Update on Meeting with the President of Arizona State University (ASU)

Last week, the ACT and Alumni Relations Office sponsored the third meeting with Chapter Leaders in the last two weeks, the purpose of which was to explore, discuss and clarify the partnership with ASU which is currently in the Letter of Intent (LOI) stage.  This week’s meeting was with Dr. Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University, who has led ASU’s  remarkable transformation and is widely regarded as one of the most visionary and innovative leaders in higher education.  

This third meeting with chapter leaders marked the first direct contact between ASU leadership and our alumni.  Dr. Crow wants to directly engage with our global alumni community and this will happen on a broader scale as the process develops.  More information will follow.  In the meantime, this and other communications from ACT will continue in an effort to keep you informed as we progress.

Chapter Leaders from all regions and all members of the ACT were represented, along with Joy Lubeck, ’86,  ACT President and meeting facilitator, ARO Director Terri Nissen,  President Larry Penley, Board of Trustees Chair Ann Iverson and Board of Trustees Alumni and Marketing Chair Kelly O’Dea, ’72,  in what can only be described as an engaging, open and enlightening exchange.

Dr. Crow’s inspiring opening remarks clearly set an exciting vision and tone for our pending partnership and the important role Thunderbird can play in achieving global impact and leadership as part of the ASU community.  Dr. Crow then addressed a broad range of questions put forward by chapter leaders and ACT members, in advance and during live exchange.  Following is a summary of salient points arising:

Vision for the Partnership 
One of the cornerstone goals of ASU is global impact in the fast changing world of higher education. Dr. Crow believes that Thunderbird epitomizes global leadership and regards Thunderbird as a key driver in achieving that goal.  This is a partnership founded on complementary vision, need and benefit for each institution.

Thunderbird will join ASU as a separate school in the community.  With our mission, brand and traditions intact, we will become Thunderbird School of Global Management at ASU.   This is a firm long- term commitment by Dr. Crow and ASU.

While separate, we will have full access to ASU’s massive resources in management expertise, technology, recruiting, placement, online delivery, innovation and access to sources for growth.  
We will also have open avenues to coordinate and collaborate with other neighbors in the ASU community, on multiple levels, to further enhance the global impact mission.

Dr. Crow characterized the mood at ASU as welcoming and complementary.  We are not replacing anything.  We are adding value and expertise.

Thunderbird alumni will not be simply folded into the ASU alumni association.  Like our school, our alumni association will be separate but integrated with ASU and will benefit from the strong ASU alumni resources to further enhance our association as both a personal and professional asset for all Thunderbird alumni.

ACT will collaborate and coordinate with the ASU Alumni Association leadership as the partnership process continues.

The ASU Board of Regents is the constitutionally-mandated and state-appointed, governing fiduciary of the public universities in Arizona, including ASU, and Thunderbird will merge into that structure.  Our equivalent Board of Trustees will therefore be disbanded.  As is the practice with other schools in the ASU community, Thunderbird will report to the University Provost on the strategy, planning, program quality, implementation and operation of the school.  Many of the schools at ASU have advisory boards drawn from the ranks of alumni and other interested outsiders who provide support and advice to the school’s leadership. The advisory structure will be determined in the coming weeks as we move through the LOI process.

Degrees and Programs
Consistent with our added value and complementary role in ASU, we will discontinue the MBA brand and focus on our famous legacy degree programs in global management, updated to address developments in the global education market.  

All future Thunderbird degrees will continue to come from Thunderbird, including any new degree programs we develop in the future.  In addition, there will be opportunities for future Thunderbird students to pursue dual degrees or to augment their Thunderbird degree program with additional learning opportunities.  Partnerships with other institutions could also be a possibility in the context of our mission and strategic needs.  This all points toward an enhanced learning experience for Thunderbird students and added attraction to incoming students interested in pursuing a global career.

Thunderbird Executive Education is regarded by ASU as a successful and significant differentiating strength of Thunderbird.  This business will receive considerable focus as a source of future growth and leadership.  The specific shape and structure of our continued executive education program will develop as part of the current LOI process.

Faculty and Staff 
A focus on applied learning will continue.  As we merge into ASU, we have undertaken a process to right size our current faculty and staff so that we enter into the community in an effective position to hit the ground running in our new neighborhood.  This is a requirement of merging into ASU and part of the change we must manage to create the path to future growth.  A substantial number of existing faculty and staff will be retained by ASU as part of this transition process to integrate both institutions.

ASU recognizes the special value of the Thunderbird campus.  There are no immediate implications regarding location in our current discussions and impending partnership with ASU.  That said, keep in mind that we have often considered alternative and appropriate new locations for our campus as the cost of maintaining inefficient, aging legacy facilities has progressively increased over the years.  This could possibly be a consideration in the future but it is not now.  We must first stabilize before we consider this option.

In summary, we encourage you to google ASU and search the website at to gain a feel for this fast growing and vibrant institution that will be our new home.

The feedback on Dr. Crow’s transparent, open remarks and candid answers to our questions has been uniformly positive.  This new partnership offers great possibilities to Thunderbird as a runway for future growth.  That is something we all want for our beloved school.  We believe that the Thunderbird mystique will prosper and grow as we turn the page to an exciting new chapter in our amazing history.

Part of our strength and longevity as a global leader resides in our unity of purpose and our lifelong attachment to that special magic that makes us T-Birds.  One Thunderbird.

We will continue to update you on our progress.  In the meantime, please let us hear from you so we keep the dialogue going and the process moving in the right direction. 

Please email the ACT team at: or contact Terri Nissen, Sr. Director of Alumni Relations at:


Your ACT Team @ Thunderbird
Joy Lubeck, President, Glendale, AZ
Nona Niner, Vice President, New York, NY
David Wittenberg, Delhi, India
Jonathan Lutz, London, United Kingdom
Tony van der Hoek, Atlanta, GA
Baron Bruno, Los Angeles, CA
Gabe Frank, Sao Paolo, Brazil
Yohei Matsumura, Tokyo, Japan