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Flags of many nations a legacy at Thunderbird commencement

On the Venezuelan flag, yellow symbolizes the gold found in the land, while on the Ethiopian flag, yellow represents religious freedom and peace. The flag of Senegal includes a band of yellow, which stands for arts, literature and intellect.

The same color symbolizes different virtues, but these flags will stand together Monday in the iconic “International Parade of Flags” at the graduation ceremonies of the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale. The school will have 77 graduates.

This is the 40th anniversary of the tradition at Thunderbird, which became part of Arizona State University two years ago. At every commencement, several graduates carry the flags of their homeland or the country of their family’s origin. At Monday’s ceremony, 20 flags will be represented.

Video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

“It means a great deal to me, and it means I’ll be representing my family, my country and everyone in Senegal,” said Gabrielle Gueye, who is American and will carry the flag of her father’s country of birth.

Bisrat Kebede Bahta has been in the United States for more than 25 years, and he will carry the flag of Ethiopia.

“I was born in Ethiopia, and I love Ethiopia. I’m a naturalized U.S. citizen, and I love the United States. I love both countries,” Bahta said.

Thunderbird was started as an international business school in 1946 on the site of a World War II training base for pilots. Next week will mark the 70th anniversary of the first graduating class. Over the decades, the school has maintained its mission of teaching students to do business with a multicultural perspective.

The program is intense and fosters a unique bond among the students. The Thunderbird network of alumni has 170 chapters among 70 countries.

Reine Dianzinda said that graduation is bittersweet.

“Learning from all the cultures was very interesting. I feel like I’m more prepared than most people out there to actually work with other people and bring what I learned from other cultures into the working environment,” she said.

Dianzinda will carry the flag of her homeland, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“Even though my country has a lot of instability, I still feel connected,” she said.


Top photo: Graduates walk in the International Parade of Flags in 2016 at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now