Academy helps emerging leaders from international nonprofits

May 22, 2015

Vanessa Chauhan wants to eradicate all forms of human trafficking.

Mera Granberg works hard to turn archeological sites into economic assets. Nonprofit leaders and managers study organizational charts Download Full Image

Aaron Walling has dedicated his career to supplying children in South Asia with clean drinking water.

What these three individuals have in common – beyond their desire to help others – is the fact that the nonprofit world often lacks leadership development; all three came to Arizona to receive guidance and training.

The seventh annual American Express Leadership Academy, held May 18-22 at ASU’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, provided the tools for Chauhan, Granberg, Walling and 27 other representatives from 10 international nonprofits and social-sector organizations to become more effective in their roles as emerging leaders and build their global networks.  

“The social sector suffers from a fundamental shortage of leadership, and they have a very thin pipeline,” said Dr. Mary Teagarden, a professor of global strategies at Thunderbird who developed the course curriculum seven years ago.

“They’re in a sector where corporate development doesn’t happen. This academy gives them a chance to step back and take stock, start breathing a little bit, and go back to their organizations rejuvenated.”

The academy is funded through American Express’ Corporate Social Responsibility program with a three-year $750,000 grant. Participants engage in team exercises, case studies, class discussion and leadership style evaluation – the Global Mindset Inventory assessment, which is used to measure the Global Mindset profile of each member.

The program is practical and interactive, and it can be immediately implemented into the workplace.

“We’ve been around as an organization for about five years, and we’re at an interesting place in our critical development,” said Granberg, director of development at the Los Angeles-based Sustainable Preservation Initiative, which seeks to preserve cultural heritage by providing sustainable economic opportunities to poor communities around the world in which archeological sites are located.

“We can no longer manage our business in an ad-hoc, ‘I’ll get ya on the phone’ kind of way any longer. Thunderbird is helping us create structure so that we can grow.”

The selection process for academy participants is rigorous and strategic, according to Dr. Doug Hoxeng, Thunderbird program director for the American Express Leadership Academy. Executives must propose a project for their team to develop while at the academy.

“Each team project must have the potential for significant results within the team’s organization and benefits for those the organization serves,” Hoxeng said. “During the academy, our faculty provides thought leadership and coaching to each organizational team to turn insight and good intentions into meaningful outcomes.”

Walling said his lightbulb moment came in a May 18 academy class called “The Business Case for Servant Leadership.”

“Oftentimes in the nonprofit sector, we tend to take a soft approach to things when we need to be a bit more forceful in our leadership,” said Walling, who is the South Asia manager for Splash, a social-justice organization that focuses on children in need of clean water at institutions in urban areas of Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, India and Nepal.

“I certainly saw this as an area where I could improve.”

Walling said his organization is making strides in providing clean water to children in schools, children’s hospitals, orphanages and shelters. They do this through a variety of measures, including water-filter systems, hygiene education, sustainable sanitation and innovation. 

Chauhan works for Polaris, which serves victims and survivors of human trafficking internationally. She said the academy helped her realize her organization’s biggest deficiency is the lack of data and getting Americans to understand that the crime also hits close to home.

“Data is a big need in this field because there’s not many numbers on human trafficking,” Chauhan said. “It’s a very covert crime and goes underreported. It gets conflated with other issues. With data, we can find trends, see if we’re dealing with the same people and identify recruitment tactics.

“It’s also been issued as a crime that takes place somewhere else, like Southeast Asia … that it’s somebody else’s problem. In order to show it’s happening in the United States, you have to show it’s happening in their communities.”

Teagarden said that the results of the academy are impactful on an individual and organizational level. Many participants are given higher levels of responsibility from their organization’s senior leadership soon after the Thunderbird Academy experience.

“At its core, we’re making a big difference because the people who graduate from here move up in their organizations and get promoted quickly,” Teagarden said. “We’re building their individual talents but we’re also building a resource network for them because they have 29 other people in the class to tap into.”

With the May 2015 academy completed, more than 200 emerging leaders have participated at Thunderbird in this program since its inception in 2009.

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU faculty member recognized for work in music education

May 22, 2015

Marg Schmidt, associate professor of music education in the School of Music at Arizona State University, was recently honored with two prestigious awards: the 2015 national String Researcher Award by the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) and the 2015 Arizona Governor’s Arts Award for an Individual in Arts in Education.

“Being chosen for even one of these awards, let alone two, speaks volumes about Schmidt’s dedication to passing on her knowledge and love of music to others and for her unwavering commitment to furthering music education,” said Heather Landes, director of the School of Music. Marg Schmidt (center) receives her Governor's Arts Award from Rossitza Todorova, Download Full Image

ASTA is a membership organization for string and orchestra teachers and players, helping to develop and refine their careers. The ASTA award is presented annually to a deserving string researcher “whose work has contributed significantly to scholarship in string education and performance.”

Schmidt received tenure at ASU in 2007, and since then, she has been actively involved in publishing in leading research journals, presenting research at professional meetings, mentoring students and participating in the strings community. Schmidt accepted the award at the ASTA National Conference, March 18-21, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Governor’s Awards are a statewide celebration of the arts that recognizes distinguished artists, arts organizations, businesses, educators and individuals for their passion, creativity and devotion to Arizona’s arts and cultural community. The winners of the 2015 awards were announced at a ceremony on March 24 at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel. Appropriately, each recipient was awarded an actual work of art made by a living Arizona artist.

Schmidt’s career as a string educator and researcher has spanned over 30 years. She is an expert on string education and pedagogy and on music teacher preparation and development. Her research has focused on sociological issues of race and class among and between music learners and teachers, and how these concepts mesh with the reality of teaching strings in today’s schools.

“I am so pleased that both these awards bring recognition to the music program at ASU,” Schmidt says. “I have always loved the idea of ‘lighting your candle in your own little corner.’ Neither award is completely about me, as I couldn’t do the things I do without the support and encouragement of the administration, staff, my colleagues and our students in the School of Music. They inspire and encourage me every day in so many small ways. If we each keep lighting our candles, we can collectively make a difference in the lives of our students and the larger community.”

In addition to teaching in the School of Music, in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Schmidt is also the founder and director of the ASU String Project, which won the Robert Jesselson String Project Consortium Award in 2005 for the nation’s most outstanding string project. Schmidt holds a doctorate in music education from the University of Michigan, a master's in music (violin performance) from SUNY-StonyBrook and a bachelor's in music education from Lawrence University.

Heather Beaman,
communications liaison, School of Music

Deborah Sussman

Communications and media specialist, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts