In 2013, I created a 30 before 30 list of things I wanted to accomplish in the following five years. On that list were things like: ride in the Tuesday Night Bike Ride for the first time, spend a day in Powell’s Books in Portland, buy an original piece of art, order an old fashioned in Seattle’s Smith Tower, learn how to ride a longboard, go on an overnight bike trip, call Canada “Canadia” in a Canadian establishment in Canada to a Canadian to see what their reaction would be (haha) and go on a blind date. I’ve been able to cross off everything except…
Get a Master’s degree.
After 2, maybe even 3, unfinished applications, several trips to Campus Preview Day and 4 years of hemming and hawing, I’ve finally applied and been accepted to the Thunderbird School of Global Management. I’ve obviously had to amend that item on my 30 before 30 list to “Get start a Master’s degree” but it’s happening! Finally!
With the advent of my new life as a grad student, I’d like to share my admissions essays with you. Not so much as a point of gloating, but more so because I think it reflects my values and the career I’d like to create for myself. It’s a glimpse into the person behind this blog, but also a view of why my friends call me corny. Ha.
So without further ado…
Essay Prompt #1: A successful business leader embodies a cosmopolitan outlook, passion for diversity, self-assurance, intercultural empathy and diplomacy. How will this program enable you to utilize these competencies to create impact on a global scale? (500 words or less)
Home is a concept I understand well, but I live in the dichotomy of finding the feeling in both every place I’ve ever been and nowhere at all. Having lived in a handful of countries, I’ve come to the conclusion that home is a state of mind; it’s more about the connections and impact we make wherever we live than the location itself. From the faculty to the students, the coursework to the culture, Thunderbird has a buzzing energy that exudes internationalism, intelligence, collaboration, professionalism and passion for change. This must be that elusive Thunderbird Mystique, but for me, that’s the feeling of ‘home’.
I believe in ‘thinking globally and acting locally’, so naturally, I thrive in community. At the University of Arizona, where I finished my undergrad, I found that community amongst salsa dancers and Couchsurfers, a group of people dedicated to hospitality exchange. I appreciated the camaraderie and the mission of Couchsurfing: to break down barriers by creating cross-cultural connections with people through hospitality. I became a city ambassador in Tucson and later in Mokpo, South Korea, welcoming travelers and connecting locals.
While living in Mokpo, I noticed there was a disconnect between the resources available for victims of human trafficking and the accessibility of these resources; the Korean government had a hotline with operators who spoke Tagalog, Vietnamese, Uzbek, Russian and a host of other languages common amongst immigrant workers, but the website was only available in Korean. In conjunction with the local government and with the help of Couchsurfers, I organized a small translation project to create posters with basic information and, most importantly, the hotline number. I saw a problem and, with the community where I had created trust and world-wide connections, we were able to use our talents to help more victims of abuse.
I want to apply the same problem-solving and collaboration that I did in Korea towards business and I believe Thunderbird’s program is the bridge to do so. B Corporations and ethonomics, that is ethics as an additional metric to capital for understanding the health and wealth of a community, are the future of the corporate world. As a student of Thunderbird, not only will I learn the hard skills I’m missing in my education, I’ll be able to practice them, perhaps by creating a B Impact Team or as an intern at either a B Corporation or in a company’s corporate social responsibility office.
I will leave you with one more thought: resfeber, a German word meaning “the restless race of a traveler’s heart before the journey begins.” That is how I feel today; I’m nervous and excited about the tools Thunderbird will put in my hands so I can build community and create meaningful impact through business.
Essay Prompt #2: What are your expectations of how this degree will complement your education and work experience to date and influence your career moving forward? (500 words or less)
I am very much a subscriber to the mindset of “think globally, act locally.” Effective change begins small-scale and ripples outward. Entrepreneurs can be the catalyst to this wave by using their businesses to create the world in which we want to live. I believe that one of the greatest contributions I can make is to help create enterprises that not only benefit the communities they serve, but also act as an example to traditional, profits-driven companies on the merits of corporate social responsibility (CSR). We live in a world where transparency, social equality and ecologically sound sourcing and practice are no longer afterthoughts; customers and clients are now demanding them. I am applying to Thunderbird’s MGM program to fill gaps in my education–especially surrounding management, connect with and learn about B corporations here and abroad, establish a Thunderbird B Impact Team and eventually start building and transforming more responsible businesses that serve a higher ethical and meaningful purpose.
The distance between now and becoming a go-to consultant in CSR seems great, but my work history and education have lessened the gap and have stacked experiences in my favor. I have chosen an untraditional career path, aiming for a breadth of knowledge and the ability to adapt in lieu of specialization in one industry. A CSR officer should have excellent interpersonal and communication skills, systems and analytical thinking and of course, business acumen. This list calls for a well-rounded jack of all trades with a passion for change.
With a background in administration, linguistics and certification in English as a foreign language, I moved to South Korea to teach. What I ended up doing was training Korean English teachers and managing the county’s English education center, including budgeting and curriculum development… all on top of teaching my own 100 students outside of the English center. This experience taught me the importance of flexibility and communication–especially with a sense of cultural context. The following 3.5 years at a non-profit research institute helped develop and expand more of my hard skills, like accounting and customer relationship management software in a non-profit organization. This position also introduced me to the world of prospect development, which is part of the work I do now.
The part of the CSR equation that I’m missing is business management and administration. After looking at half a dozen international business programs, I was immediately drawn to the MGM and the Thunderbird Mystique. I was searching for a program that not only teaches me the hard skills, but also takes into account my passion for community service and ‘walks the talk’ in regards to having a truly dynamic and global perspective. Not only does Thunderbird meet all three, but being here will allow me to create my own opportunities, like starting a B Impact Team to learn about collecting and analyzing data in the context of B Corporations. I would be honored to join the Thunderbird legacy and change the world through business.
Any other T-Birds out there? Grad students? CSR professionals? Or just people who read this? I’d love to hear about your experiences or thoughts!