Checking in with the Underbirds

Photo courtesy of Charly Pilz

By Emma Livingston, Co-Editor

On ASU’s West Campus, a group of 22 young students is honing its global mindset a little sooner than most of us. They are pursuing their Bachelor of Global Management degree as part Thunderbird’s first undergraduate cohort. Das Tor first covered this cohort in the fall, when Editor-in-Chief Alina Buzgar profiled four students in a series of articles. Now that the first Underbirds are settling into their second semester, I journeyed to West Campus again to speak with five of our students and see how they’re progressing.

Photo courtesy of Charly Pilz

Photo courtesy of Charly Pilz

Many different paths brought these students to Thunderbird. Katelyn Lynch (USA) was a freshman at a more traditional undergraduate program when her dad took her along to explore the Thunderbird campus. “We went to a preview day and I fell in love with it. Months later, when I found out about the bachelor’s program, I said: I have to get in there! It’s the global aspect of it. This is what I wanted.” Charly Pilz (Germany) had Thunderbird recommended to her by her dad and stepmom. “The school is big and well-known in Europe,” she told me. Rutva Gupta (India) is interested in “design, management, and marketing” and how those fields intersect, as well as “the difference between US and UK education [where she’ll be studying abroad].” For Askia Stewart (USA), on the other hand, coming to Thunderbird was “almost an accident.” He had applied to study International Affairs at WP Carey when he was offered the chance to come to Thunderbird instead. “After talking about it, meditating and praying on it, I decided to accept the offer,” he said.

Photo courtesy of Charly Pilz

Photo courtesy of Charly Pilz

The Underbirds are happy with their program so far. “It’s very unique compared to the other majors that are offered,” says Charly. They have had two classes with Thunderbird professors: A global business overview class and an accounting class.

Katelyn described her experience in Professor Nelson’s global business class: “He went over what it means to work globally. We studied ethics, marketing, strategy, all for the purpose of analyzing markets to go into. For our final project, we investigated a new market and pitched whether or not to go into that market.” Askia added, “I like that the professors are empathetic and care about us learning the content, but also about us interacting well with each other. Prof. Roy Nelson made an effort to create the opportunity to talk about the content. The content could be perceived in different ways, so discussion is important.”

Photo courtesy of Charly Pilz

Photo courtesy of Charly Pilz

“All the professors are seasoned,” Katelyn says. “The accounting class we have this semester isn’t traditional accounting. We’re learning managerial accounting. It’s not about learning to be an accountant, it’s about using accounting information to make business decisions. That’s what I like about the program. It’s very practical.”

The small cohort size has allowed the Underbirds to grow close. “We’re a family, very intimate. We eat out a lot, we watch movies in the study room,” says Sara Echeverria (USA). She added that a couple of new students joined this semester and “it felt like they were in first grade and we were the big kids. We’re the OGs.” Askia says, “The cohort’s very small so there’s a lot of open communication.” Most importantly, according to Charly, “We all have the same mindset. We all want to travel, we all want to explore the world.”

Photo courtesy of Charly Pilz

Photo courtesy of Charly Pilz

Speaking of exploring the world, in typical T-Bird fashion, these students won’t be sticking around West Campus for very long. Almost all of them will be moving to the more cosmopolitan Tempe Campus once they’re allowed to choose next fall. Most of them are planning to travel further afield and study abroad in the next year. All will be required to complete a semester long international internship the first semester of their senior year. International destinations these Underbirds are considering for their study abroad programs and internships range from Canada, the UK, Spain, Chile, Italy, Mexico, and Australia.

Underbirds at Thunderbird Regional Night (Photo courtesy of Charly Pilz)

Underbirds at Thunderbird Regional Night (Photo courtesy of Charly Pilz)

As my final question for the Underbirds, I asked them if they had been able to spend much time on the Thunderbird campus. They all had spent some time here but would love to have more opportunities to interact in meaningful ways with the graduate students. Charly described how the Underbirds prepared a skit for the last regional night on the Thunderbird campus. “We should have more things like that,” she said. “We should have the opportunity to hang out with the grad students. A mentorship program. Big sister program. Internships.”

Photo courtesy of Rutva Gupta

Photo courtesy of Rutva Gupta

Askia’s view of the Thunderbird campus is that “it’s beautiful. The people are awesome, genuinely nice. All the professors were wearing Hawaiian t-shirts. I get super laid back vibes from the campus.” Currently, he is participating with a team of Underbirds in the Thunderbird Angel Network due diligence event. “I like the importance of the due diligence event that’s happening. The incorporation of the Underbirds is really important. It’s a real event with real money that really matters. To create a strong bond with the graduate students, we need to do things that are productive.”

Askia hopes to integrate with the students at the Thunderbird campus as much as he can. “When I’m there,” he says, “I feel like I’m contributing to something that’s much bigger than myself.”

Photo courtesy of Charly Pilz

Photo courtesy of Charly Pilz

Photo courtesy of Charly Pilz

Photo courtesy of Charly Pilz

Photo courtesy of Rutva Gupta

Photo courtesy of Rutva Gupta

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