The Three Foundations of One Thunderbird Part III: The Stinger of the Scorpions

Andrew Dzielinski

Andrew Dzielinski

Alumni Guest Writer

This article goes over a Foundations that I led in January 2020 but didn’t get around to writing until now, August 2022. As I write this, I’m in a brewery, stumbling distance from my place. I didn’t want to write this in my room because I work remotely and practically live on the computer there. I also promised David from Das Tor a completion to my Foundations article trilogies but the biggest reason I’m writing this is to honor the Scorpions, the 2nd cohort I led during a Foundations. I apologize to all my Scorpions for taking 30 months to write this article honoring you all. This one is dedicated to you.

The month was December 2019 (or late November). I just finished my term of being the VP of Finance with the student government, I was seeing a lot of my friends in the three-semester MGM program graduate, but I was still a big pillar of support for the current first years at Tbird…I was what they referred to as “connected” in the school…sharing drinks with the Dean, being known by the professors for my snarky participation…making some of the closest friends in my life.

This was also the peak of the Captain, my alter-ego that took pub night as a way of life. But with my tenure in Thunderbird Student Government (TSG) coming to an end combined with the fact that I’d only be taking 3 classes in spring 2020, I feared becoming bored and restless, like a destructive border collie.

My last foundations with the Wolves caught the attention of the student engagement department at Thunderbird. They needed someone to lead the only cohort that would be coming in January and I fit the profile. I felt honored and part of my negotiations class final with LeClerc was to negotiate something…anything. So I negotiated how much I was going to be paid for this venture, lowballing myself and hearing the hiring staff’s laughter before actually convincing them to pay me 25% more than they initially wanted. SUCCESS!

So, the summer/fall Foundations takes a full team to turn the chaos of 4 cohorts competing into organized chaos. The winter/spring Foundations, however, requires someone who can inject that same energy into a Foundations experience but with only one cohort. They are competing with no one so how could I get them revved up for the Tbird experience? In summer, you work with 3 cohort leaders, 2 student organizers, and 2 school employees. This time, I had two school employees at my disposal. Less chaos. But more sole responsibility. I could make this Foundations mine. MUAHAHA

Every cohort takes on the name of an animal that’s native to Arizona. Some animals have been used multiple times throughout Thunderbird history, creating comradery with past cohorts. I came in as a Coyote, and led my first cohort as a Wolf (canines, plus wolves be badass); this time I chose the Scorpions to honor my Coyote cohort leader since she came into Thunderbird as a Scorpion (to be honest, I would never have assumed responsibility and leadership without her subtle pushing). 

This winter Foundations took about a week of prep…not too difficult…not my first rodeo…but I was still nervous. Could I reproduce the success I had with the Wolves and all the students in the summer/fall Foundations of 2019, or would this shindig crash and burn because the Scorpions wouldn’t have anybody to compete with?

On the first day of Foundations, I awoke in the dark- the sun doesn’t rise until a late 7 o’clock and I had to be on campus by 7:30. I took the express bus in the dark (which by the way is really fast because it bypasses all traffic) and arrived at the school in 30 minutes during rush hour. As soon as I arrived, I grabbed all the swag and breakfast snacks for the new students from the student engagement office. By the time the lock struck 8 o’clock, most of the students had arrived…in complete awkward silence, the sun barely risen.

The new group, for the most part, consisted mainly of newly graduated students with a few late 20/early 30-year-olds. There is an advantage to continuing your education freshly out of undergrad; you’re still in “school mode”, but it also makes training out of the sweatshirt student mentality harder. Thunderbird is a business school (with copious amounts of alcohol) where you have alumni and career recruiters coming in every now and again…always better to overdress than underdress when you’re trying to impress.

In the group, there were some standouts. One of them was Janvi, the bubbliest Underbird (who did their undergrad at Thunderbird) who loves hugs, intellectual debate, and keeping up with my style of motormouth conversation. Jae, another undergrad brilliantly getting a medical degree who I admit I might have given a hard time. I mistook his busy schedule for flakiness (apologies Jae- haha). There was Darian who I couldn’t disagree with more politically but is a great guy who even gave me a ride as his car was about to explode in flames. Godsway, the chill Ghanian who I will admit smashed my face with a dodgeball during the Thunder Olympics (more to come). The group as a whole was laidback and adapted well being thrown into a winter/spring Foundations experience.

Again, the challenge was that this particular Foundations was all mine to create (minus the few professors to speak to Thunderbird values and the ASU employees to tell the new grad students not to assault each other). I also had to inject team spirit into a group that was not competing with other groups. Adversity makes the bonds together stronger but what happens when there is no “other” to compete against?

I created a couple of games that made the Scorpions compete amongst themselves like pub trivia (it was in the morning, so no drinks…boo), wild cards (a game of backstabbing, distrust, accusations, and lies- because what better way to unite a cohort?), and the spaghetti tower game I recycled from last Foundations (don’t reinvent the wheel). But it wasn’t all about division. I made a scavenger hunt! They solved it way too quickly. I thought I had at least 25 minutes of material and they crushed it in 15. These Scorpions were smart cookies who knew how to hustle.

My favorite memory of the Scorpions’ Foundation was the Thunder Olympics that I made up on the fly. I wanted them to have that real Foundations experience of bruises and unnecessary physical activity but there was an issue…who the heck would they compete with as a solo cohort?! Enter Team Thunder, a ragtag group of current 1st and 2nd year volunteers seeking either Thunder Olympic redemption or a fun January morning containing tests of athletic prowess…or they were just students moved by my pleas and begging to compete against the new cohort.

My Team Thunder consisted of some great volunteers. First off, Foundations Ops Leader Torrie came back to support me and said she would only come for moral support/maybe timekeeping (she ended up chucking dodgeballs at the new blood). Teri, the first year student taking over for me as the VP of Finance with student government led a military style warm-up that nearly killed half of us. There was Katie Showers from the Wolves, having a soft spot for me and a love for athletics (she wanted Thunder Olympics redemption, though- in the previous Foundations, she was a beast at dodgeball). Honestly, the people that showed up and supported the incoming cohort made me feel absolutely excited that I was carrying on the tradition (and apparently had some kind of pull at Thunderbird). Oh! And Emma, the girl I would bridesmaid for and eventually become Uncle Andrew for her child, thank you for showing up even though you had no desire to do sports in the morning.

The Olympics were fun, even if Godsway smashed my face with a dodgeball within 2 seconds of dodgeball. In my defense, I was a 2nd year and had to show the new cohort who we are…even if we lost (this marks my third loss in a Thunder Olympics, damn this event to hell). I’ll take this time to thank all volunteers who made this the highlight of January 2020.

The very last thing the Scorpions had as a cohort WAS PUB NIGHT! Pub night is simple. Tell a downtown bar we’re packing their place (we were pub-less during the downtown transition), throw them some money for food, and invite as many Tbirds as possible. While it was awesome to help pack a bar the previous summer during Foundations, this one felt more important. I was the only one leading the effort for the new students to meet the older students; teaching Tbird networking at its finest. And there was my speech. I wrote a speech that I forgot as soon as I stood up. Pretty much the premise: thank you to all the current students for supporting the Scorpions, and to the new students, welcome to the Thunderbird family.

Epilogue: I graduated in May 2020 (during COVID- lucky me. I was going to probably go extra receiving my diploma during my walk). It saddens me that I won’t be able to compete in a cohort like the Coyotes or lead a cohort like the Wolfpack or the Scorpions again. But I’m also excited for the endless opportunities to get and stay connected with Thunderbird in the future. Last year, I was able to drum with Global Sounds and stay close to my alumni best friends. I still party with current students and alumni, carrying on the spirit of Pub Night Captain. But still, a big piece of my Tbird identity was created from the friends I’ve made- be it the clubs I’ve joined, the pub nights I’ve attended, the classes I took…or the weeks of boot camp I’ve experienced (as a member or leader) known at Thunderbird as Foundations. My parting words to any new Thunderbird doing Foundations would be this: be open to making friends with anyone from anywhere. Because that’s what the Thunderbird experience is all about.

See you at the Pub.

The “Captain”

-Andrew

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