Project Artemis: Opening Afghan Borders to Trade

By, Rick Beitman

When T-Birds think of Thunderbird School of Global Management, many thoughts may come to mind such as the Tower, the Pub, or rugby, but perhaps one of the most important things that should come to mind is Project Artemis. – The original program of Thunderbird For Good, Project Artemis is synonymous with the Thunderbird mission to “create sustainable prosperity worldwide”. It is for this reason that T-Birds everywhere should get excited about the crowd funding campaign debuting on Indiegogo to support the continuation of Project Artemis to educate Afghan women.


Courtesy:  Zainularab, photo by Paula Lerner
Courtesy: Zainularab, photo by Paula Lerner

Established in 2005, Project Artemis is both the first and longest running program of Thunderbird For Good. Founded by President Emeritus Ambassador Barbara Barrett, the mandate of Thunderbird For Good is to utilize its assets to increase prosperity. – There have been five cohorts and a total of 74 Afghan women who have been educated through Project Artemis. Following their return, these women have helped to create over 2500 jobs back home. By extension, Project Artemis alumnae have helped to train over 15,000 Afghans in this program.


The benefit of Project Artemis is clear. Thunderbird For Good goes into places with need and “creates prosperity through business education for all”. Affected by war for decades, Afghanistan is certainly one of the markets with the most need. – According to Kellie Kreiser, Executive Director of Thunderbird For Good and a 2004 Thunderbird alumna, it is a “proven formula”. Kreiser states that, “When you invest in women, 90 percent is reinvested in family and the community, and countries thrive.”


Courtesy;  Zainularab, photo by Paula Lerner
Courtesy; Zainularab, photo by Paula Lerner

Remarkably, Project Artemis is 100 percent self-funded through donations. Not so much as a single dollar comes from tuition or the school’s operating budget. – To secure the future of this wonderful program, Thunderbird For Good initiated a crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo on October 29 and it will close on December 14. The goal is $50,000 however if this goal is exceeded, this will increase the number of women who can participate in the next cohort.


In order for the crowd funding campaign to be successful, Kreiser “needs everyone on board” and for “students to take ownership and activate”. November is a big month for Project Artemis. “Giving Tuesday”, the philanthropic day following notorious Black Friday and Cyber Monday, is an excellent opportunity to give back to the community. T-Birds should enthusiastically encourage those they know that if they intend to donate on Giving Tuesday, that they should consider Project Artemis.


Fortunately, the crowd funding campaign has gotten this far as a group of dedicated students has already taken ownership. – Jakub Marciniak, MBA student from Germany, is the project manager. He hopes that his volunteer efforts will generate the largest possible impact, “Project Artemis is one of Thunderbird’s success stories and it should continue to improve the situation in Afghanistan as a whole. I hope to be part of a successful campaign that raises the greatest amount possible through the Thunderbird network and external donors. Many students have worked hard for the Project to become what it is right now. I believe that we have a competitive advantage to comparable campaigns due to the organizational embedment of Thunderbird For Good.”



Courtesy: Artemis fellows, 2005: photo by Tim Clark
Courtesy: Artemis fellows, 2005: photo by Tim Clark

Marissa Burkett, MBA student from Fernandina Beach, Florida, served on the video team for Project Artemis and assisted with the graphic design for social media. Burkett got involved because, “I have professional experience working on crowd funding campaigns for nonprofits and was especially interested about being involved in the creation of the video and graphic design.  I was also very impressed by the Project Artemis statistics. Some of the past graduates have become so successful that they now have hundreds of employees, which is a great opportunity for growth for their communities.”


Burkett was not alone. Steven Luna, MBA student from Orlando, Florida, also joined the video team and, with Burkett, came up with the creative direction for the video. Luna states, “I was asked to help create the campaign video for the Indiegogo page.  I didn’t know much about Project Artemis at the time, but after I learned what it was I couldn’t say no.”


Ariane Weidner of Germany, MS in Global Marketing and member of the Thunderbird Marketing Association, was approached by Marciniak to join the project. With him, Weidner is helping lead the student group. Of the project, she says, “[Marciniak] wanted to spread the word and get students involved who would be interested in running the marketing aspect of the campaign. I thought this was an exciting project, one where I could help to make a difference, so I got on board of the student team and we have been working very hard ever since to get the campaign up and running.”


Many other students have contributed to Project Artemis and the crowd funding campaign, such as Jayadeep Tanikonda, MBA student from India, who helped with social media, and Muhammad Mustafa, MBA student from Jordan, who assisted with finance and logistics. – Irrespective of their role, the sentiments of the team are universal in hoping to welcome the next cohort of Afghan women in 2016 and for Project Artemis to endure for the long term.


Hopefully, the excitement of these students will be contagious and pave the way for the 2016 cohort. – Since its inception, Thunderbird For Good has impacted the lives of over 107,000 people in 26 countries. Moving forward with the ASU merger, Kreiser is hopeful Project Artemis will continue as something uniquely Thunderbird, “It’s distinctly who we are; it’s part of our DNA.”


T-Birds (and anyone they can reach) have until December 14 to join in and also take ownership of this project by donating and helping to improve the global community. – T-Birds often hear the immortal words of William L. Schurz: “Borders frequented by trade seldom need soldiers.” – Afghanistan has more than seen its fair share of soldiers in decades past. Hopefully, the legacy of Thunderbird For Good and Project Artemis will be to make that need all the more seldom.



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