Thunderbird Offers Students the World Through Formal and Informal Mentorships

When students arrive at Thunderbird School of Global Management, it’s a given that they are about to begin a course of study that will empower them in the world of international business and start them on the road to become competitive as leadersin the global economy. 

And perhaps as valuable as what they will pick up in the classroom and what they learn through experiential courses, is that new students are joining the vast Thunderbird family and will have access to a rich source of mentors.

Thunderbird, which was established 73 years ago, has 43,000 alumni in 150 countries. New students now have something in common with thousands of global business leaders and access to a wide variety of mentors through both formal and informal relationships.

“For many students making a cold call to a business leader they don’t know can be intimidating. Formal mentoring programs can help.”– Click to tweet

Of course, alumni make themselves available to students and recent graduates who reach out for advice or encouragement, but for many students making a cold call to a business leader they don’t know can be intimidating. That’s where Thunderbird’s mentor programs make it easier. 

The Thunderbird Mentor Program

The Thunderbird Mentor Program was launched in fall 2015 to provide students with real-world exposure and professional guidance during their Thunderbird academic tenure, and to offer an active and personal way for alumni to give back to their alma mater.

Students are paired with T-bird alumni mentors from around the globe, introduced via email and encouraged to arrange regular times for virtual or in-person meetings. 

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” ― Benjamin Franklin, U.S. founding father

One such mentor-mentee partnership is Jim Thomas ’81, entrepreneur and member of the Thunderbird Executive Leadership Council, and Dixita Dinesh ’17, now at PwC in Mumbai. They were matched in early 2016 and established monthly talks about class selection, internships, and post-Thunderbird opportunities.

“Dixita embraces Thunderbird’s core values of a diligent work ethic, global citizenship and a knack for managing ambiguity,” Jim said.

Dixita said talking with her mentor offered her information and guidance that added to what she was learning in class. “It completes the circle and I could not be more thankful for having Jim as a mentor. The mentor program is the first step you can take towards building relationships that last forever.”  

The Thunderbird SHARE Fellowship

The Thunderbird SHARE Fellowship is an alumni-funded scholarship / mentor program for students from emerging and developing countries. The program’s goal is that its Fellows are employed upon graduation. Maria Houle ’87, Program Director for the SHARE Fellowship, works with students to set career goals and to identify potential mentors.

In 2007 alumnus Marshall Parke ’77 developed the SHARE Fellowship to provide scholarships for students from developing countries who might otherwise not have the resources to attend Thunderbird. Parke's experience working in developing countries taught him that a degree is only half the battle. These students needed access to strong networks and professional mentoring as well. 

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” ― Phil Collins, singer-songwriter

SHARE’s mentor program includes individualized training, goal setting, tutoring, mentoring and high-level introductions from multiple experts and senior executives. Fellows are taught business communication skills and networking techniques, then are given introductions so they can build their professional networks and develop their own mentoring relationships – skills that last a lifetime. SHARE Fellows graduate with developed networks of executive mentors in their industries or geographies.

“In business, you have to be comfortable talking to senior people and know the politics and who to reach out to.” Mentors can help.– Nana Oureya, ‘17 Click to tweet

Funded by alumni and friends of Thunderbird, SHARE ensures full tuition and expense money so its Fellows can participate fully in campus life, take advantage of unpaid internships, and attend optional academic programs.

Nana Oureya ’17, who is from Togo, was a SHARE Fellow and now works as a financial analyst at Intel where learning to network is essential. “You have to be comfortable talking to senior people and know the politics and who to reach out to,” she said. “Maria taught us about our resume, how to dress, everything from head to toe.”

Informal Mentorships: A Lifetime Connection

For some students the worldwide Tbird alumni network is a little overwhelming. For others, it’s just a phone call away. 

“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” — Steven Spielberg, filmmaker

Thunderbird has a number of notable graduates, including Walid Chammah, former chairman of Morgan Stanley; Bob Dudley, the current CEO of BP; Luis Alberto Moreno, former Ambassador of Colombia to the United States and the current president of the Inter-American Development Bank; Candy Ergen, co-founder of DISH Network; and Cindy Davis, executive vice president digital marketing officer at L Brands and former EVP at Disney and Walmart.

Mentoring: Benefits Both Ways

Talk to any Thunderbird alum and you will hear the same thing: Thunderbird changes your life. It changes your career. It changes your mindset. And, it most definitely changes the global breadth of your network.

“Although mentor relationships take time and effort for both participants, they deliver benefits for both parties.” Click to tweet

Alumni are certainly one of Thunderbird’s greatest assets, but so are students. Alumni who become mentors share their expertise and personal insights, offering guidance to the next generation of T-birds. And, although mentor relationships take time and effort for both participants, they deliver benefits for both parties. 

Of course, students and younger professionals gain a lot from hearing about the experience of a seasoned mentor. Mentors also benefit from taking a step back from the day-to-day and evaluating what has worked and what hasn’t in their career, sharing successes as well as failures. 

Either a formal or informal mentoring relationship can lead to a long-term positive, trusted relationship. And taking the time to develop such a relationship will benefit both parties in the long run. 

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