Curriculum Changes Feel Familiar

Thunderbird's campus in Glendale, AZ, taken in the 1950s. Courtesy of ASU Library

By Chad Olson, Staff Writer

I am what is known as a “Thunderbaby,” the child of a Thunderbird graduate who then goes on to attend the institution as well. Throughout my life I have been led to Thunderbird by my father, who often sang the praises of his alma mater. Upon arriving, however, there were some distinct changes that had taken place that gave me the feeling that I was at a completely different school than the one that my father had enjoyed so much.

The first distinct difference was the fact that knowing or learning a second language was no longer a requirement for the programs available. This seemed like a strange aspect of the curriculum to change, due to the pride that Thunderbird places on its global perspective. Part of the T-bird experience is immersing yourself in a global culture that is unavailable in other programs. How can the students feel truly connected to other cultures without having to learn another language? I could dive into the benefits that a second language provides professionally or the science of how that changes a person’s thought processes, but that isn’t what this is about. What this requirement is truly about is capturing and maintaining the mystique of Thunderbird for future students.

Courtesy of PandaTree.

Learning that this requirement was no longer needed for graduation was heartbreaking. This was a core aspect of what made Thunderbird feel so different to my father and it was something that I would not be able to experience. That’s why I was so surprised walking in the halls the other day to hear new students talking about a Spanish assignment. I quickly learned that among the many changes that are currently taking place at Thunderbird, one of them is the reimplementation of the language requirement. I decided to learn what else was changing in the programs for incoming graduate students.

Along with the returning language requirement, the Master of Arts in Global Affairs and Management (MAGAM) has entered a hiatus for a short time, as administration is re-opening the program for mid-career professionals at a site in Washington, D.C. Just as the decision to move the campus from Glendale to downtown Phoenix was made in an effort to give students more opportunities in business-related studies, the concentration of students in Washington, D.C. will be at the heart of government and policymaking. As a MAGAM student myself, I am extremely excited that future students interested in government policy will have the opportunity to study in such proximity to the political system. This executive education program is now accepting applications and is ready to begin next spring.

Applied learning courses give students the opportunity to engage with the C-suite before graduation. Image courtesy of

Students interested in international policy that don’t have the experience that the new Executive MAGAM program requires should research the new concentrations that are being offered under the Master of Global Management degree here at Thunderbird. These new concentrations will provide students with the opportunity to personalize their degree program to their interests, and even gives them the option to design their own concentration, allowing future students the ability to get what they need from the many offerings at Thunderbird.

In addition to the language requirement, it will also be required for students to take six credits in applied learning courses. These courses give students the opportunity to apply the theoretical knowledge that they learn in the classroom in client-facing projects. These projects include the Global Challenge Lab (consulting projects), the FORAD simulation, and, of course, internships. “We introduced many applied learning opportunities in our program,” says Dr. Lena Booth, Associate Dean of Graduate Programs, “so students will be ready to deliver results from day one on the job. We believe it differentiates our students in the marketplace and could help place our students in better career opportunities.”

There is no doubt that now is an exciting time for T-birds everywhere. These changes, some new and others familiar, are coming swiftly after the news that Thunderbird is the No. 1 school for management.

“All these curriculum transformations,” Dr. Booth explains, “hopefully will help grow our student body and maintain our No. 1 ranking.”

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