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2023 Leaders in Graduate Education in International Affairs

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Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University

A Digital and Global Mindset Propels Students Into Purpose-Driven Careers


Sophal Ear, Senior Associate Dean of Student Success and Associate Professor, Thunderbird School of Global Management, Arizona State University

A Cambodian refugee who escaped the Khmer Rouge, Sophal Ear, senior associate dean of student success and associate professor, credits his mother for his interest in international affairs and the global political economy. It was his mother’s language skills that allowed his family to escape Cambodia, finding their way first to France and, eventually, to the United States.

“My late mother understood the power of language as a passport to freedom and culture,” Ear says. “She imparted in me a global mindset that I nurture to this day.” As a result, he speaks five languages and has written books on Cambodia, China, and, most recently, one titled Viral Sovereignty and the Political Economy of Pandemics.

This shared belief in the vital role of language in international business and leadership attracted Ear to Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University.

Thunderbird holds a unique position as a school of global leadership and management. It’s more than just a place—it’s really an idea. Today, this idea lives in the hearts and minds of more than 50,000 alumni worldwide, and each semester we welcome a new generation of T-birds.Sophal Ear

Ear’s position as both a senior associate dean and professor keeps him attuned to the individual needs of the school’s diverse student body. And students, he says, “feel free to approach me.” He’s collaborated with a student from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a fellow refugee who took an interest in Ear’s work on the Board of Refugees International, on a project known as the Refugee Lab. From close mentorships to practical advice on salary negotiations, Ear draws from a wealth of professional experiences and connections working at the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme to guide students as they explore and develop their areas of interest.

As a leader in international management and business education for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Thunderbird equips graduates for global careers across industries and sectors. “We inculcate our incoming students with a digital, global mindset so that each T-bird can advance inclusive and sustainable prosperity worldwide,” Ear explains. The school’s curriculum ensures that students have a strong knowledge base and skill set, as well as an awareness and appreciation for the customs and culture of the international communities they will serve. The school offers study-abroad opportunities, and students must fulfill a second language requirement.

A Supportive Faculty That’s Committed
to Seeing Graduates Succeed

When he graduates in May 2023, Steven Marshall, a former marine, wants to leave the world a better place than he found it. In addition to knowledge and know-how, he singles out Thunderbird’s faculty as a major factor in sustaining his efforts. Marshall is currently working on publishing a paper alongside Thunderbird School of Global Management Associate Professor William Youngdahl, who, he says, “has exhibited nothing but a desire to empower his students and assist them in any capacity.” Marshall adds, “This program has given me the opportunity to articulate my 15 years of experience and leadership in a way that is appreciated by current and future employers—something that was a personal struggle for me in the past.”

Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University