Thunderbird board to set broader course for school
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 1, 2006

Laura Houston

GLENDALE - Amid financial storm clouds, board members begin meetings today to decide the future of Thunderbird, the Garvin School of International Management.

By Friday, Thunderbird's leadership will determine how the school will approach corporate learning programs, a new full-time MBA curriculum and enhancement of its presence regionally and globally.

Talk of these plans is familiar to Genevieve Gutierrez, a recent Thunderbird graduate and former editor of the school's newspaper, Das Tor.

"All the changes it's making make smart business sense," said Gutierrez, 26, of Casa Grande. "Coming from a student's point of view, maybe there should be more disclosure."

The decisions are expected to arrive as the Glendale institution celebrates its 60th anniversary as a global business-management graduate school.

As one of the world's top-ranked institutions of its kind, Thunderbird has reached its sixth decade of operation amid speculation that it faces financial troubles.

Administrators have said the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were responsible for an industrywide drop in demand for master's in business administration degrees.

In April 2004, Valley businessman Sam Garvin gave Thunderbird $60 million to fund an endowment that would help cover the school's needs.

In recent months, school President Angel Cabrera has stressed that Thunderbird must adjust to shifts in market demands, namely the decrease in people who are willing to take time off work to pursue full time an MBA degree.

The school has proposed more rigorous entrance requirements, has made fluency in a foreign language mandatory and offered more online-heavy learning options.

Suggestions have risen that the school is shopping for partnerships, in addition to one with Indiana University, to act as a life preserver.

Cabrera and other administrators say the partnerships are intended only to extend the Thunderbird brand into new student markets and are not an indicator of infrastructure weakness.

"What we're trying to do is diversify the things we do, try to reach further and offer the Thunderbird international management experience to people who would not otherwise be able to have an experience at Thunderbird," Cabrera said in an October interview.

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