By Makarand Gawade, Staff Writer
Gosh, can’t believe it’s just six days to graduation!! It seems like yesterday when I joined Thunderbird chanting “Go Gila Monsters” (my cohort group) all throughout Foundations. Joining a graduate school after ten years of professional journey has been one of the most difficult decisions I have taken in my life. However, standing today at this juncture, I can certainly say with lot of pride that it has been the second best decision of my life. I call it second best because I’ve been happily married for the past seven years and that will always be the best decision of my life.
I chose Thunderbird for a variety of reasons; the most critical parameter for me was international/global education and experiences being the DNA of Thunderbird. I lived and experienced this unique global element through the classes taught, the diversity of cohorts, the international immersion programs, and most importantly the unique culture at Thunderbird. Some of the highlights of my experiences at Thunderbird have been learning business concepts, models, and frameworks from the best in the industries, participating in group projects with diverse cohorts, enjoying regional nights to the core, spending sleepless nights in the pub and Coleman lounge, and making friends for life. Personally, I could not have asked for a better graduate school experience; my time at Thunderbird had it all!
Learning the realm of business concepts, frameworks, and processes from the best professors at Thunderbird will remain an important highlight of my time at Thunderbird. Be it consulting, leadership, marketing, strategy, or finance, I believe we have the best professors in the industry. The quality of teaching and the dedication and passion exhibited by all professors are unparalleled. All the professors were available most of the times (even on weekends through email/text); most importantly all the professors were really approachable. I distinctly remember when I completed a certification in Global Oil and Gas Management over the summer. I had a few questions before enrolling in the course, so I contacted Professor Inkpen and he promptly and patiently responded to all my queries from Dubai, where he was conducting the executive MBA class. Professor Baer helped our team with pricing and marketing communication concepts for a group project in another class. I can give so many examples and name almost all professors with memorable incidents. So exuberant has been the journey at Thunderbird, with exceptional academic experiences.
I will always cherish the experiences gathered, lessons learned, and connections made though participation in group projects and case competitions. Throughout my journey, I was involved in multiple projects with my cohorts from multicultural and multifunctional backgrounds. I always felt the team members had a deep understanding of cultural nuances and were cognizant of differences. Since diversity is one of the core elements in Thunderbird’s education, the team members were always adapting themselves to suit the situations. I think everyone viewed cultural differences as a positive and valuable resource, and though we maintained our own cultural identity, we were successful in integrating aspects of other cultures as well. Collaborative decision making process was an important trait of all group projects that I was involved in. I was always amazed how team members from Asian countries (high power distance countries) were equally involved in the decision making process as were the team members from the Western countries (low power distance countries). We as T-birds always gel well by complementing each other and working towards a common goal of producing a topnotch deliverable, be it a group project, regional night performance, or Thundercares project.
When I first visited Thunderbird as a prospective student, I got a unique opportunity to attend an Asian regional night. Being a prospective student I guess this is an unparalleled experience provided by the school. I think experiencing Thunder-mystique, positive vibes, and harmony through the regional night propelled my decision to join Thunderbird as a full-time MBA student. During the last two years, I have attended at least seven regional nights, and I had a ball of a time at every single on. The lively performances, authentic regional food, music from all parts of the world, free alcohol (pre-ASU), and awesome T-birds have made those regional night experiences unforgettable.
I think living off-campus kept me away from many amazing moments on campus, but I had my fair share of those moments from long nights spent at the Pub, Fish, and Coleman lounge. The nightlong eating, drinking, dancing, and chatting really made this journey special and enjoyable. I believe the pub has a very special place in the heart of every T-bird; this place has made our experiences better, and our connections stronger.
Lastly, the special connections made at Thunderbird with cohorts, alumni, and professors are beyond friendship; it is a new family away from family. I certainly believe the bumpy ride post-ASU merger was smoothed because of the strong unity among Thunder family. We supported each other when times were difficult, rumors were floating, and the future looked uncertain; I as a student from the last MBA batch of Thunderbird take pride and believe that we came out stronger since we had each other’s backs.
Well, this magical journey as a student at Thunderbird is coming to an end, but only to give rise to another exciting journey as an alum of Thunderbird; Thunderbird is and will always remain a home away from home for me, and I am sure for all of us too! I just want to reiterate what Professor Ram had said during his interview for a Das Tor article – “regardless of what happens over the next few years, the Thunder spirit and ethos will live forever. And each one of us is an integral part of it!”