By: Rick Beitman, Editor-in-Chief
Since the transaction between Thunderbird School of Global Management and Arizona State University closed in December 2014, as expected, there have been a myriad of changes. One of the biggest shifts has been in leadership with the appointment of Dr. Allen J. Morrison, the new CEO and Director General of Thunderbird. – Dr. Morrison succeeds Dr. Larry Penley, the former president of Thunderbird who with ASU President Dr. Michael Crow oversaw the deal between ASU and Thunderbird.
Dr. Crow directly recruited Dr. Morrison to fill the top job at Thunderbird, and looking at his prior body of experience, it is not hard to see why he made that choice. – Not a newcomer to the ‘Thunderbird mystique’, Dr. Morrison taught multi-national business management at Thunderbird for 4.5 years starting in 1992. Of his time as faculty, Dr. Morrison said:
“I loved Thunderbird; I thought [it] was a unique institution. I loved the emphasis on the practical approach as opposed to the theoretical approach on the practice of management. I was impressed with how entrepreneurial the students were and how much they wanted to change the world.”
Everything Dr. Morrison has done has been related to international business. He obtained his PhD from the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. Ranked first in international business for PhD training, Dr. Morrison said the University of South Carolina was a “more academic, theoretical environment”.
Dr. Morrison spent six years in total at the University of Western Ontario, first serving as an Assistant Professor at the Ivey Business School before being recruited to teach at Thunderbird by its Dean of Faculty (his former PhD advisor). He returned to Ivey as its Dean of Executive Development. – Dr. Morrison has also taught at UCLA as a visiting professor, and spent four years at INSEAD (including its Singapore campus).
Prior to returning to Thunderbird, Dr. Morrison was living in Switzerland. He has spent a total of seven years at IMD both teaching and as a Chaired Professor and Director of the Global CEO Center, which was his most recent position. – Dr. Morrison has authored 11 books on global management, as well as over 50 articles, and over 60 case studies. More recently, his attention has shifted to “sustainability and responsible leadership”.
Aside from academics, Dr. Morrison definitely fits the profile of a T-Bird. A native of Ottawa, Ontario in Canada, he holds dual citizenship with the U.S. Fluent in French, Dr. Morrison “learned to love being international” while serving a two-year church mission in Paris, France. At the age of 19, he got the “international bug” while traveling in Europe that first time.
International travel for him had only just begun. To date, Dr. Morrison has been to 65 countries, hitting every continent (except Antarctica). He has made over 140 transatlantic trips and has spent a cumulative 14 months living out of Hong Kong hotel rooms. – In all his travels, Switzerland is the most beautiful country to which he has been while Sydney, Australia is his favorite city.
Happy to be back in the desert, Dr. Morrison loves the multicultural Southwest and likes the friendly people. – When not working, he enjoys scuba diving, skiing, cycling, and biographies. He is a lover of Chinese food, however Raclette, a Swiss specialty, is his favorite dish.
Both a good fit professionally and personally for Thunderbird, Dr. Morrison has high hopes for the school. His vision for Thunderbird is, “to be recognized as the preeminent school for global management education in the world, and that its reputation for preeminence be found in the corporate world, and in graduate and undergraduate education.”
While change is expected from the recent merger with ASU, Dr. Morrison is optimistic: “[The merger] can only be good for Thunderbird. ASU brings a breadth and depth to the school that could not be achieved as an independent institution. Thunderbird lacked the scale and resources to be competitive at the highest level on a global basis. The partnership with ASU comes at the perfect time; ASU is highly supportive of Thunderbird’s culture and vision and has the best interests of Thunderbird as its ambition.”
However, even in a best-case scenario, Dr. Morrison knows there will be hurdles: “[Thunderbird] faces challenges in all directions, as do all institutions. None can rest on its laurels or past successes. [The greatest challenges of this merger] are associated with [Thunderbird’s] identity, level of confidence, culture, and need to build faculty and programs at a rapid pace.”
Even with the obstacles ahead, Dr. Morrison’s goals for the school are ambitious: “[In ten years], I envision [Thunderbird] will be substantially different than it is now. It will have a large, diversified graduate program with multiple degrees and a flourishing undergraduate program. [Thunderbird] will have representatives positioned around the world and be recognized as a top player in executive development with a client base amongst the best in the world.”
Fortunately, Thunderbird appears to be in good hands. With Dr. Morrison at the helm, the course seems to be steadying and headed in the right direction: “My vision is that [Thunderbird’s] reach and influence be truly global.”