Our Story

The Thunderbird Independent Alumni Association (TIAA) is the alumni association for master's level graduates of the Thunderbird School of Global Management.  By  alumni  and  for alumni, TIAA hosts events and networking opportunities all over the world and is dedicated to preserving Thunderbird’s culture, network and mystique.




TIAA focuses on three specific areas to support its members:

  • Professional Development: Small group lunches and cocktail receptions designed for networking, larger professional development weekends, and events with industry and global trend experts
  • Personal Growth: Leadership development and career initiatives targeted to mid- and senior-level alumni
  • Policy Impact: Focused communication and lobbying on behalf of our members’ concerns, including FATCA, NAFTA, TPP and others

Founded in 2013, TIAA, a US 501(c)3 non-profit organization, has an all-alumni Board of Directors that is voted on by its members. All major decisions are put to the membership for a vote. It is truly an alumni-based, alumni-driven organization.  TIAA operates independently of the School, which allows it to better represent the views, interests, and perspectives of the alumni community. While we collaborate with the School wherever possible, we remain a separate entity. As a member-centric organization, TIAA is focused on enriching each member’s professional growth by hosting educational, business and networking seminars around the world, and providing leadership in global business through building connections, and opportunities for education and the exchange of ideas.

The Importance of TIAA

The Thunderbird alumni community recognized the need for an independent association that would provide a collective voice in the affairs of its alma mater and serve as an effective platform for professional alumni-to-alumni interaction. TIAA was created in reaction to the Thunderbird Board of Trustees’ public announcement of an agreement to merge Thunderbird with Laureate, a for-profit education corporation. A group of alumni, understandably concerned about the impact that such a merger would have on their degrees, subsequently created TIAA.  

TIAA’s Founding Board Members

TIAA’s founding Board of Directors includes four long-time advocates for the Thunderbird mission: Harry Cockrell ’73, Thomas Greer ’73, Merle Hinrich ’65, and Robert Theleen ’70. They saw the same need that the organization’s other founding alumni saw in the face of Thunderbird’s recent management crisis, and turned their support to empowering a truly independent alumni association. Their joint gift of US $2 million is the organizational funding for TIAA, ensuring its long-term viability as a resource for alumni.  In early 2015, Felipe Martinez ‘03 joined the TIAA Board of Directors from Mexico City, but stepped down in 2016.


Doug Deardorf '84, of Denver, Colorado, joined the Board in February of 2016, and Nimrod Kovacs '77, of Budapest, joined in August of the same year.  At the end of 2016, Mr. Hinrich stepped down as Chairman of the Board, and the role was turned over to Mr. Deardorf at the start of 2017.  Thomas Greer and Robert Theleen departed the Board at the end of 2017.  As of Q1 2018, TIAA has six of nine possible Board positions filled. 

Traditions of Helping T-Birds Worldwide 

TIAA’s activities are designed to keep alumni connected to each other in substantial ways, to better complement the needs of the school wherever possible, to preserve our Thunderbird Mystique and create new traditions. 

  • TIAA sponsors two professional development conferences or summits per year. Past conferences include  Baden-Baden, Budapest, Mexico City, New York City and Nanjing. Our 2017 summits are in Paris, France on May 5-6 and Panama City, Panama on September 22-23.
  • Hosting TIAA Connect luncheons that provide an opportunity for alumni networking and open dialogue. Lunches are all over the world hosted by TIAA Board Members, Staff and Volunteers. Recent lunches have been in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Paris and Scottsdale.
  •  TIAA launched the Scholars Program in 2015, a $10,000 award per full-time MGM student. The TIAA Scholars Program has gained initial funding from the TIAA Board of Directors of $1,000,000. The first group of TIAA Scholars graduated from the school in fall of 2016, and to date, 19 students have been part of the program.
  • Each week, the TIAA Weekly News is published to keep T-birds - members and subscribers - updated on alumni news and activities.
  • Likewise, the TIAA Times is a Members-only Monthly publication of the Thunderbird Independent Alumni Association.
  • In addition to the conferences, TIAA serves Thunderbird alumni by sponsoring school and Chapter related events. Most recently those have been in Phoenix, Shanghai, Seoul, Taiwan, San Francisco, and at the 70th Anniversary on campus.  We are proud to support our fellow alumni. 
  • TIAA is proud to be an annual supporter of the Thunderbird Alumni Rugby Association (TARA) with support of their RAW weekend.
  • TIAA supported the Thunderbird Emerging Markets Laboratory (TEMLab) through a matching program with the Spring 2015 graduating class – the total TIAA contribution amounted to half of the over $20,000 raised.
  • We also provided a $2,500 sponsorship to the TEDxYouth@Glendale conference developed by students.
  • Sponsored the 2014 Thunderbird Entrepreneurship Network (TEN) Business Plan Competition.
  • Halting the proposed 2013 merger of Thunderbird and Laureate Education Corporation


To create and enhance global understanding and prosperity through global trade.


To enrich our members' growth, leadership, and successes in global business through providing connections, education, and a platform for the exchange of ideas, and to actively represent member interests on common issues affecting global trade.

Core Values:

  • We are by alumni, for alumni.
  •  We are adventurous, open, and sensitive to all cultures.
  • We believe in honesty, openness, and transparency.
  •  We approach our goals with passion and persistence.
    We are a global family, in support of one another.

Strategic Objectives:

Member Support:

· Lifelong education for members

·  Support member career development and job enrichment

· Recognize and celebrate member achievements

·  Optimize the benefits of a global network of members

Brand Development and Support:

· Globally promote Thunderbird Independent Alumni Association

·  Communicate the value of membership 

· Facilitate and nurture the bonds between members

Promote Academic Excellence:

·  Support member's interests in Thunderbird merger with ASU

·  Support member-defined issues that influence global business

Student Support:

· Promote connections between Thunderbird Independent Alumni Association members and students

· Supplement Thunderbird’s student placement services through our own efforts

· Advance the recruitment of qualified TIAA Scholars by developing a network of members, leading universities, and multi-national corporations

Bylaws and Governance:

Contact us for more information.


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