This past Tuesday, a group of students were invited to be part of a Student Roundtable with Dr. Penley and Mr. Doug Becker. Mr Becker, the CEO of Laureate Education was on campus to meet with the Thunderbird Global Council and took some time out to meet some students.
Mr. Becker started out with explaining why Thunderbird was important to Laureate and how he envisioned Thunderbird to be an even better place which business students aspire to attend. He went on to speak about Laureate’s focus on only associating with the top schools in their discipline, leading to their choice of tying up with Thunderbird. Dr. Penley elaborated on the campuses around the world which could serve as a starting point or ending semester for Thunderbird students. Both were keen on exploring ideas that would ensure that Thunderbird would be top of mind when people think of international business.
Students at the round table had wide ranging concerns such as the falling brand identity of Thunderbird, Thunderbird’s drastic fall in B-school rankings, falling rates of employment for T-birds post graduation, worries over departing faculty and Board of Trustees, souring of relationships with the alumni as well as the kind of growth Thunderbird can expect to see over the next few months and years.
Both Dr. Penley and Mr. Becker emphasized that reforming the brand awareness of the school was important in attracting students to Thunderbird, mentioning that Laureate is funding market research studies among students, alumni and other to gauge the current brand representation of Thunderbird as well as what students and alumni would like the brand identity of Thunderbird to be. Mr. Becker also spoke of how Laureate extensive worldwide network would be a supplement to Thunderbird’s strong alumni network, given the international career aspirations of the students. He added that the business school entrants at international campuses of Thunderbird would be solely determined by the admissions department of Thunderbird to ensure that the caliber of Thunderbird’s student population is maintained while expanding into different regions and making studying at Thunderbird an easier experience for international students.
With regard to the negative press that Thunderbird received over the summer, Mr. Becker’s hope is that the positive outcomes from the global expansion and improving the standing of the school will rectify the image of the school that has been created in the press and the business community. While not going into specifics, Mr. Becker also hopes that infrastructure expansion of classrooms, campus housing, technology and bringing on more faculty would also help to strengthen the reputation of the school.
A positive aspect of the round table was Laureate’s recognition of the toll the present situation is placing on the students, who have plenty to be worried about with classes, internship/job searches, et al. While the discussion was short, it would useful to the students to have plenty of further opportunities to raise their concerns to both Dr. Penley and Mr. Becker.