Where Am I?

By Kelly Swanson

Friday Feb 15 2013
6:00AM. Making breakfast for my birthday girl, my wife.
7:00AM. Boxing and working out in the garage.
7:45AM. Shower
8:00AM. Eat
9:00AM. Leave for train to SFO Airport
10:00AM. On the train reading homework.
11:00AM. I am about to board a plane as I am writing from the inside of a burger joint in the international terminal. My burger is ready. I have to go eat before my flight.
11:30AM. Board flight to Lima, Peru.
11:45AM. Put headphones on and start reading about South America, and doing homework.
12:30AM. Land in Lima, Peru.
12:40AM. Look for the Taxi driver holding a sign. (he didn’t show!)

Sound familiar? Hello again! We are all back from lovely Lima, Peru and some of us from China. As an On-Demand Global MBA student at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, I have to be ready for anything. I have to think on my toes and get it done. For example, before I left for the RBE, I thought wow; I am going to be in Peru. Lets get an appointment with U.S. Ambassador Likins and get an interview for Das Tor. Simple enough. I email the State Department Press office, to ask them about it. They sent my request directly to the Embassy and presto! I have a reply back from the Media officer at the Lima Embassy.  It sounds easy, but I was really hoping by my timing that the Ambassador was in country and not at a conference. Well no luck. My request for an interview was denied.

So, enter Loreen Stoddard. Mr Stoddard is the Director of Alternative Development at USAID.  When Stoddard is not fighting the war on drugs with chocolate, he has his own rock band, and loves to talk. A giant of a man, Stoddard is imposing and has a booming voice. His own Embassy staff calls him a god, and he received applause whenever he entered a room. In some respects he really is a rock star, and a legend. He is in charge of an effort to provide alternative employment opportunities to Peruvians involved with illegal coca-growing. Stoddard promotes the production of Peru’s Amazon-based coffee, palm oil, and especially, cacao, and has created thousands of jobs and boosted Peru’s economy. Many tours of Afghanistan, Iraq, and other locations that you wouldn’t visit are all a place Stoddard thrives in.  I can’t say how he became a legend because I was sworn to secrecy, but let’s just say that you want to meet him, you want to go on the Lima RBE with Dr. Nelson, and everything you hear is absolutely true. Now if that doesn’t make you want to buy a ticket and fly to Peru I don’t know what will. The Lima RBE itself is a legendary and almost a sacred RBE of Thunderbird. I highly recommend it.

The one thing that makes Thunderbird stand out from Harvard, INSEAD, Stanford, and all the rest of the MBA programs are the RBEs. Without the RBE, Thunderbird is just another MBA program with far better professors. The experience with the alumni, the partnered businesses, and the “Social License” is what sets us apart from the rest. I have heard rumors that the RBE experience may be reduced or cut it in half or maybe from the program, which would be a huge mistake. The RBE, the Summerim and Winterim’s are what make the Thunderbird experience priceless. If those who make those sorts of decisions are doing it to save money or for some other reason, they are not acting in the best interest of us, the students. The main reason many of us came and spent the 100K+ tuition is to experience something that no other University can offer. We are number one because we offer the number one experience. I hope someone can see this and make sure that this doesn’t happen. I myself want my children to attend Thunderbird and carry on our new family tradition.  If it’s money, then charge me more. I want the number one experience and I am willing to pay out of pocket to get it. My experience at the Lima RBE is like a family reunion. I meet new people that are a part of the Thunderbird family, but maybe they are in another cohort, or they graduated already. It’s by this experience that I begin to transform into a Thunderbird.

The alumni, such as Willy Sonos, and the Loren Stoddard’s of the world, are a part of this rich, dynamic RBE experience. It is as priceless as the Thunderbird education itself and is a cornerstone of every alumnus’s experience.  So why is Loren Stoddard so important? He too is a Thunderbird Alumni!  He has changed a country, and has promoted the Thunderbird experience to even more future alumni. His “can do” determination is the pride of Thunderbird and an example of what a T-bird can strive to achieve. Without the ability to see Mr. Stoddard through the RBE experience, I would not have been able to see how powerful this experience was.  It changed my outlook, and I look forward to the next RBE with even wider eyes than before.   See you next week and remember the bird is word!


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