A Thunderbird degree paid quick dividends for Brazilian alumnus Gabriel Frank ’10, who landed a position as Groupon’s Director of Human Resources for Latin America within two years of finishing the traditional MBA program. “I wouldn’t have made that leap without Thunderbird,” said Frank, who manages Groupon activities in nine countries from his São Paulo base. “Every single day I use my Thunderbird skills.”

Frank made the decision to attend Thunderbird long before enrolling in 2008. His introduction to the school came in 2001, when Thunderbird launched an Executive MBA program in São Paulo through a partnership with the American Chamber of Commerce. During the three years that the program operated, Frank worked as a Thunderbird recruiter and traveled twice to the main campus in Arizona.

“That’s when I fell in love with Thunderbird,” he said. “I was almost part of the alumni community, even though I hadn’t gone through the program myself.”

Frank studied for the GMAT and started the Thunderbird application process in 2006, but he postponed his plans when Korn/Ferry International recruited him in Brazil. By the time Frank arrived at Thunderbird two years later, he had nearly a decade of professional experience in sales, marketing, event promotion, entrepreneurship and consulting. “I was confident and knew what I wanted to learn,” he said.

Between classes, he got involved as a campus ambassador, Career Management Center peer adviser and Thunderbird Marketing Association leader. He also served as a Foundations leader during new student orientation. “I had many opportunities to develop my leadership skills,” he said.

Frank also found time for fun. During one campus Halloween party, he and nine classmates from Estonia, France, Morocco, Peru, South Korea and the United States dressed in blue as Smurfs. Frank said the diversity of the group was typical at Thunderbird, and today he has connections all over the world.

“I really put a lot of love into the school,” Frank said. At graduation he received the Thunderbird President’s Circle Award and the Barton Kyle Yount Award, given to the outstanding student from each class. His name appears today with 162 other recipients since 1950 on a plaque in the Yount Building lobby.

Frank returned to Korn/Ferry after graduation in a position of increased responsibility. When he applied later at Groupon, he said the company was looking for MBA talent with data analysis skills. “It’s a very numbers driven department,” he said. “They don’t want soft.”

VIDEO: Gabriel Frank accepts the Barton Kyle Yount Award during the spring 2010 commencement at Thunderbird School of Global Managment (3:43)