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New ASU program enriches engineering with global business studies

Thunderbird Phoenix

A rendering of a workspace in Thunderbird’s new state-of-the-art global headquarters on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus scheduled to open in fall 2021.

July 02, 2021

In our dynamic and ever-changing world, many students find it beneficial to blend skill sets during their academic career to have a competitive advantage in industry. As the engineering landscape evolves, the benefits of a transdisciplinary education ring especially true for engineering graduates as they enter the workforce.

A new Arizona State University academic program strategically combining a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in global management provides just that. It offers the core of both curricula wrapped into one accelerated program that prepares students with a toolkit that the future of engineering demands.

“The 4+1 Master of Global Management degree opens doors that might not otherwise be opened,” said John Rajadas, an associate professor of engineering in The Polytechnic School, one of the six Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU. “When students do an engineering degree, its core is specific to engineering only, but with this degree program, students have the opportunity to broaden their technical careers for the future.”

The Polytechnic School and the top-rated Thunderbird School of Global Management have partnered to launch the 4+1 Master of Global Management program with the goal of combining two complementary, in-demand skill sets within a span of five academic calendar years.

“Oftentimes, engineers are confined to their roles and not able to move up, manage a team or a budget, or formulate a strategy to move a company forward,” said Lena Booth, associate dean of graduate programs and associate professor of finance at Thunderbird. “This program will give a business-oriented engineering student the opportunity to lead, articulate and push the boundaries in a field they are passionate about.”

Preparing students for a cross-disciplinary workforce 

Thunderbird’s Master of Global Management program was recently ranked No. 1 in the country. The school offers 17 diverse concentrations within a supportive and inclusive environment, encouraging students to inspire, influence and drive global success. It connects students to corporate partners and generates internship opportunities with real-world simulations where students gain a balance of practical and people skills. In addition, a global cohort of peers allows students to gain diverse perspectives and globalize both their mindset and their marketability.

Thunderbird’s new state-of-the-art global headquarters on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus is scheduled to open in fall 2021, in time for the school’s 75th anniversary. The new facilities and technology will enable an enriched experience for students.

“I can speak from experience that I use a lot of business skills as a professor, researcher and administrator,” said Thomas Sugar, engineering professor and associate dean of ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College at the Polytechnic campus. “The fact that it’s global sets Thunderbird apart from the other business degrees. In today’s world, having a global business mindset is crucial.”

A customized path to graduation and beyond

Students who want to pursue this opportunity apply to the 4+1 program during the third year of their undergraduate engineering studies. When accepted, they begin taking their core business courses and global management concentration courses in the fourth year of their undergraduate engineering degree program.

In the 4+1 program, The Polytechnic School offers students one of four pathways to pursue within the Bachelor of Science in engineering program: automotive systems, electrical systems, mechanical engineering systems and robotics.

Thunderbird’s core business courses include leadership and strategy, marketing, finance and accounting.

During their fourth and fifth years, students can get a customized education experience by selecting one or two of 17 concentration areas that include everything from legal studies to integrated health care to digital transformation and even global entrepreneurship.

If taken separately, the Bachelor of Science in engineering degree requires 120 credit hours and the Master of Global Management graduate degree 49, for a total of 169 credit hours. This accelerated degree allows for 12 shared credit hours, so students can reduce total required credit hours to 157 overall.

Students at Thunderbird receive support that might not otherwise be available in a traditional business school setting. For example, students interested in global entrepreneurship can expect to learn how to pitch ideas and engage in startup investing as well as meet with investors through ASU InvestU. Students receive training in how to speak to investors and how to take their product to the market.

Professional prospects

Between the combination of four undergraduate engineering pathways and 17 master’s degree concentrations, graduates have a wide range of career prospects. Several former engineering students have found value in combining their skills with business degrees offered at Thunderbird.

“A robotics major who does a concentration in digital transformation can use the combined training in engineering and business to generate automated solutions within patient care to digitally transform the health care industry,” said Booth, Thunderbird’s associate dean. “This is just one example of how this curriculum is strategically designed to drive students to become global changemakers.”

Eduardo Luciano Huapaya completed his bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering at ASU and later decided to apply to Thunderbird’s global management master’s degree program after realizing that many employers are now seeking candidates with an engineering and business background.

“I believe many engineers tend to overlook the value of business fundamentals,” Huapaya said. “Engineering courses teach the hard skills needed to become an innovator while the business background allows an understanding of marketing, finance and business sustainability needed to commercialize the innovation.”

ASU engineering management and mechanical engineering alumnus Bowei Zhu is now a Thunderbird global management graduate student focusing on digital transformation. He came to realize that in industry, managers without a technical background often have a difficult time managing a group of engineers due to the lack of an engineering mindset.

“Engineering school gave me the ability to become a creative problem solver while business school gave me the knowledge on how to build and manage a team of engineers,” Zhu said. “As an entrepreneur, I now know the value of having each skill set, which is why I chose to attend Thunderbird for my master’s.”

A recent visit to General Motors was eye-opening for Booth and reinforced these values. She learned during her visit that GM plans the supply chain process for their vehicles 10 years in advance.

“This truly made me understand the value of ramping up the skills of our engineering students today,” she said, “so they are prepared for the job market tomorrow.”

For more information or to enroll in the 4+1 Master of Global Management program, contact Thunderbird Degree Program Admissions: 602-496-7100 or

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