MAGAMs.