Student Spotlight: Monica Belz-Thomas

Courtesy: Monica Belz-Thomas
Courtesy: Monica Belz-Thomas

By Kelly Swanson

We are kicking off our On Demand student highlight series with one of the most amazing up-and-coming females on the planet. She is the lovely and always graceful Monica Belz-Thomas. When she is not rock climbing, surfing the biggest waves, spearfishing, night diving, free diving, snorkeling, deep-sea fishing, and kayaking, she is a volunteer firefighter, and a Master SCUBA Diver Trainer. Along with speaking Russian, Spanish, English and learning Japanese, she is a mother to two cute children: Loveday and Malakai, and wife to husband Barry who is just as competitive as she is. Monica, as a Thunderbird On Demand (OD) student is embracing all things global. Monica has earned her Bachelor of Arts in Organizational and Interpersonal Communication from Vanguard University of Southern California and juggles the world of life and OD with grace and style like no other. Monica grew up in Portland, Oregon, but now resides on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Monica has 12 years of experience in global expeditions spanning nearly 40 countries among Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. These service expeditions have included wilderness survival & first-aid clinics, orphanage developments, documentary filming, and many humanitarian projects.  She just got back from doing her RBE in Hong Kong where she had a great experience seeing all of her fellow cohort. I asked Monica to take a minute from her extreme underwater photography (see photos) and busy schedule to tell us a few things about herself; she obliged my begging, so the rest of the T-Birds could get to know our ODXVI “Surfer Girl.”

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Monica Belz-Thomas: wife and mother of two children: Loveday is 4 years old.  Malakai is 2 years old.

Two dynamite gals and I started a global Marketing and Project Management firm about four years ago.  My role is primarily business development and global strategy, among a hundred other hats. I am also a real estate agent on Kauai.  Most importantly, however, my husband and I care for my 93-year-old rock-star grandma.

I have many goals; here are a few:

-Raise some awesome, educated tri-lingual island kids who love people.
-Surf better than my husband.
-Catch more fish with a spear than my husband does with a pole.
-Rock Climb a 5.12b(Rock wall rating) with ease (I’m already better than my husband) (we have photo proof of this).
-Sustainably help and change a hopeless and abused people group.

Tell us something we don’t already know about you. (secret stuff, not too secret). 

I’ve always wanted to be a Ninja Turtle.  But I’m afraid of the dark.

What do you hope to gain from Thunderbird besides the best global business education? (New careers, enlightenment, raise, other…) Please describe.

I hope to grow as a person, as a mother, as a business professional and as a citizen of the globe.  But I’ve already gained the best part: an extended family of enthusiastic new friends pursuing epic endeavors across the planet (T-birds).

How do you manage the day-to-day routine that is the Thunderbird class?

Like this*:
6:00am: Rise with the pink sky. Brew Kauai Coffee.  Respond to work emails/calls.  Check the surf.  Blend Papaya Smoothie.
7:00am: Hug keiki (keiki=“kids”, for you non-islanders). Feed Keiki. Dress Keiki.  Kiss husband.  Give Grandma pills.
8:00am: Drop keiki off at school. Respond to more emails while en-route to surf spot (or a hike/free-dive, conditions permitting).
9:00am: Paddle out. Get worked. Survive with a smile.
10:30am: Catch a wave in. Pick up Foodland Poke for breakfast. More Hawaii Coffee.
11:00am: Daily Devotions. More work emails and conference calls.  Homework, homework, homework.
3:00pm: Pick up Keiki.  Take to beach or to Japanese/Spanish teacher. Wear them out while sneaking in more Global Economics readings or podcasts.
5:00pm:  Feed family.  Play.  Half-pipe it up with the keiki.
6:30pm: Take keiki to beach for sunset. Get sandy.
7:30pm: Bath-time, Spanish book-time, bed-time.
8:30pm: Back to homework, homework, homework until my eyes close themselves.

*Typical weekdays, when not off island for work, school, or seasonal El Salvador house.

What hasn’t happened for you yet?

14 foot Tiger Shark Encounter (that I’m aware of)

Law School for Human Rights

50-year wedding anniversary

Building a sustainable company somewhere cool, like Suriname or Morocco.

Has Thunderbird changed your life?

-Yes. Refer to Question #3 & 4.

Who is your inspiration?

Jesus, victims of inhumanity, and families who have sacrificed for our freedoms.

What support do you have from your family?

My family is sacrificing far more than I am for this degree.  I owe a 3.9 to them!

If we were in an airport traveling, how can we spot you in the airport, where would we find you?

Asleep, preferably near a window.

IPhone or Android?

iPhone family

What’s the first song on your playlist right now?

-Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – White Sandy Beach

Favorite Movie?


Best thing about you?


Worst thing about you?

I was born without a safety gene.  But motherhood is helping.

Did you buy Facebook stock?


Pick one category (Entrepreneur, Worker bee, Explorer)? Why?

Explorer: Lewis and Clark Style.  Because I love the journey of discovering what’s around the next bank.

Is your glass: half-full or half empty? Why in one word?

My glass is overflowing. Come and get some.


Thank you so much Monica for allowing me to interview you. I know the T-bird community and Das Tor are excited to have you among the ranks of future graduates and as a friend to everyone.  I appreciate everything you have contributed to our ODXVI cohort. We wish you an exciting time during your lessons and look forward to seeing you at graduation day!

[acx_slideshow name=”Student Spotlight”]

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