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Judy Johnson, dean of admissions for the Global MBA Program at Thunderbird, The Garvin School of Management in Glendale, Ariz., (Second Tier on BusinessWeek's 2004 list of top MBA programs), is an expert at dealing with students from every corner of the world. Before coming to Thunderbird in 1990, she worked as administrative coordinator for the Center of Japan and U.S. Business & Economic Research at New York University's Stern School of Business. She was also the MBA Program Director at the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University for four years.
Johnson recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Jeffrey Gangemi. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:
Q: How would you describe the culture at Thunderbird?
A: Fun. One of our admissions criteria is that our students have to have spent some time immersed in another culture. Everybody who arrives here is open to meeting new people who have been to a number of different places. I would call the general spirit of our students adventurous.
Q: Are the number of applications at Thunderbird up or down over the last few years?
A: They've been down dramatically, but this year we're seeing a slight increase. And now that we've entered our fall intake period, we're quite hopeful that the increase will be more than slight.
Q: How large is your program?
A: In our global MBA program, we have between 700 and 775 students at any given time. We start classes in the fall and in the spring, and we have two tracks -- the regular and accelerated track -- so we have students at a variety of places in their studies. Our breakdown is about 50-50 in each track with each entering class. The accelerated program is for those who already have second-language fluency and can forego the required language course.
Q: Is there an extra language requirement for incoming students?
A: Yes, but it's self-reported by the applicant. It's pretty easy for us to tell their proficiency by what courses they've completed in their undergraduate studies, what their work experience shows, as well as where in the world they've worked.
Q: What languages are most popular?
A: Chinese and Spanish. English as a Second Language is a large department because 50% of our students are non-U.S. citizens. We also teach Japanese, German, French, Russian, and we always have some demand for those languages.
Q: Would it be fair to say that you encourage people who aren't fluent in English to enroll?
A: Well, yes. The fact that we have students from about 70 countries is part of the education students get here. We count on these young managers to bring best practices from their areas of expertise and regions of the world, and those best practices get woven into the education that all our students are receiving.
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