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On January 1, 2015 Thunderbird and Arizona State University entered into a partnership, and, after taking a moment to reflect on it, I can say that I owe much of my T-bird life (#tbirdlife) to the fact that ASU and Thunderbird’s paths converged with my own much earlier. In 1995 I entered Arizona State University as a freshman and pursued my studies while also trying to create a place for myself in the midst of nearly 60,000 other students. Through participation in campus organizations and on-campus employment I was able to narrow the field into a strong group of peers and friends. Then, in the summer of 1997, I participated in an ASU program that changed my life; I completed a study-abroad program in Spain. I’m sure this won’t come as a surprise to most T-birds, but it was in Madrid, Spain that I first learned about Thunderbird. Who knew that, some 20 years later, I would be tasked with supporting the implementation of the partnership between ASU and Thunderbird. Before I get to that, a little about the Thunderbird that I know and love: At the end of August 2001, I stepped onto the Thunderbird campus for the first time as an employee. Two weeks later the attacks of September 11 occurred. The world stood still, and yet, being at Thunderbird in the moments that followed helped shape my thinking and approach so much so that just a few days later I was on a plane to

Before I get to that, a little about the Thunderbird that I know and love: At the end of August 2001, I stepped onto the Thunderbird campus for the first time as an employee. Two weeks later the attacks of September 11 occurred. The world stood still, and yet, being at Thunderbird in the moments that followed helped shape my thinking and approach so much so that just a few days later I was on a plane to Mexico; and I wasn’t the only one. Within days, Thunderbird faculty and staff were back on the road recruiting students, meeting with companies, and, in general, continuing with the business development necessary to keep Thunderbird going. I would say it was business as usual, but since I had no frame of reference prior to the attacks, I can just say that what I saw was resiliency and determination unlike any other I had experienced in my professional career. There really was something truly special about this place. What I realized over the next few years was that business was never ‘as usual’ at Thunderbird. Quite rapidly the school, the student body, the employees, felt the effects of increased visa regulations and expanded competition from other business schools claiming to be global. Yet the Thunderbird experience remained unique. Sure, it is different from year to year, cohort to cohort, and program to program, but the heart of the T-bird experience – its DNA – remains

What I realized over the next few years was that business was never ‘as usual’ at Thunderbird. Quite rapidly the school, the student body, the employees, felt the effects of increased visa regulations and expanded competition from other business schools claiming to be global. Yet the Thunderbird experience remained unique. Sure, it is different from year to year, cohort to cohort, and program to program, but the heart of the T-bird experience – its DNA – remains a constant.

Being a T-bird means you are adaptable, flexible, open to new ideas and eager to engage with change. After a decade of experiencing three presidents, several different positions and a lot of professional growth, I knew it was time to double down on my engagement with Thunderbird so I enrolled in the Thunderbird Executive MBA program. Similar to each of you, I consider my cohort to be one of the best ever (no, seriously, to all my E21 colleagues, you rock!). Some of my best friends and most amazing life experiences occurred while enrolled as a Thunderbird student. Protecting that experience for future generations is at the core of almost everything I do today.

In addition to being an alum, I am a member of the Thunderbird senior team. Most of the organizational and integration projects developed to support the Thunderbird/ASU partnership are managed by this team, and there are some foundational views and actions which we believe provide the context for the work underway: Thunderbird brings to ASU a wealth of knowledge in the global arena, brand strength and recognition in global markets, as well as a team of faculty, staff, students, and alumni whose true passions play out on the international stage. ASU brings Thunderbird a strong resource engine to support our success. Within the first year of the partnership, financial and personnel resources from ASU were dedicated to supporting the launch of a full four-year undergraduate program, expanding and merging the executive and corporate education offerings of ASU under Thunderbird, and streamlining and centralizing the business operations processes and systems within the ASU structure. ASU has significant global ambitions; ASU President Michael Crow has addressed the Thunderbird Community multiple times and has emphasized that his goal is to advance Thunderbird by removing the burden of university administration costs and allowing the school to focus on its continued evolution as a leading center for global management around the world, and then, over time, moving existing and new globally-focused ASU programs into Thunderbird. The integration of Thunderbird into the ASU architecture is complex to say the least, and while much of this work is already happening, there is still much more to be done. So, are things different today? Absolutely, yes. There are administrative bottlenecks, culture clashes, systems integration issues, breakdowns in communication, and other headaches, none of which are dramatically different from those experienced in private companies around the world every day. But there is also a creative freedom that comes from knowing that Thunderbird, its history, and its brand are well respected by our partner, and that we are being challenged to do more, and do it in a different way. But if asked, I would have given a similar answer in 2001, 2005, 2011, or in any other year. When I think about how different our world was in 1946, Thunderbird’s first year of existence, how could Thunderbird not have adapted, grown, evolved, changed along with a changing global business environment? The School has, over time, not only changed, but been a change agent in global management higher education. That’s what being Thunderbird has always meant.

Take heart. The Thunderbird of today isn’t perfect, but honestly, it never was. In fact, it is within the context of its blemishes and flaws that so much learning and growth has always occurred. It is what makes Thunderbird, as well as individual T-birds, so special. There really is no other place like it.

I’m proud to be a Sun Devil; I’m proud to be a T-bird. I’m not a Sun-bird; I’m not a Thunderdevil. We are separate and unique, but like me, part of the same unit; stronger today due to the experiences of our past, focused on being better and doing better, and doing so as only we uniquely can.