Bringing Global Perspective to Local Projects

January 22, 2014
Thunderbird student consultants offer big ideas to the Arizona community

MBA students at Thunderbird School of Global Management traveled to Indonesia, Kenya, Tanzania and other countries to tackle consulting projects for real-world clients in 2013. But they also applied their business skills in the Arizona communities near campus. Two separate consulting teams enrolled in the Thunderbird Consulting Practicum program recently completed projects for the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) and the City of Litchfield Park.

Litchfield Park became a repeat customer in fall 2013 after Thunderbird students successfully created a strategic economic development plan earlier in the year for vacant commercially zoned properties in the city. In the second phase, students were tasked with another component of the economic plan — creating a marketing strategy that would attract developers. The student team included Christine Moore, Abe Comarow, Uriel Lopez, Jonathan Perham and Amar Haware. At the end of the 12-week engagement, the students produced recommendations about signage, events and branding that were ultimately presented to the Litchfield City Council.

“The marketing recommendations were excellent,” said City of Litchfield Park Economic Development Director Jim Rumpeltes. “The team was quick to understand both short- and long-term issues facing the organization. They were great in suggesting practical ideas that could be implemented.”

Acting as client-lead on the project, Moore said the consulting experience was an important component of her MBA education. “Working in a client-facing role with business professionals is different than working with cases and data in a classroom situation,” she said, “because consulting forces students to deal with real-world time frames. You must adapt to your client’s business priorities and deadlines.”

Moore said her team valued its work on the project beyond just a class grade and was fully committed to its client for the duration of the project. “Litchfield Park was an excellent client,” she said. “They posed challenges and opportunities for my team that, once solved, had to be able to be implemented by the city.”

“There are a number of parts to their recommendation that will be pursued,” said Rumpeltes. “Further supporting the businesses within the city is an area that we are specifically addressing immediately.”

The student deliverables were also well received in the second local project, where MAG challenged students to outline ways in which Maricopa County could win a piece of the global medical tourism industry. Having completed three consulting projects with Thunderbird in the past two years, MAG officials knew that they would receive quality work from the school.

“MAG has worked with the Consultant Practicum program on three other projects and members were very impressed with the teams who delivered project-focused research and consulting services,” said City of Avondale Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers, who also chairs the MAG Economic Development Committee.

Thunderbird student Sean Foley was on the team selected for the medical tourism project, along with Chancharas Chantarakarn, Will James and Rahul Pandey. Each of them brought unique skills and perspective, coming from Thailand, India, Baltimore and Arizona. “We all had different strengths and different backgrounds,” said Foley, adding that the diversity was an asset in the project where Arizona is competing internationally for this type of tourism. “It was a local project, but had a global focus,” said Foley.

Ultimately, Foley’s team found that to compete in the international medical tourism industry, the focus must be on general tourism and economic development. Their recommendations also included the need to increase national recognition of the subspecialty care available in Arizona, among other things.

“The recommendations they provided were valuable and focused on moving Arizona forward as it competes in the international medical tourism industry,” said Lopez Rogers. “Their knowledge, research capabilities, and insightful analysis resulted in strategic recommendations that are currently being implemented.”

While both MAG and the City of Litchfield Park benefitted from the projects, so did the students. “Experience is the best way to learn,” said Foley, who noted that his group used the opportunity to give each other tips for the future. “We were honest and direct with each other,” he said. “We walked away better friends and received invaluable feedback from each other on what we can do better.”

Businesses interested in participating in the Thunderbird Consulting Practicum and working with an international student consulting team should contact Professor Michael Finney, Ph.D. at or 602 978-7161.

Media Contact:

Virginia Mungovan

602 978-7081

About Thunderbird School of Global Management

Thunderbird is the world’s No. 1-ranked school of international business with more than 65 years of experience in developing leaders with the global mindset, business skills and social responsibility necessary to create real, sustainable value for their organizations, communities and the world. Dedicated to preparing students to be global leaders and committed global citizens, Thunderbird was the first graduate business school to adopt an official Professional Oath of Honor. Thunderbird is sought out by graduate students, working professionals and companies worldwide seeking to gain the leadership skills they need to succeed in today’s global economy. For more about Thunderbird, please visit: