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Thunderbird’s “MBA On-Demand” Provides a Global Classroom

By Jeffrey Thomas | Special Correspondent | 12 October 2012
Thunderbird Global MBA On-Demand V class (Thunderbird)

The Thunderbird Global MBA On-Demand V class takes a break from its Switzerland seminar in Chamonix, France.

Washington — The Thunderbird School of Global Management, founded in 1946, offers students a highly ranked Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree in global management that requires up to five trimesters of full-time on-campus work.

Now, with Thunderbird’s relatively new Global MBA On-Demand program, working professionals from around the world have an opportunity to complete a degree in 12, 19 or 36 months with several distance-learning options.

“We do approximately 75 percent of our course work online and 25 percent on ground with each other,” said Alicia Sutton, an American who completed her master's degree through the On-Demand program. “You can keep your job." Most of her classmates had families, she said, so they worked from home.” Sutton also worked for Thunderbird in alumni relations.

The online coursework is complemented by four one-week, on-campus seminars in the United States, Switzerland and China.

Sutton said her classmates lived in different countries, including Singapore, Switzerland and Brazil, and worked in virtual teams, adding: “We have some good training in virtual teams. It’s always interesting to try to schedule conference calls or meetings with your classmates in Germany when you’re in Phoenix. You make it happen and it’s really good experience for working in global teams all the time.”

Global is a key word at Thunderbird, which asks its students to take a voluntary oath to act with honesty and integrity, to respect the rights and dignity of all people, to strive to create sustainable prosperity worldwide and to oppose all forms of corruption and exploitation. Students are asked to develop a global mindset, to see themselves as global citizens engaged in global entrepreneurship and to become a lifelong part of Thunderbird’s global learning network.

Tania Van Ranst, one of Sutton’s classmates, is a native of Belgium who also has lived and worked in Japan, the United States and Mexico. The mother of twins, she liked the flexibility the Global MBA On-Demand program offers. “I can take my classes whenever I want and wherever I want. I am not constrained to a fixed schedule,” she said.

“I am never sure how long I will be in one country, so a standard going-to-campus schedule could make it impossible for me to finish any program,” Van Ranst said.

“Also, since the world is becoming more and more global, it is important for future executives to learn to coordinate different teams that could virtually be located anywhere on this globe.”

Van Ranst thinks the trips to study regional business environments make the On-Demand program special. She likes that 12 different nationalities were represented in her group and that most of her classmates had been abroad. She recalled her classmates as “a great diverse group" of students who could all "relate to one another somehow.”

Celso Misaki, another classmate, lives and works in Brazil. Like the other students, he found the online aspect of the program has some important advantages: “You can apply what you learn in your job; you can discuss real cases in the class, as you are immersed in your job; you do not have to leave your job while you get a top MBA.”

José Luis Mejia Amero had already earned an MBA from IPADE, the top-ranked Mexican business school, and works as a marketing director in Mexico at American Express. “But I wanted to have a broader, more global perspective of business management,” he said.

Mejia, also part of Sutton’s class, felt the On-Demand program was the “ideal alternative” for him. “Every subject is covered with a global perspective,” he said. “The program is on-demand, so I didn't need to leave my current job or move to a different city. Most importantly, I could balance work, travel, family and school in a seamless way.”

What was the most important aspect of his Thunderbird learning experience?

“Working with people from around the world, from very different cultures, is a fantastic experience,” Mejia said. “Also, the professors have a great combination of theoretical knowledge and work experience that enriches the program.”

Sutton believes the program benefits greatly from the fact that the students are also practicing managers. “My classmates work for Boeing, Intel, Johnson and Johnson, Unilever, Amazon.com, IBM, GE, SAP — really big Fortune 500 companies,” she said. “We bring in that connection to those corporations to the school, which is good for Thunderbird.”

Celso Misaki (center) with classmates (Thunderbird)

Celso Misaki, center, strolls with his On-Demand V classmates through the streets of Geneva, Switzerland.