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Farewell T-bird Financial Aid Advisors. Hello ASU.

by Alina Buzgar, Editor-in-Chief

We have valued the contribution of our Financial Aid office staff for decades. Sometimes we took it for granted and sometimes we expressed our gratitude; all in all, there are many generations of T-birds who relied on their help, support, and expertise to make it through Thunderbird… financially speaking.

Financial Aid Team
Financial Aid Team

Thunderbird is at a crossroads and many of the services offered from within the Herberger building are now being passed on to the specialized offices and departments within ASU. Financial Aid is one of them. Starting July 1, 2015 we won’t be going to the offices of Cathering King-Todd, Brenda Wright or Nancy Barnes with our questions about our schooling related finances. Instead, we will rely on ASU’s Financial Aid and Scholarship Services headed by Executive Director Melissa Pizzo.

Before taking off to their new jobs and opportunities, we set down with the team to reminisce about their time at Thunderbird and find out where they are heading.

Catherine King-Todd || Director, Financial Aid

Catherine King-ToddProfessional background: I’ve been working since I was 12 and I did everything from babysitting to mowing lawns. I’ve had jobs as a waitress, bartender, and teacher both  in the US and in France where I lived for about three years. My degree is in French and Education.

Career at Thunderbird: I have been at Thunderbird for 33 and a half years.  The school has had many names over the years – Thunderbird – The American Graduate School of International Management, Thunderbird – The Garvin School of International Management, Thunderbird School of Global Management and now Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University.

I have been in the financial aid office for the entire time at Thunderbird and I loved it! Financial aid is not something you go to school for but learn on the job for the most part. I began as a counselor/processor and then moved into the Director position in 1989. The students are the best and everyday can be an adventure with all the stories they share about what they have done or where they are from. I will miss this interaction the most.

Personal details: I enjoy making greeting cards and getting creative along with working in my yard. I also like to spend time with family and friends. Actually, I met my husband at Thunderbird. He was head of landscaping in the 80s. We felt we were a ThunderCouple and very connected to this special place. It was a special treat to receive flowers from him that he had grown on campus. We pursued our relationship primarily, in the pub.  Back then, the pub only served beer and wine (how far we have come!). I also consider Thunderbird part of my extended family. I look forward to continuing and rekindling friendships in future years and hope to visit many of you around the world.

Thunderbird stories: The Financial Aid Office used to have a Bizarre Bazaar which was essentially a rummage sale and is something that is little known to current students. It ended in the mid-late 90’s as there were so many other activities on campus. We did this to raise money for a short-term Student Emergency Loan Fund (ELF) to help students financially. This was loads of fun and had lots of involvement from students who coordinated the event. Costumes were encouraged and I had one that I called the ELFIN’ Fairy. I dressed in a bright green dress, fairy wings and elf shoes.  Dr. Herberger was here ‘in training’ and that was what I was wearing the first time I met him!

One was something called ThunderSpirit. This was a group of staff and students along with a few faculty that created the coming together of all segments of Thunderbird to  embrace what Thunderbird is. The first event had administrators grilling our lunch and we had various athletic type events, with teams consisting of staff, faculty and students. I also participated in an employee exchange in the mid-80’s.

Since I spoke French (at that time much better than I do today) and Thunderbird was looking at a school in France for the summer study abroad, I spent a couple of months in Lyon, France working with the Director of International Studies to set up a variety of cultural excursions and academic activities.

While the Thunderbird Balloon races were held on campus, I was the Student Club coordinator for those clubs wishing to have a booth.  Many of the clubs sold food and country or region specific items.  It was truly glorious to see all the balloons inflate and float through the sky!  The Balloon Race was a way for the clubs to do fundraising and to raise money for the Friends of Thunderbird Scholarship fund.

Plans for the future: I plan to take it easy for a bit. I have a number of projects inside and outside of my house I would like to complete.  I will be taking a road trip later on and planning a trip to Asia in the spring. I will be back for graduation and the 70th anniversary celebration. Please stay in touch!  My number is 602.312.2882 and email is kingtoddcatherine168@gmail.com or through LinkedIn. All the best everyone!


Nancy Barnes || Financial Aid Specialist, Management Systems Coordinator

Nancy Barnes
Nancy Barnes

Professional background: I worked retail for 15 and a half years at Mervyn’s department store and spent my last 4 years at the store at Arrowhead Towne Center in various management level positions including customer service manager.

Career at Thunderbird: I have been at Thunderbird for 17 and a half years. I started as a Financial Aid Counselor and as green as they come! I had no idea what I was getting into! I am ending my career as a Financial Aid Counselor at Thunderbird School of Global Management at ASU very humbled and in awe of the wonderful experiences I have had here. Thunderbird has made such a difference in my life; I can only hope I have helped students achieve the same thing.

Personal details: I have always been into crafts and needle works, even as a child. While you can still find me playing with felt and yarn, my favorite things at the moment are paper crafts (scrapbooking and cards, etc.) and digital design. I am also a big fan of reading and still think one of the best birthday gifts ever was my Kindle! I also dabble in poetry and essay writing. I have been married for 19 years to my husband Gaylord. Our son Logan will be 17 in August. My mother and my brother live with us as well as one of my son’s friends. We are wait staff to two cats and a dog – all of which are rescue animals and exceedingly spoiled! And we fit all of this into just under 1400 sq. ft. It’s a bit tight but thank heavens for IKEA’s vertical storage solutions!

You can stay in touch with Nancy through her LinkedIn page.


Brenda Wright || Financial Aid Counselor/Advisor

Brenda Wright
Brenda Wright

Professional background: I worked at Grand Canyon University for 12 years before coming to Thunderbird.  I was in the Business Office there and started as a cashier and worked my way through every position up to the Business Office Director position.  I found that I did not want to work in a management position so I came to Thunderbird so I could continue in Higher Education with my customer service skills.  With my AR background it helped me to be able to explain the Financial Aid and Student Account process clearly to the students.

Career at Thunderbird: I have been at Thunderbird for 10 years. I am in the same position I was hired into, but I know that I was part of a great team to continually improve customer service to enhance the student experience.  I was also part of the ThunderVoices committee that implemented the Lunch Club for Faculty and Staff to break down the department silos across campus. I was voted by graduating class two different years as Outstanding Staff Member and was proud to be part of the team when we received the Outstanding Department a few years back.  The awards are very nice but I am most proud of the relationships I have built with so many of the students.

Personal details: My hobby is my family.  I am a busy grandma to seven and they are all here in the valley except for one who is in Florida. I spend a lot of time watching baseball, basketball, soccer and lacrosse games. I have been married to my husband Tim, for 14 years. I have two sons who each have two kids and a step-son with one son and step-daughter who has a son and a daughter.  The first five grandkids are boys and I finally got my girls with the last two grandkids.  I am a very proud grandma can you tell?

Thunderbird stories: My most cherished memories of Thunderbird will be the relationships I have built with the students. The faculty and staff are very special, but serving the students is such a passion of mine and they have made me feel an important part of their Thunderbird experience. To be a part of any one of these students lives has been such a privilege because I know you are all going out to make this world a much better place. I love the Thunderbird campus because I remember driving by here as a child, on our way to Thunderbird Park, and to watch it grow into such a beautiful place has been exciting.

Plans for the future: I will be starting a position with BlueCross/BlueShield of AZ in July.  I am excited to move onto this next chapter in my career but will always hold Thunderbird close to my heart. I hope to stay in contact with many of the students to watch your growing careers.  You all amaze me! Connect with me on my LinkedIn.

lwm3_mgASU’s Financial Aid and Scholarship Services is here to answer any questions you may have regarding your financial aid. Your success is our priority. That’s why we’re here for you 24/7.

We invite you to:

•Call us at 855-278-5080

•Log in to the My ASU Service Center to:

Chat With Us


Submit A Question/Case

•Connect with a financial aid representative during the first week of classes when we’ll be on the Thunderbird campus

•Visit us throughout the year at ASU West—University Center Building, Room 120

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