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Teagarden to lead undergraduate program design

Longtime Thunderbird Professor Mary Teagarden, Ph.D., will lead the design, development and evaluation of a planned undergraduate program that Thunderbird will launch as part of its global expansion strategy. “We think we can deliver a fantastic global experience to undergraduate students,” says Teagarden, a global strategy professor who arrived at Thunderbird in 1993.

The program, which is still in the earliest stages of planning, would build on the school’s undergraduate origins. Thunderbird’s first students came to Phoenix after World War II for undergraduate degrees focused on new opportunities in emerging global markets. Thunderbird offered a Bachelor of Foreign Trade from 1952 to 1963 and a Bachelor of International Management from 1964 to 1970. Undergraduate alumni from this era include Thunderbird Trustee Ken Seward ’57. The new program, tentatively called a Bachelor of Global Business, will serve a similar market, but the model will be modernized to meet the needs of students competing for 21st century jobs in a global economy.

Finishing at Thunderbird

Undergraduate students will start their programs away from Thunderbird's main campus in Arizona. One possibility is that students could start their studies at a new Thunderbird outpost in the United States and then transfer to an international Thunderbird campus for the middle part of their program. Other students might come from the communities near each of Thunderbird’s planned international campuses in Brazil, Chile, France and Spain, and live at home initially. “Culturally, in many of those locations, that is the tradition,” Teagarden says. “You live at home and you commute to school.”

As the students progress through their programs, tentative plans call for opportunities to transfer to a second international outpost after two years. This will create additional opportunities for language learning and international internships. “The real key in all of this is likely to be internships and real-world experience,” Teagarden says. “You place students who are learning the language in situations where they have to use the language at work, and that is a very powerful combination to accelerate their learning.”

Current thinking is that all undergraduate students will come to Thunderbird’s main campus in Arizona for the final year of their program. By then they will be close in age to the Master of Arts and Master of Science students who currently have a mean age of 23 years. Nearly all undergraduate students will speak at least two languages when they arrive in Phoenix, and many will have international internships on their resumes. “The idea is that those undergraduates would spend their senior year in the United States,” Teagarden says. “This will help protect the graduate school atmosphere in Arizona.”

The model also will create a rich recruiting source for Thunderbird graduate programs. “Although the curriculum design lies ahead, we are excited by the prospects,” says Thunderbird President Larry Edward Penley, Ph.D.

First of its kind

Like the undergraduate programs that Thunderbird rolled out in the aftermath of World War II, the new version will be unlike anything the world has seen. “We have an opportunity to create the finest undergraduate international business degree in the world,” Penley says. “Thunderbird’s special character with its integration of business, international studies and language will form the foundation.”

Teagarden says Thunderbird will stay true to this foundation. "Our rich heritage will be a valuable source of inspiration for the new degree design," she says.

Other undergraduate programs talk about international experience, but none deliver on the scope and scale of what Thunderbird envisions. “There are a couple of programs that claim to be international, but when you dig below the surface, their campuses are not interchangeable,” Penley says. “They don’t deliver the promise. That’s what we want to do. We want to deliver on the promise of global education.”

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