“Thunderbird is distinctively global and it is especially global in the almost United Nations atmosphere that you have among students who come from every part of the globe,” explains Penley. “When we asked ourselves what kind of international education we really want to offer, we look as much to Asia and Europe as we do to the U.S. And Europe has moved in a different direction from the U.S. with many one-year programs at such schools as INSEAD and IE Business School in Spain.
“And the most recent data coming out of GMAC shows that 60% of the schools with two-year MBA program reported declines in enrollment. It begins to tell you that the student opportunity cost is a growing issue. We concluded that what the market was saying was ‘Give us a degree that is lower in price and takes less time to earn.’”
The new program starts in late August with a two-week-long professional development course and runs through early August of the following year.
GLOBAL EXPERIENCE COULD LAST 12 WEEKS EVEN WITH ONE-YEAR OPTION
To get the program into a single year, students must forgo a summer internship, the ability to take more than two electives, a second global immersion trip, or to specialize in a specific discipline. The “Thunderbird Global Experience” is a new multi-week, applied learning experience abroad. Faculty members travel with students to provide an integrated look at the context, industries, firms and functions within a specific region of the world. Students meet with multiple corporations and agencies during this course, and have the opportunity to develop a “globally focused deliverable” for one organization. Students can take more than 12 weeks of study abroad classes in the one-year track and up to four more weeks of out-of-country study with an extended track.
Thunderbird also built in enough flexibility into the MBA program so that if a student, particularly a career changer, wanted to do an internship, he or she could complete the program in 15 months at the same cost. Or a student could opt for the two-year program and choose to take more electives along with a second global experience and graduate with a certificate in one of several concentrations: Global Development, Global Entrepreneurship, Global Finance, Global Management; or Global Marketing.
The most recent annual intake for the full-time MBA program at Thunderbird was about 150 students. The school expects about a third of students to enroll in the one-year program, another third in the 15-month option with the internship, and finally the remaining third to stay with the two-year program.
Another feature of the new curriculum are online courses in business basics taken during the summer before a student arrives on campus. “We are trying to level the playing field when students come in,” explains Penley. “The intent there is very basic accounting or economics or the theory of the firm. This way students can move more quickly to advanced topics in the one-year program.”
The school has an online economics overview that it has been using in executive education and plans to develop more online classes. “We are also looking at Harvard online courses as an option as well,” adds Penley. “These would be completed over the summer before students arrive.”
Penley says early reaction to the changes has been positive. “We are getting very positive feedback from applicants looking at the program,” he says. “We believe our enrollment will be up as a result. The number of people who are putting down deposits is already above the previous year.”