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By Bethany Chijindu '17, Master of Global Management
Diversity is deeply ingrained in the core of what Thunderbird School of Global Management represents and values. From its beginning in 1946 with the purpose of being a school focused exclusively on international trade and global relations, Thunderbird has drawn the citizens of the world to itself, and that legacy continues today. This is reflected in Thunderbird's #1 ranking for Internationalism of Alumni (The Economist).
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Even the campus itself reflects this diversity. Written on the ornate "Welcome Wall" at the school's entrance is the word "welcome" in several languages, making students and visitors feel at home from the first moment they step on campus.
Flags of different countries are celebrated and mounted in the Event Center where all of the important events take place such as orientation, student-hosted regional nights and graduation. In fact, one of the most cherished traditions at Thunderbird is the opening "International Parade of Flags" ceremony, which features students from the different nations proudly carrying the flag of their country.
Above all else, however, it is the students themselves who embody the spirit of diversity, bringing to the campus their cultural values represented and reflected in their languages, places they have lived in or visited and their diverse working experience. This cultural diversity creates an environment that allows students to experience more than the American culture that is right here in Glendale, Arizona as they interact with students and faculty members from around the world.
Regional nights, and other activities like Night of the Open Door, give students the opportunity to share their culture with others and to learn about other cultures in the fun atmosphere of music, dance and food. Often, these are highlights of the semester, when students get to dress in their cultural attire and showcase their culture's rich heritage by through performance and cuisine.
Cultural diversity is not limited to the social life of the students; it is deeply woven into the academic curriculum of the school. With some core classes focusing on teaching skills that include communicating, managing and negotiating in a global context, all the classes use case studies and examples that give a global perspective, thereby allowing the students to learn beyond their own cultural lenses. Plus, Thunderbird's renowned faculty themselves are from around the world, with professional and personal experience in countless regions.
Through a variety of group projects and classroom discussion, Thunderbird courses offer an ideal place where students can experience working with people from different cultures and learning to deal with conflicts that arise due to different cultural approaches and expectations. These projects also offer students the opportunity to use cross-cultural skills learned in class to interpret what is going on, and to work through the problems and creatively come up with solutions.
This is excellent preparation for students going forward, whether in Thunderbird Emerging Markets Lab consulting projects, internships or in their job after graduation, as they already have extensive experience working in cross-cultural groups and dealing with intercultural conflicts.
Thanks to the diversity of Thunderbird and the welcoming campus community, students leave Thunderbird forming friendships of a lifetime that cross national, language and religious barriers that would otherwise stop relationships from forming in the first place. It is these networks of people and access to opportunities all over the world that sets Thunderbird apart, and helps both students and alumni to be prepared and ready as they explore new cultures and provide solutions wherever they go.