Mission, Vision and History

The vanguard of global leadership, management, and business education for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.


Thunderbird School of Global Management advances inclusive and sustainable prosperity worldwide.

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Thunderbird empowers and influences global leaders and managers who maximize the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution for business, government, society, and the environment.


Thunderbird has been a top-ranked international management school for more than 70 years, and today Thunderbird continues producing leaders capable of tackling the world’s greatest challenges. As the technological innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution alter how we live and work, Thunderbird is developing nimble, ethical, global leaders across sectors and disciplines who are equipped to shape sustainable businesses, economies, cultures and environments around the world for this new era.

Originally known as the American Institute for Foreign Trade [AIFT], Thunderbird was chartered in Glendale, Arizona on the site of a World War II airbase, Thunderbird Field, where pilots from around the world trained during wartime. General Barton Kyle Yount obtained the airfield with the express purpose of developing a school focused exclusively on international trade and global relations. He was named Thunderbird’s first president and established a vision for the school that remains today—built on the phrase coined by original faculty member, Dr. William Lytle Schurz: “Borders frequented by trade seldom need soldiers.” With that, Thunderbird’s mission of educating global leaders who create inclusive and sustainable prosperity worldwide was born.

As AIFT, Thunderbird became the world’s first higher education institution to specialize in international management by concentrating curriculum on cross-cultural communication, regional business studies and hands-on, real-world training in global business nuances.
By 1955, two degrees were offered: a Bachelor of Foreign Trade and a Master of Foreign Trade. The Bachelor’s program was eventually discontinued and the Master’s program evolved into a Master of International Management (MIM) and later into an MBA in Global Management.

In 2014, Thunderbird became an independent unit of the Arizona State University Knowledge Enterprise, combining Thunderbird’s elite heritage of developing global business leaders with ASU’s expansive resources. In 2018, Thunderbird relocated to ASU’s vibrant Downtown Phoenix campus with plans for construction of a new global headquarters facility scheduled to welcome students in the Fall of 2021 as Thunderbird celebrates its 75th anniversary.

As part of the merger with ASU, Thunderbird transformed its MBA program into an innovative Master of Global Management (MGM). Thunderbird now offers this unique degree as a full-time campus program, an Online MGM and an Executive MGM. The degree portfolio also includes the prestigious Executive Master of Global Leadership and Strategy, the Online Master of Applied Leadership and Management as well as two unique bachelor’s degrees: the Bachelor of Global Management and the Bachelor of Science in International Trade, both of which are delivered on ASU’s West campus.

Often called a “mini-United Nations” because of its diverse and inclusive global student body, Thunderbird is also known worldwide for its elite and highly engaged alumni network of more than 45,000 global leaders in nearly 150 nations. Thunderbird’s global presence has expanded over the years as well, with satellite operations now in Geneva, Moscow, Dubai, Seoul, Jakarta, Tokyo, Los Angeles and Washington, DC.

Old photo of Thunderbird field with tower in the background

Search the Thunderbird Archives

The Thunderbird School of Global Management Archives is the official home for historical documents, photographs, papers, reports, publications, oral histories, memorabilia, and other objects related to the School’s 75-year history as a leading institution for international business. The archival collections and staff support information needs for the entire ASU community and are open to the public, including scholarly researchers, historians, and genealogists.