Thunderbird Expands to Kazakhstan

Posted by: Alison Damast on September 26, 2011

The Thunderbird School of Global Management will be planting its flag in Kazakhstan this fall, hoping to tap a growing market of oil and gas executives in need of more sophisticated business training. A new satellite office, opening this Friday, is part of Thunderbird Worldwide, a new for-profit executive training division of the Glendale, Arizona-based business school. The Kazakhstan office is considered a pilot project and is part of the school’s new strategy to expand the school’s impact in emerging markets, said Karl Theisen, Thunderbird’s director of global expansion.

With this venture, the school hopes to build upon its familiarity with the region and carve out a niche for itself in a booming market, Theisen said. For the last 15 years, the school has been running an executive education training center in Russia, Thunderbird Russia, where it provides a mix of custom and open-enrollment classes that teach business skills, management and leadership. Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic, is still primarily a Russian-speaking country, and the school will be able to use much of the same content and even some of the same instructors in this new outpost, said Theisen. The school expects to enroll between 2,500 and 3,000 students annually within the next one to two years, and almost all of the classes will feature face-to-face instruction. If this pilot goes well, the school hopes to set up similar training centers in the Middle East and South Asia in the coming years, the school said.

As part of the new Thunderbird Worldwide venture, the school has also launched a revamped online executive-education program. We first wrote about this last November, after Thunderbird President Angel Cabrera visited our office to talk about the school's new online education plans. At the time, the school was planning to form a partnership with a private investor to launch a new online division, which would have been one of the first educational partnerships between an independent nonprofit business school and private capital. That collaboration plan has since fallen through, and Thunderbird has - for now - rejected the idea of taking on a private partner for non-degree online offerings, said Joe Patterson, Thunderbird's assistant vice president and head of Thunderbird Online.

"When we were discussing opportunities for online partnerships, they almost always wanted more control than we wanted to give up immediately, so we have chosen to go down our own road," Patterson said.

The school also decided to break off its partnership with its education technology partner, BISK Education, and relaunched its online operations this January, using money from the school's operating budget. The non-degree online division now offers executive and professional development courses, and the school has made an effort to make the online program a more "engaging model," Patterson said. Instead of students listening to video lectures, there are now multimedia learning activities, tools to monitor students' progress and more robust discussion boards. So far, students from 23 countries are participating in the program, and the school is exploring partnerships with corporations, he said.

Reader Comments

Dave Barnes

September 26, 2011 9:19 PM

This is what came into my brain:

BW's Louis Lavelle

October 6, 2011 2:23 PM

Kazakhstan must be the new China. Duke just announced it was helping create a b-school there:

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business has announced it is assisting Nazarbayev University (NU) in Kazakhstan in creating a business school.

NU will gain access to Fuqua leadership, faculty and staff expertise as it builds a business school from the ground up in Kazakhstan’s capital city of Astana.

The agreement between the two schools can be best described as a consulting arrangement. While some Fuqua faculty will teach in the program in the first couple of years, NU will grant its own degrees, not Duke/joint degrees. The target date for the launch of an MBA program at Nazarbayev University is September 2012.

“As a business school, we want to be both embedded and connected,” said William Boulding, dean of the Fuqua School of Business. “Embedded entails understanding the key needs of a region and serving it to make a positive difference. Connected means that as we bring the appropriate intellectual resources to serve the needs of a region, we consequently better understand how the world works."

The agreement further builds upon the Fuqua School of Business’ global commitment and intent to become the world’s first legitimately global business school, Boulding said. Fuqua currently has a presence in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; London, England; New Delhi, India; Shanghai/Kunshan, China; and St. Petersburg, Russia.

The relationship with NU is an outgrowth of Fuqua’s involvement in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), first announced in 2008. During the course of an admissions/recruiting visit to Kazakhstan, Fuqua staff met with the Ministry of Education and were asked to bid on a market study on the potential need for a business school. Ultimately, Fuqua’s proposal was accepted, and following an initial assessment report in early 2010 that recommended an MBA program structure, both schools signed a mid-term agreement that became effective in July 2011. This agreement will take both parties through the next year of program start-up activities.


October 27, 2011 1:43 PM

This is great news for Thunderbird. The school just seems to be taking off, and always advancing, which is one of the reasons it is so appealing to me. I'm getting read to apply to their online program for executive education and training - I know it's a newer program, but it seems to already have built a great reputation like the rest of the Thunderbird programs. I just hope I get accepted, it would be a great opportunity for myself and my career.

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