Thunderbird is changing
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 18, 2006

Graduate business school adapting to students' needs

Laura Houston

Thunderbird, the Garvin School of International Management, turns 60 years old this year and has come a long way since its start as a World War II-era flight-training school.

These days, the top-ranked international business-management graduate school awaits approval from its board of directors to unfold a list of changes geared toward student needs, spokesman Frank Neville said.

More online education and partnerships with universities and corporations are some actions that President Angel Cabrera and the school's governing board have chosen to steady the school's future.

"We want to make sure we're reaching potential T-birds who can't quit their jobs and come to Glendale," Neville said.

What made the decision to emphasize online education so controversial, student body President Michael Teague said, had in large part to do with the fact that one reason to go to Thunderbird has been its diverse population.

"It's not the prettiest school you're going to pay $100,000 to go to, but you just get such different perspective," said Teague, a 32-year-old former Marine from Vail, Colo.

This isn't the first time the school has executed radical change. After all, Thunderbird started as a flight-training school.

The school received its charter on April 8, 1946, and first admitted students on Oct. 1, 1946.

When Scottsdale resident Jordan Paine graduated with the school's inaugural class in 1947, most of the school's students were fresh out of World War II and raising families.

It wasn't as organized then as it is now, Paine said, but it was fun and the connections were long-lasting among alumni, who number about 35,000.

"If you went to Lima, Peru, before you went, you found out who they had there from the school," Paine, 87, said.

As businesses extend their reach around the globe, MBAs must adapt to international needs. That's why Thunderbird recently made its language requirements more rigorous.

In whatever form, the school will stick to its mission of global education.

"Thunderbird is not going to waver from its core competency, because we see an increasing market demand for that," Neville said.