The quintessentially Thunderbird idea of bringing peace to the world through international commerce has evolved over the last seven and a half decades as globalization intensified and sped up. Thunderbird was established less than a year after the United Nations formed. The school’s founders recognized a need for adaptable mindsets in professionals who could go global, and their innovative solution culminated as Thunderbird. On April 8, 1946, Thunderbird School of Global Management, originally known as the American Institute for Foreign Trade, was chartered on the Glendale, Arizona, World War II air base Thunderbird Field, where pilots from around the world came for training during wartime.

Since that time, the world has also evolved dramatically through several distinct eras, such as decolonization and the emergence of new nation-states.

Dr. Sanjeev Khagram became Thunderbird's Dean and Director General in 2018

Thunderbird Dean and Director-General Sanjeev Khagram

When Thunderbird was founded, most of the peoples of the world were under colonial rule, including my family,” Khagram said. “The school grew and rose to prominence through the Cold War’s early years, through the formation of the New International Economic Order, to the end of the Cold War and Globalization 3.0 in the 1990s. Global management education continued to change rapidly after 9/11, facing major disruption again with the global financial crisis of 2008–09, and Thunderbird changed with it."

In 2015, Thunderbird became part of ASU, and in 2018 it relocated from Glendale to ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus, where its new high-tech global headquarters is in the final phases of construction, on track to welcome its first students in August 2021.

Thunderbird’s 75th anniversary celebrations will honor that rich history while convening a global community of difference-makers to tackle the toughest challenges of tomorrow. In its 75th year, the school’s international community finds itself once again adapting at the vanguard of the higher education sector, not only to accelerating technological advancement but also to climate change and ecosystem destruction, COVID-19 and new demands for social justice.

Thunderbird has often been referred to as a “mini United Nations” because of its diverse and inclusive global faculty, student body, staff and alumni, and therein lies one of its greatest strengths. From Founders’ Day on April 8 to the grand opening of Thunderbird Global Headquarters in November, this longstanding tradition of honoring diversity and fostering cross-cultural connections will be on display, exemplifying the ASU Charter’s focus on inclusion.

Visit the Thunderbird Founders’ Day registration page to sign up or learn more.

Written by graduate student Christina Furst.

Jonathan Ward

Associate Director, Media Relations & Strategic Messaging, Thunderbird School of Global Management