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ASU reveals $25m initiative to reach 100m learners

Arizona State University has revealed an online initiative with a $25 million backing which it hopes will educate 100 million learners worldwide by 2030.

(From left to right) Thunderbird dean Sanjeev Khagram, with Dionne Najafi and Francis Najafi. Photo: Thunderbird School of Global Management

The backing by a $25 million donation means there will be no cost to students

The program at the institution’s Thunderbird School of Global Management aims to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education, the university said. It is also hoping 70% of the program’s participants will be women.

The accredited online Global Management and Entrepreneurship Certificate will consist of five courses in 40 different languages and focus on 21st century skills. The backing by a $25 million donation from the Francis and Dionne Najafi Global Initiative means there will be no cost to students.

“Access to higher education and the need for equity and inclusion is one of a global scale,” said ASU president Michael Crow.

“One of the reasons Arizona State University is so pleased to have Thunderbird as part of our enterprise is because it is a school that has been focused on sustained prosperity worldwide for decades.”

The project’s phased approach will see students in Iran, Kenya, Mexico, Indonesia, Egypt, India, Senegal, Brazil, and Vietnam offered courses in their native languages in the first year, while in year two it will expand across Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America to at least 25 languages.

By year four or earlier, it will reach Europe and Central Asia and 40 total languages.

Francis and Dionne Najafi’s support will “impact communities around the world and be a force that brings all of us closer together”, Crow added.

Thunderbird alumni Dionne and Iranian-born businessman Francis Najafi added that they hope to open up new avenues to quality education.

“Our lives were transformed by access to quality education at Thunderbird and we wanted to extend that same transformative experience to people around the world who lack access to quality education,” they said. “We are excited and deeply humbled to be part of such a bold initiative.”

“We measure success not by whom we exclude, but rather by whom we include”

Director general and dean of Thunderbird Sanjeev Khagram said – as a refugee of Idi Amin’s Uganda, whose life was transformed by access to world-class education – the project is “deeply personal for me”.

“The Najafi Thunderbird Global Initiative is educational inclusion, innovation, and impact at a worldwide scale!” he said.

In its 75-year history, Thunderbird has reached over two million learners, while in the last four years, it has engineered the “greatest turnaround in higher education history”, he continued.

“At Thunderbird, our vision is a world of sustainable and equitable prosperity, and as part of Arizona State University – the #1 school for innovation seven years running – we measure success not by whom we exclude, but rather by whom we include,” Khagram noted.

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