Thunderbird School launches US version of program for women entrepreneurs

March 5, 2015

In conjunction with the celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, the Thunderbird School of Global Management will launch an English-language version of the Freeport-McMoRan DreamBuilder program.

Designed for women entrepreneurs who want to start or grow a small business, the online learning program will be available throughout the United States in association with the Small Business Administration beginning immediately.
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The 13-module program, funded and initiated by the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation and supported by Bluedrop Performance Learning, is the second version of DreamBuilder. The program was initially launched in Spanish and has helped thousands of women in Latin America. Both versions of the program are built on Thunderbird’s extensive 10-year history of training women entrepreneurs.

“DreamBuilder has been tremendously successful in Latin America, and we are excited about what it can do to help women throughout the United States," said Allen Morrison, CEO and director general of the Thunderbird School of Global Management. "We take pride that it is a program advanced through our social impact initiative, Thunderbird For Good. It is just one example of how Thunderbird leverages our expertise and builds partnerships with industry leaders to address global challenges.”

DreamBuilder guides students through a program augmented by animation, interactive exercises and video testimonials of successful entrepreneurs. Embedded in the program is a business plan generator, which creates a personalized, editable business plan, individually crafted by each student as a part of her graduation.

The program is not only relevant for women who are thinking of starting a small business, but also those who already own small or medium-sized businesses and simply need additional support to increase their success and income. While anyone can access the program online, women who choose to engage in it through a local non-profit organization will find additional support.

“One of the aims of DreamBuilder is to reach women entrepreneurs in rural and underserved communities, including mining communities, with an opportunity to turn their aspirations of starting or growing their own business into reality and ultimately increase their economic prosperity,” said Tracy Bame, director of Social Responsibility and Community Development for Freeport-McMoRan and president of the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation. “We believe investing in women in general, and in this program specifically, is an accelerator to overall community economic development. When women own businesses and increase their incomes, the overall economy of a region grows, creating healthier, more prosperous and sustainable communities,” Bame added.

ASU President Michael M. Crow said the university’s support for the program and its partnership with Freeport-McMoRan, Inc. and the Small Business Administration is another example of the potential of ASU’s union with Thunderbird.

“This is the correct mission leveraging the unique skills of Thunderbird, the scope and focus of Arizona State University, the commitment of a global private sector partner like Freeport-McMoRan and the realization that our common goal to educate the world includes a focus at home,” said Crow. “It also reflects a shared commitment to the potential of women across the globe, who do more than half of the world’s work but account for only about 10 percent of the world’s income. Continuing education helps close that gap, and we are pleased to help support and advance the vision.”

The Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership will serve as a point of coordination for the program. The office oversees a network of Women’s Business Centers throughout the United States and its territories assisting women who are economically or socially disadvantaged. Women are offered comprehensive training and counseling on a vast array of topics in many languages to help them start and grow their own businesses.

“DreamBuilder is a tremendous asset for the more than 100 Women’s Business Centers and women entrepreneurs across the United States,” said Bruce Purdy, deputy assistant administrator, Office of Women’s Business Ownership, Small Business Administration. “We are thrilled to partner with Thunderbird School of Global Management on this innovative program.”

DreamBuilder organizers believe the training program that has been so beneficial to women entrepreneurs abroad will be equally embraced in the United States.

“Taking something we’ve had success with internationally and putting it to use in the United States is the logical extension of an effective educational program, and it is exactly what we should be doing,” said Kellie Kreiser, executive director of Thunderbird for Good. “This is an innovative program focused on a category of learners who need engaging, practical tools. When they complete our program, not only do they have the knowledge of how to start a business, but they also walk away with a business plan they can implement.”

Media contact:
Jay Thorne,

Lisa Robbins

Editor/publisher, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


For a human problem, a humanities solution

March 6, 2015

Most, if not all, of the major challenges of our time require us to consider a time far beyond the present. Consider climate change – a process that will affect the next generation, or even the generation after that, far more than the current one.

However, human beings often struggle with this type of thinking. map of world Download Full Image

"Long-range planning is really one of our big problems. We don’t do it very well, or very often, or with very great intelligence,” says Sally Kitch, director of the Institute for Humanities Research and a Regents’ Professor of women and gender studies at ASU.

A group of scholars at Arizona State University is helping us do better at addressing long-term sustainability problems by using a potent combination of humanistic scholarship and scientific research.

Scientists and engineers are paying increased attention to sustainability issues these days, developing solutions like sophisticated solar panels, algae-based fuels, sleek wind turbines and artificial leaves. Despite the given inclination toward techno-scientific approaches, the human element is just as important. We cannot solve sustainability problems without major transformations in the way humans live and think.

“We have technological advances that could go a long way to solving some of these problems. But we aren't implementing them. We don't have the political or social will to make the kinds of dramatic changes in our values, in our sense of comfort and well-being in the world, that are really required if we're going to get off of the fossil fuel gravy train that shapes our current political and economic systems,” says Kitch.

The emerging, interdisciplinary discipline of the “environmental humanities” is taking on the challenge of de-railing that train and shifting our focus to long-term, human-centered solutions.

Joni Adamson, a professor in the Department of English, has been working to advance the field since she was a graduate student, when the “movement” in the humanities, as she calls it, first started.

“We started out as just a small group of literary critics who were interested in literature and film focused on the environment, and we’ve created organizations and international networks that do not have as their goal only the reading of texts,” she says. “We want to change the ways that humans understand their relationships to the natural world and to all the species that live on the planet.”

Environment in the age of man

One way Kitch and Adamson are approaching this world-altering ambition is through their leadership in the international Humanities for the Environment project. Started in 2012, the project is funded as part of a three-year, $1.2 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through the Consortium for Humanities Centers and Institutes.

There are three main branches of the project: the Australian Observatory, the European Observatory, and the North American Observatory, with an Asian Observatory being planned. Kitch is lead researcher of the North American Observatory, which is headquartered at ASU. Its stated mission is “Building Resilience in the Anthropocene.” But what is the Anthropocene?

According to Kitch, it’s a concept that “suggests we’ve entered a time in which human activities are significantly shaping the geological future of the planet.”

For instance, she says, humans are moving elements that used to be underground, such as fossil fuels, and transferring them to the atmosphere.

Despite the growing use of the term, we’re officially still in the Holocene, an epoch that began 11,700 years ago. The International Union of Geological Sciences is the organization that is officially in charge of defining Earth’s geologic timescale. As of yet, they haven’t declared the Anthropocene’s beginning, but many scientists use the term anyway.

“The term ‘Anthropocene’ is being embraced for a lot of different groups because it's handy shorthand for the transformations we're working with,” says Kitch. These transformations include rapidly decreasing biodiversity, migrations triggered by higher temperatures and air and water pollution.

“Many of these are effects of human activity, which are the root of sustainability issues, as they are at the root of the environmental crisis to begin with,” says Kitch. “So what we realize now and what this project [Humanities for the Environment] is all about is bringing the study of the human into the deep sustainability challenges.”

A plateful of values

The North American Observatory is split into several “clusters": NortheastSoutheast and West, which Kitch and Adamson co-lead. The West cluster is headquartered at ASU, although the regional names don’t limit the participants. Each cluster involves multiple universities from a variety of regions.

The theme of the West cluster is “Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice.” One of its projects is Dinner 2040, which explores the theme through the lens of food and food culture, asking what people in Phoenix will be eating in the year 2040.

“It's very hard to get people motivated to think about climate because people don't really get it; they don't see climate,” says Joan McGregor, a professor in ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies, who leads the Dinner 2040 project. “But people care about food, and it turns out that our food production system is a big contributor to global climate change.”

McGregor and others on the project brought together a group of culinary professionals, indigenous communities, farmers, policy experts, planners and others for a charrette. During the workshop, they discussed and strategized about what the future of Arizona’s food and food system could, and should, be.

“[The project] emphasizes that whatever you put on your plate illustrates your values,” says Adamson.

During intensive discussions, participants decided what values would need to be developed in the present in order to make sure certain foods, or types of foods, would still be available to eat in 2040.

For example, our current approach to getting protein in our diet mainly revolves around eating large vertebrates. However, we are already seeing significant environmental, social and ethical consequences due to intensive farming of these types of animals. A solution, says Adamson, might be to start eating insects, such as crickets. Insects provide huge amounts of protein without creating nearly as much impact on the environment as raising cattle, pigs, turkeys and even chickens does.

But if we are squeamish about eating bugs, as many Westerners may be, then the question becomes: What values, desires and behaviors would we need to change in order to make sure we could still eat the meat we love 25 years from now?

Because food is so personal and central to culture, Dinner 2040 was intentionally limited to Phoenix and Maricopa County.

“[We wanted to think about food’s] impact on the environmental integrity of a place, a particular place. So rather than thinking in global terms, we were thinking more on place-based kind of food production and consumption,” says McGregor.

The process of creating the Dinner 2040 workshop – and the actual dinner that will be held next year – is being turned into a template that other cities or universities can replicate in order to think about the future of food in their own areas. Other university and community groups around the country are already planning their own dinners, McGregor says.

Designing the future

Both of the other main projects of the West cluster, Life Overlooked and the Archive of Hope and Cautionary Tales, also act as templates that other groups can use to explore the environment through a humanistic lens.

The major outcomes of the projects are featured on the Humanities for the Environment website, itself an outcome of the project. The site acts as a digital hub connecting all the facets of the project, as well as an arena for further research and collaboration, and a public face for the environmental humanities. Not only does the site help increase the humanities’ visibility, it also shows, through videos, essays, interactive maps and more, that humanities scholarship involves more than sitting alone in a dusty room, leafing through an ancient tome with white-gloved hands. It can make meaningful and necessary contributions to addressing the most pressing problems of the 21st century.

Perhaps one of the most important and intriguing outcomes of the HfE project, however, is the new narrative it is aiming to create. Humans are a story-telling species: there is no culture without some tradition of storytelling. The narrative, more than anything else, is the province of the humanities, according to Kitch.

“One of our ideas about outcomes is that we are writing a new, complex narrative suited to the new era that we're living in, the Anthropocene, and whatever it's going to bring,” she says. “Not that you can produce a coherent narrative that works for every single person on Earth, that's not possible. But [we can make] new chapters for people to think about as ways of designing the future. “

While popular media, and even many scholars, tend to trumpet the decline of the humanities, projects like Humanities for the Environment show that they are relevant to society’s most pressing problems. The great challenges that we are facing today cannot be solved without addressing the fundamental human beliefs, values and desires that underlie them.

“In some disciplines,” says Adamson, “you’re discouraged from talking about the subjective.” But especially in cases of sustainability, people need to be able to talk about their values. The humanities provide a space for this.

“Human values are embedded in everything we do,” says Adamson. “Everything we do from here on forward needs to be interdisciplinary.”

Written by Erin Barton, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development.

Editor's Note: The author was a student in Joni Adamson's Environmental Nonfiction class during the fall 2014 semester and contributed an essay to the Life Overlooked project.

Allie Nicodemo

Communications specialist, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development