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Thunderbird grad embraces family history to excel in classroom, beyond


Jesse Avalos

Jesse Avalos will graduate with his Master of Applied Management from Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University.

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November 22, 2022
Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2022 graduates.

Raised in the Garfield Historic District of downtown Phoenix, Jesse Avalos was no stranger to Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University when he enrolled in the Master of Applied Leadership and Management program.

In fact, he had just started working as the executive assistant to Thunderbird Director General and Dean Sanjeev Khagram. 

“I had decided to attend Thunderbird to grow myself both as a professional and a leader. Through the encouragement of my co-workers and mentors, this felt like the next step for me,” the fall 2022 graduate said. 

Many professionals may hesitate to take on a master’s degree while working full time in the dean’s office. Not Avalos. From day one, he embraced the global mindset of a T-bird and learned all he could — both from his colleagues and his peers in the program.

"Jesse has demonstrated great leadership characteristics in the past two years working in the dean's office," Khagram said. "We are so deeply grateful to have him part of our team."

Throughout the two-year program, Avalos collaborated with many students from different backgrounds and cultures which he believes, “helps generate new thought and perspectives both inside and outside of the classroom,” and is the best part of being a T-bird. 

“Jesse is a resilient, hard-working and ambitious person,” said Ghazal Khorshidi, director of special projects at Thunderbird. “He always says yes to new opportunities, and is comfortable leaving his comfort zone to explore new experiences.”

He also considers his Global Challenge Lab capstone project to be one of the most memorable moments during his time as a student. He and his group traveled to the city of León in Mexico to work with their client, software company Sivoz México, and offered deliverables and recommendations for the company’s business strategy. 

“After one week, I not only gained an amazing experience working abroad, but I gained valuable friends and admiration for León, which is where my grandfather is from. It was a full circle moment to build something abroad in the same region where my grandfather once worked and walk in the same city he grew up in as well,” Avalos said.

Avalos has been awarded the Hispanic Convocation’s Outstanding Graduate Student Award, for which he will be honored during the ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 15.

Question: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

Answer: Affordable housing. I truly believe that people should be able to afford where they live, and your zip code should not define your ability to succeed. I would work with governments, private and public sector organizations, and help find a long-term way to ensure continued investment in affordable housing initiatives, programs and vouchers at the federal, state, local level.  

Q: What advice would you give to a student just starting a program at Thunderbird?

A: Take it all in! Opportunities are everywhere to collaborate outside of your focus and create new solutions with other students who are studying different topics. Every new person you meet is a step in a new direction. 

Q: For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

A: The community that has been invested in my success. I truly would not have been here without their continued support and investment in my success. Most importantly, I am grateful for my mother and grandparents, who sacrificed a lot for me to be where I am today. 

Q: What motivates or inspires you?

A: Knowing that every day is an opportunity to become a better version of yourself. 

This year, Avalos and a group of his peers traveled to León, Mexico for their Global Challenge Lab capstone project, where they worked with software company Sivoz Mexico on business strategy and deliverables. Photo courtesy Thunderbird School of Global Management.

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