TIAA Offers Free Membership to All Current Students

By Jake Strickler, Co-editor

Over the last semester, we’ve published a number of articles aimed at getting the current student body acquainted with the Thunderbird Independent Alumni Association, or TIAA as we call them around these parts. In brief, the TIAA was “founded in 2013 as an organization ‘By Alumni, For Alumni,’ dedicated to advancing the Thunderbird culture, mystique, network for graduates worldwide, and serving as a much-needed alumni voice,” in their words. They are self-funded through membership dues and donations and operate as a fully independent body, with and elected Board of Directors and a team of alumni volunteers.

Logo. Courtesy TIAA.
Logo. Courtesy TIAA.

One primary objective of the TIAA at the present moment is the success and development of this current batch of T-Birds, both during their time in Glendale and after, when, as newly-minted alumni, they spread their wings and take flight around the world. To that end, the group has taken a very supportive approach toward our recent merger with ASU, and has actively solicited student sentiment to see if there are any points where they can step in and be of aid in easing the transition.

As Lenora Peppers Greene ’03 (a longtime TIAA volunteer) says, “TIAA is invested in the success and well-being of today’s students, because once they graduate into the alumni network they will have the ability to play a vital role within the Thunderbird community of graduates by influencing and supporting students that follow them. We have all been recent graduates at one point, wondering where the alumni network would take us. TIAA is here to assist in these aspirations.”

To go one step further in this advocacy role, TIAA is now offering all current students a free membership (instructions on how to get it all set up are at the end of the article) in order to start taking advantage of their global network and to stay in the loop on what’s going on in the worlds of our T-Bird elders.

Thunderbird alumni current and future at a cocktail event in Scottsdale last fall. Courtesy TIAA Facebook page.
Thunderbird alumni current and future at a cocktail event in Scottsdale last Fall (courtesy TIAA Facebook page)

As a group run by and for alumni, they are partial to hosting meet-ups and other networking events. And with a membership of about 1,500 graduates spread out among 75 countries, these events are not limited to the Phoenix area but take place around the world.  In fact, the next cocktail get-together will be held on February 5th at a venue on Sydney Harbor. Also held are large meetup events for professional and personal development in which members from around the world come together to meet en masse. The next such event will be held in New York City on June 10-11.

Additionally, membership puts you on the email list for the weekly newsletter, which contains great pieces about T-Bird alumni who have gone on to achieve success in a wide array of industries and career paths. Also included is information about upcoming events, pertinent information related to the current state and future of the school, and invitations to participate in the monthly TIAA Community Calls – live webinars with a focus on a different topic or industry each session, hosted by an expert on the subject. TIAA would love to see increased student participation in these events.

In the interest of full journalistic disclosure, I arrived on campus last fall as a TIAA Scholar, which is a program that one gains admittance to through the recommendation of a member. Through this, I have had much direct experience with the TIAA and can attest to their concern and willingness to go the extra mile for current students. They’ve felt like a sort of safety net; I can count on them for assistance in whatever issues may arise during my time here.

Other TIAA Scholars have received an even greater degree of personal support from the organization, namely our own Cedric Yumba (MGM ’17, Congo), whose trials and tribulations just getting into the country by the time of the program’s start date were chronicled in an article published last year.

Looking back on the role that the TIAA played in getting him to Glendale, Cedric says, “The TIAA means a lot to me, and not only because of the financial support I have received from them. TIAA was massively involved in the crowd-funding effort initiated by my mentor to fund my flight into Phoenix, and I was so humbled to be welcomed at the airport by a TIAA banner. In addition to getting me to campus, they helped me settle in by helping me get a phone and buy groceries!”

In summation, joining TIAA adds another item to your toolkit for success, both as a student and as a graduate. It brings you into a smaller, more close-knit, and more active circle of the overall Thunderbird network. And keep in mind that greater passion and involvement on their end translates into a greater willingness to go out of their way to help out on your end, as evidenced by Cedric’s story. I’d recommend getting involved. If you’d like to do so, here’s how:

  1. Visit their website at
  2. Click on the “Join” button in the top-right corner of the homepage and select the “Current Student” option on the page it takes you to.
  3. Fill out your personal info for registration.
  4. Explore the website, watch out for the weekly newsletters, find events that you may be able to attend, and don’t hesitate to get in touch with the administration if you have any immediate concerns or just want to introduce yourself!

Additionally, you have the local support of the Scottsdale (run by TIAA member James Baker, ’11)  and Phoenix (helmed by Scott Campbell and Alicia Sutton both ’09) chapters, which both hold their own coordinated monthly meetings.

In fact, the Scottsdale chapter will be meeting Thursday (today – 1/28) at 5:30. If you have any interest in attending and jump-starting your participation, get in touch with Jennifer Demoney at .