Das Tor Exclusive: Getting to Know the TSG Team

The Thunderbird Student Government (TSG) team recently underwent a change in leadership. As the new leadership team takes office, Das Tor sat down to interview the new TSG members and learn more about their backgrounds, time at Thunderbird, and some surprising fun facts about them. Which of our new leaders was responsible for milking 250 cows before class during undergrad? Can you guess who used to be a roadie for a local DJ? Keep reading to find out.

Courtney Read, Vice President of Operations 

Das Tor (DT): What is your class year and concentration/area of study?

Courtney Read (CR): I am a first-year student (Fall 2020 Cohort). Roadrunners for the win! My concentration is in Global Business, and I am interested in sustainability in the energy industry.

DT: Why did you choose Thunderbird?

CR: I chose Thunderbird because I wanted to equip myself with the skills and knowledge to be successful in an international business arena. The amazingly accomplished staff were also an integral part of my decision to attend Thunderbird.

DT: Tell us about your background before joining Thunderbird.

CR: I grew up in South Florida with my twin sister, older brother and parents. My childhood was heavily influenced by my Hispanic heritage; my maternal grandparents immigrated to the US in the 1960’s, fleeing the communist regime in Cuba. Despite my grandfather’s vehement patriotism and pride associated with being an American citizen, we never forgot our roots. I continued my education at Florida State University, where I received my BS in International Affairs with a concentration in Buddhist & Islamic studies. 

DT: What motivated you to join TSG?

CR: I joined TSG to do my part to create a memorable and enjoyable experience for my fellow Tbirds. 

DT: What should we look forward to during your time at TSG? What goals do you have while you’re in office?

CR: Exciting and engaging events for any and all T-birds! I hope to create opportunities for my fellow students to experience new things and continue their journey towards being global citizens. 

DT: Tell us something that people at Thunderbird may not know about you.

CR: Before moving to Arizona, I played for several Florida-based ultimate frisbee teams! So if anyone wants to learn how to play, I would love to host a pickup game, or two. 

DT: Who is your role model?

CR: Maya Angelou 

DT: As we end, what is the main message you want to share with fellow Thunderbirds?

CR: I’m always available and willing to meet with any T-bird; whether just to chat or to discuss ways TSG can improve the student experience, I’m all ears.

 
Matt Witenstein, Vice President of Finance

 

DT: What is your class year and concentration/area of study?

Matt Witenstein (MW): First Year, Digital Transformations

 DT: Why did you choose Thunderbird?

MW: The community. From alumni to current students, I could not find a more tight knit and life-long group at any other school.

 DT: Tell us about your background before joining Thunderbird.

MW: Before Thunderbird, I grew up working in the family business. Then I went on to receive a BS in Public Relations from the University of Oregon. After school I worked abroad in Israel, finding funding from sources in China to invest in Israeli start-ups. Then I came home to Arizona where I have been an executive in a rising CPG brand, Truce, for the last 3.5 years.

 DT: What motivated you to join TSG?

MW: I want to give back to the school that has already given me so much. All the students on campus have great ideas for their various interests, and it is a great privilege to be in a position to help fund them.

 DT: What should we look forward to during your time at TSG? What goals do you have while you’re in office?

MW: Our team is so excited to get started! We really want to focus on how we can improve communication to the student body. From the finance side, I want to help our clubs accomplish all of their goals in style!

DT: Tell us something that people at Thunderbird may not know about you.

MW: In undergrad I worked every job you can think of – from cleaning out horse stalls to delivering food. I was even a roadie for a local DJ!

 DT: Who is your role model?

MW: My parents. I have learned so much from them about family, business, and how to carry myself.  

 DT: As we end, what is the main message you want to share with fellow Thunderbirds?

MW: Ask for help when you need it. We are an open community willing to help, but you must take the first step.

 
KayCee Hartwig-Dittman, Thunderbird Student Government President 
 

DT: What is your class year and concentration/area of study?

KayCee Hartwig-Dittman (KHD): I’m currently a first-year student in my second semester. I am concentrating in Digital Transformation along with Global Marketing.

DT: Why did you choose Thunderbird?

KHD: I was drawn to Thunderbird for its close-knit community of students and alumni with global mindsets and the passion for making a difference. I am so happy with my choice because I am able to meet people from all walks of life, and I couldn’t be prouder to be a T-bird. 

DT: Tell us about your background before joining Thunderbird.

KHD: Prior to Thunderbird, I actually spent 8 years as a Chef in the restaurant industry up in San Francisco. California has such a wonderful reputation for “farm-to-table” cuisine that I wanted to continue my education in agriculture to fully understand what goes on our plates everyday. From there I was awarded the opportunity to represent over 100 California dairy farmers in Seoul, South Korea. This opportunity sparked my interest in international marketing and inevitably drew me to Thunderbird. 

DT: What motivated you to join TSG?

KHD: From high school, I have always been interested in student government because I see the tremendous impact that a great team can provide for the student body. TSG was no different. The previous TSG executives did such an amazing job that I wanted to follow in their footsteps and continue to make a difference here at Thunderbird. 

DT: What should we look forward to during your time at TSG? What goals do you have while you’re in office?

KHD: The team and I are so excited to set into motion a lot of great ideas we have to improve upon the communication here at Thunderbird and also explore some new avenues during our one-year term. Our team will also still be in office during the launch of our brand new building, so we are looking forward to creating some fun events and activities surrounding that. 

DT: Tell us something that people at Thunderbird may not know about you.

KHD: During my time in undergrad, I would wake up at 1:00 a.m. every morning to milk 250 cows prior to my class at 8:00 a.m. It was an amazing experience fueled by lots of coffee, but nevertheless, it was one of the best times in my life.

DT: Who is your role model?

KHD: It’s hard to say, but if I had to pick, it would be Michelle Obama. After reading her book and watching her documentary on Netflix, she is a woman I aspire to be.

DT: As we end, what is the main message you want to share with fellow Thunderbirds?

KHD: Get involved and stay involved. Join as many clubs and organizations as you can to make the most of your short time here. We as the TSG team hope we can continue to help you on your journey and wish you all the best.

 

Aside from the executive team at TSG, several new directors have recently joined TSG, and Das Tor heard from them about their passions, backgrounds, and goals for their time serving on our student government.

 

Lily Hannan, Director of Student Experience

“I love people, exploring, and almost any activity. I have successfully sunken and saved a kayak in Fiji, fallen into sewage holes in Ecuador, and have a habit of creating group adventures while solo traveling. I also have over ten years work experience creating church experiences teenagers want to return to. I look forward to creating meaningful experiences among students as TSG’s Director of Student Experiences.”

 

 

 

 

Camella Bazemore, Director of Diversity & Inclusion

“I am a first-year MGM student in Global Business.  I have never met a stranger and have traveled to 70+ countries (I’ve lost count). Being the Director of Diversity and Inclusion allows me to let this superpower shine forth.  I truly enjoy meeting diverse people (I have friends on every continent except Antarctica) and learning from everyone I encounter.  I look forward to creating a memorable Regional Night that is as equally entertaining and makes our diverse community feel fully included and invested in the Thunderbird experience.”

 

 
Casey Mendoza, Director of Community & Alumni Outreach

“My diverse and wide-ranging experiences are catalysts for creating connections and establishing unique relationships with our most interesting students and alumni. From running marathons in San Diego to going clamming on the Oregon coast, or from riding camels in the Sahara to watching Messi score in Camp Nou (Barcelona), I bring new perspectives, a bit of humor, solutions-oriented thinking, and an enthusiasm for taking on new challenges. I look forward to planning engaging volunteer programs as TSG’s Director of Community and Alumni Outreach.”

 

 

Sakhi Solanki, Director of Marketing & Communications

“I enjoy creating stories and using the art of storytelling to bring people together. I have always been a closeted writer and designer. But I love listening to people, conversing with them, and getting to know their stories. As a Director of Marketing and Communications, I want to make sure all the students get to experience and create their own memorable stories and moments. I want to ensure that all the students get to create their own crazy, wonderful adventures and stories.”

 

 

 

Carpenter Valk-Feeney, Director of Undergraduate Engagement

“I am a first-year MGM student who graduated from Thunderbird as an undergraduate. I took on this role so I can create a better relationship between the MGM and Undergraduate students. As an undergraduate myself, I know that this partnership could mean the difference in an experience at Thunderbird and the memories that will last a lifetime. I look forward to serving with all my TSG team members to make my ideas come to life.”

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