From the President: One Thunderbird, One Shared Future


By President Larry Penley

Over the past two weeks, I have taken part in hundreds of conversations with students, faculty, and other leaders in higher education around the world. Without exception, every single one of these dialogues has shared a common theme: in order to ensure Thunderbird’s continued growth we must be united as One Thunderbird.

Reflecting on this early stage of my tenure as President of Thunderbird, it is clear that the greatest changes and improvements that have happened resulted from having open and transparent dialogue with the faculty, staff and especially students. Our students have been some of the most powerful agents of change within this institution. One recent example of this is the continued curriculum enhancement to the full-time MBA program, an innovative evolution of the Thunderbird MBA program, which will continue in the fall of 2014. These improvements would not have been possible without the open and constructive feedback and conversation between administration and our students.

Another great example stems from the student-initiated dialogue regarding the finance curriculum. In Spring 2013 I was in casual dialogue with students in the MS Finance Program in the Yount Building Lobby.  The direction students gave was constructive and clear.  The faculty acted immediately with recommended modifications.  With more time for deliberation in Fall 2013, the Master of Science in Global Finance was significantly modified in response to student recommendations and current market drivers. The school also used this opportunity to revisit the Master of Science in Global Marketing curriculum. The enhanced curricula for both programs will launch in fall 2014 as well.

Perhaps the best example of students’ adding value to Thunderbird is the development and launch of Task Force 20/20.  When I first heard about this project I was intrigued by its mission to facilitate cross-functional stakeholder engagement with a work product focused on the core areas of student experience. The progress reported at a recent First Friday meeting confirmed the very significant value of Task Force 20/20.  This type of collaboration embodies the values of T-Birds, and I believe it has laid a strong foundation to ensure that this Thunderbird, founded in 1946, will not only thrive towards 2020, but also continue to be One Thunderbird in 2046 for our centennial anniversary.

The Thunderbird faculty and my administration understand the value of dialogue and open communication channels, as demonstrated by the success of these three examples. We will continue to make this a central component in key decisions made at the School. And as Thunderbird continues to innovate, the involvement and feedback of our Thunderbird community will become even more important in order to ensure that Thunderbird endures as the leading educator of international managers.

And on the topic of successful international managers, I am proud to announce that our graduation speaker for the 2014 academic year will be a friend – of mine, Thunderbird’s and several of our faculty.  He is a renowned business strategist and former chief operating officer of Microsoft Corporation, Bob Herbold. Currently, Dr. Herbold is the Managing Director of the Herbold Group, a consulting business focused on profitability, strategy and operations. Herbold also serves on the Board of Directors of Agilent Technologies and of Neptune Orient Shipping Lines. Some of you had the chance to hear from Dr. Herbold when he spoke on campus. We received wonderful feedback on his talk and look forward to welcoming him back to campus on May 9th as we usher in the newest members of the Thunderbird Alumni.

Thank you for all you do to make Thunderbird such a special place.

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