Graduate School Forum: The Changing Face of International Affairs Education

Graduate School Forum:
The Changing Face of International Affairs Education


“International affairs” has traditionally carried the connotation of diplomacy, national security, and state-to-state engagement. After World War II, leaders in the public and private spheres in the United States recognized the need to educate more Americans about the world around them, prepare them for America’s new leadership role in the world, and successfully “fight” the Cold War. The fall of the Soviet Union, coupled with the technological revolution, has allowed for a rapid globalization of, well, everything. As a result, multidisciplinary programs in international affairs have exploded since 1989, and the difficult task has become to define the study of international affairs when today every discipline seems to have an international dimension.

At its core, despite all the changes, international affairs programs are still training “diplomats” and “translators”—professionals with broad knowledge of the world who see and can navigate the interconnectedness of the private, public, and NGO sectors. Today, international affairs schools must train their students to understand a far more complicated world—one in which we cannot shy away from studying the roles of science and technology, the global economy, or the role of governments’ policies to improve or hinder the environments in which we operate.

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