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ASU Thunderbird Outstanding Undergraduate vows to honor Latin American roots

Honors student inspired by global education


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April 24, 2023

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.

Although Grecia Cubillas was born in Tucson, Arizona, she was raised in Santa Ana, a small town in Sonora, Mexico, and spent her formative years outside of the United States. 

Grecia Cubillas
Grecia Cubillas was named the Thunderbird's Spring 2023 Outstanding Undergraduate Student and will stay at the school for an additional year to earn her master's degree.

“I moved back to the United States when I was 16 because my mom wanted my sister and for me to learn English to enable better career opportunities for us in the future,” Cubillas said.

She fully intended to move back to Mexico after high school, but an opportunity to attend Arizona State University with the President Barack Obama Scholars Program proved life-changing for her.

“I knew moments like this do not come twice in life. Therefore, with minimal knowledge of the educational system in the U.S. and a lack of family guidance but plenty of family support, I took advantage of this opportunity,” she said. “And with the global focus, I knew Thunderbird was the right school at ASU for me.”

Cubillas is also a recipient of the Vantage West Scholarship and the Rincon Range Scholarship.

This May, Cubillas will graduate from Thunderbird School of Global Management at ASU with a bachelor's degree in global management and from Barrett, The Honors College. She has also been named Thunderbird's Spring 2023 Outstanding Undergraduate Student. 

Cubilla’s time at Thunderbird has proved transformational. She cites her study-abroad experience in Madrid, her first time living far from family and friends, as a moment in time she will never forget. 

“I lived my dream of discovering new places, traveling around Europe, meeting new people, and adapting to different cultures. During my time in Spain, I was also able to further enhance my study-abroad experience through an internship that allowed me to put into practice what I had learned from my classes,” she said. 

As an accelerated master’s student, Cubillas looks forward to one more year at Thunderbird, pursuing her master's degree in global management. Afterward, she hopes to return to Latin America and use her education to propel her home region further. 

“I am eager to return to my roots, and I believe Latin America has all the capabilities and resources to become a successful and promising region for business and people,” she said. “Coming from a very small town, I would have never thought one day I would meet people from almost everywhere in the world, but thanks to Thunderbird I have. I’ve learned so much about the world from the people I’ve met, which makes me feel confident about the choice I made.”

Question: What are your plans after graduation?

Answer: As a current accelerated master’s student, after graduating, I will still have an additional year remaining for my master’s degree. This upcoming summer, I will be participating in Thunderbird’s Global Challenge Lab and will be traveling to San Salvador, El Salvador, to work with the Ministry of Economy. This experiential learning experience aligns entirely with my future career goals; I am thankful to Thunderbird for finding this opportunity and excited about how it will help me set my foot in the right direction for my future career.

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

A: Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way while at Thunderbird, and cherish and enjoy every moment because time flies by fast. I still can’t believe it has already been almost four years since my first Thunderbird class. Although I learned a lot and did multiple things during my time here, now that it is coming to an end, I wish I had done many more. Sometimes I felt scared to try new things and get out of my comfort zone, but now I wish I had because I probably passed on opportunities that will not come to me again.

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

A: Everything. I am lucky enough to have a supportive family, who motivates me and is always there for me even though we are far apart, and that always reminds me of where I come from and why I am here. I am also extremely grateful for the opportunity I received to live in the U.S. and study at Thunderbird, because it has been a dream and one of the best experiences in my life. I am grateful for my friends, because they allow me to be myself and have fun, and because we always help and support each other. I am grateful for my professors because I have learned so much from them.

Q: What has your experience at Thunderbird been like?

A: My whole experience as a Thunderbird student has been meaningful and valuable. Being a T-bird has opened my eyes to the importance of culture and diversity in education, in the workplace, and simply in life. Every day, when I am in class listening to my professors and classmates share their stories, experiences and knowledge, I feel inspired and motivated. I meet people who share a global mindset and who also came to the United States for a better future, and it is incredible to connect with someone who has had a similar journey to what I have but from a completely different country.

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