American Express & Thunderbird team up for leadership academy

Emerging leaders from 10 international social sector organizations to build personal, business and leadership skills at 2014 Leadership Academy 

Having increased the leadership skills of 150 managers from over 50 international nonprofit organizations in the Academy’s five-year history, Thunderbird School of Global Management is once again teaming up with American Express to offer the 6th Annual American Express Leadership Academy, May 4-9, 2014, at the Thunderbird campus in Phoenix, AZ. 

This year’s Academy will focus on enhancing the leadership skills of representatives from 10 international social sector and nongovernment organizations including TED Conferences, BRAC, Charity: Water, Feed My Starving Children, Free the Slaves, iDE, Make-A-Wish International, Pencils of Promise, Project C.U.R.E. and Special Olympics International. Participants will develop new strategies and skills to assist them in operating more productive and successful nonprofit organizations. 

“The selection process for the Academy is rigorous,” states Doug Hoxeng, Ph.D., Thunderbird program director for American Express Leadership Academy. “The application process includes executives reviewing their strategic challenges and proposing a project for their ‘emerging leader’ participant team to further develop at the Academy. Each team project must have the potential for significant results within their organization and benefits for those they serve. Our faculty help make that happen by providing thought leadership to each organizational team to turn insight into action.” 

One such emerging leader is Zev Lowe, who reflects on the value for his organization Worldreader from his 2013 Academy experience. “We believe in creating a world where every child, and her family, can have the books they need to improve their lives,” says Lowe. “Our impact has grown in the last year. Now we have 218,739 readers in 27 countries, with 1.7 million books read to-date. Children in our program make two times as much progress in reading words correctly in just five months, and girls outperform peers in neighboring schools by three-to-five times, successfully closing the gender-achievement gap. [Thunderbird’s] work with us continues to have lasting impact.”

The Academy is tailored to fit cultural nuances and different nonprofit niche needs, with the consistency of core elements. The program is practical, interactive and can be immediately implemented into the workplace. Participants engage in team exercises, case studies, class discussion and leadership style assessments. The Global Mindset Inventory assessment is used to measure the Global Mindset profile of the participants. Following the Academy, participants work with their organizations’ senior leaders to implement what they learned. 

Mary Teagarden, Ph.D., academic director of the Academy adds, “American Express and Thunderbird are committed to developing emerging social sector leaders for achieving real impact, not only within their own organizations, but also in their greater social sector community. The Academy helps participants grow as leaders and inspires them to spread their learning to others for creating sustainable change.” 

In an effort to reach more leaders, American Express will live stream a Leadership Academy session, “Funders Panel: An Inside Perspective” on Wednesday, May 7, from 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. EST. The panel will feature private and corporate funders discussing emerging issues and best practices related to engaging grant makers. Live stream viewers can join the conversation and submit questions that can be addressed by the panel on Twitter by using the hashtags #AmexLeads and/or #SocEntChat. Register at with the access code Amex2014. 

Leading up to the American Express Leadership Academy, American Express, Thunderbird, The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) and Ashoka, co-hosted a live Twitter Chat on Thurs., April 24, 2014 entitled “Fundraising for Impact.” The chat discussed best practices in fundraising and provided participants with the opportunity to learn more about key trends and chat with top nonprofit leaders from across the globe.

Thanks to the success of the preceding five Academies, the upcoming 6th Annual American Express Leadership Academy is the first in a new three-year grant awarded to Thunderbird by American Express Philanthropy. 

Read the original press release.

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