Guru Mantra: Angel Cabrera, President, Thunderbird

Dr. Angel Cabrera
Thunderbird School of Global Management

Thunderbird President Dr. Angel Cabrera is a world-renowned global leader and management educator whose work and expertise has been recognized and tapped by top international organizations, including the World Economic Forum, the United Nations, and the Clinton Global Initiative.  Dr. Cabrera has been an outspoken advocate of corporate social responsibility and managerial professionalism, and in 2005 he inspired a student-led initiative that resulted in Thunderbird becoming the first business school in the world to formally adopt a Professional Oath of Honor, a commitment to social responsibility and professional ethics taken by graduating students. Also in 2005, the school established Thunderbird for Good, a philanthropic effort to provide business education to entrepreneurs in developing countries. Since then, hundreds of women entrepreneurs have been trained in Afghanistan, Jordan and Peru.

Rahul- Thunderbird had been offering Global MBA on Demand since 2006 and the School plans to seek private capital to more aggressively focus on online programs for reaching to a global audience. What challenges do you foresee with the model and what are your priorities in next couple of years?
Dr. Cabrera- Our experience with the Global MBA On Demand and the Global MBA for Latin American managers demonstrates that we can deliver world-class education by using technology within a collaborative, hand-on learning philosophy.  Under the new Vision 2020, we are committed to expand the learning opportunities we offer around the world via new technologies and business models, including raising private capital as needed if it helps us scale up more effectively.

In our current plans we foresee a for-profit model in the non-degree programs, as they do not entail some of the accreditation challenges that limit what can be done in the degree-granting space. By using private capital we expect to more aggressively extend our presence in key markets around the world, as well as to scale our current portfolio of on-line certificate programs.  Meanwhile we will continue with our efforts to grow our blended degree program options within the traditional non-profit academic structure.  Pursuing both approaches at the same time is consistent with our mission and the key priorities driving the development of our strategic plan for 2010-2014: strengthening our differentiation, innovating for scale and impact, engaging emerging markets and building a community of learning and practice.

Rahul- You have extensive leadership experiences in institution building earlier as dean of IE Business School and now as president of Thunderbird. In your experience, what are the top two critical success factors for building an educational institution of high repute and impact?
Dr. Cabrera- Number one: to be crystal clear about the institution’s educational mission and values.  Thunderbird’s mission “to educate global leaders who create sustainable prosperity worldwide,” and its view of global leadership as a multifaceted combination of a global mindset, an enterprising spirit and global citizenship values set it apart from any other business school in the world.  Understanding who you are and how you provide value to the world is the single most important step any leader must take.
Second, to create a culture that fosters innovation by continually asking how to better deliver on one’s mission.

Rahul- Thunderbird has dominantly positioned itself as a leader in international business education. How important are international partnerships in the School’s mission and strategy? What are the opportunities and challenges in building sustainable international partnerships?
Dr. Cabrera- We view Thunderbird not just as a place, but rather as a global community of shared mission and values.  We have consistently pursued an educational agenda based on the idea that international business can and must contribute to creating a more peaceful and prosperous world.  Our consistency around our mission and values is probably the reason why Thunderbird is considered leader in the international management education space.

In our model, multi-cultural partnerships – with private companies, government entities, and other institutions of higher learning – are an integral part of our identity.  In building sustainable partnerships, whether in business, government, or academia, the key is an alignment of interests.  Thinking carefully upfront about how to create benefit for all parties is very important to long-term success.  Equally important is a global mindset which allows one to understand different conceptions of trust, value, etc.  By better understanding your partner’s perspective you can better position your relationship to drive benefit to both sides.

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