A lot has changed since Thunderbird School of Global Management broke ground on the new global headquarters in downtown Phoenix last October. COVID-19 has upended almost every aspect of our lives. It has made even more apparent the urgent need for global leadership. 

Thunderbird prepares current and future leaders to thrive within even the most difficult circumstances. Collaboration, adaptation, and commitment to the mission are key aspects of the Thunderbird approach. And the new building – both the process of constructing it in the middle of a global pandemic and the edifice itself – is a reflection and extension of that approach.


The kind of synergy that has developed through the building design and construction process is unique. For the design, Thunderbird partnered with two architecture firms: Jones Studio, a local firm with deep history in downtown Phoenix; and Moore Ruble Yudell, a Santa Monica-based firm with a rich history designing complex buildings for higher education. 

“The spirited alignment and collaboration we’ve experienced with Jones Studio and the Thunderbird team is not something that happens with every project,” said Buzz Yudell, Design Partner at Moore Ruble Yudell. “We always plan for and work toward this kind of alignment, but it’s been a very organic development here.”

“The spirited alignment and collaboration we’ve experienced on this building is incredibly unique.” – Buzz Yudell of Moore Ruble Yudell  -  Click to Tweet

When COVID-19 hit, the individuals and organizations working on the new building quickly adapted. They found new ways to collaborate when face-to-face meetings were no longer possible. They found new ways to ensure safety at the construction site even as many organizations were sending their workforces home.

To that end, Okland Construction, the general contractor and construction manager, has been an integral collaborator. “They’ve balanced keeping their team safe with staying on time and on budget. And they continue to prioritize quality,” explained Eddie Jones, founder of Jones Studio.

The building is on track to be completed on-time and within budget – an astounding feat under current circumstances and a great testament to the power of collaboration. (Keep up with the progress via this live feed.) 


The building was of course not designed with a global pandemic in mind. But it was designed to enable adaptation of the kind that is essential to thriving through COVID-19. For example, the Global Forum enables people across borders, cultures, time zones and languages to gather, learn and collaborate – in person and virtually. The Innovation Lab, with a global situation room and VR/AR technology-enhanced language lab, will facilitate virtual experiential learning opportunities unlike any other. 

“From the very beginning, every aspect of this project was so forward thinking,” said Yudell. “We designed the building with the goal of making it extremely flexible for pedagogy, for gathering, for professional interaction, and for research. The building was designed to be able to deal equally well with in-person teaching and collaboration as well as to really be at the forefront of virtual teaching and collaboration.”

“This is so much more than a building. It represents a global optimism that is really needed in today’s world.” – Eddie Jones  -  Click to Tweet 

Commitment to the mission

Jones Studio and Moore Ruble Yudell have worked closely with Thunderbird from day one to understand the school’s vision and mission and bring it to life through the building. “Our designs are a reflection of the mission of our clients,” said Amy Hellmund, Senior Associate at Moore Ruble Yudell. “It is a real testament to Thunderbird’s mission and purpose to connect the world, prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and to realize the value of interconnection even if we don’t live in the same location.” 

“The challenges of COVID-19 are really putting Thunderbird’s mission to the test and it’s amazing to be part of it.” – Amy Hellmund of Moore Ruble Yudell - Click to Tweet 

The new global headquarters will enable the Thunderbird community to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “This is so much more than a building,” said Jones. “I think the global implications of this project is giving everyone a reason to rise to the occasion. The building represents a global optimism that is really needed in today’s world.”


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