- Annual Enrollment:
- 500 Graduate
- Average GPA:
- Average Age:
- % International:
- %US-born students of color:
- Employment Sectors
- 30% Nonprofit; 31% Private; 37% Public; 2% Attending graduate school
- Work Experience:
- 76% of enrolled students have prior full-time work experience
- Degrees Offered:
- MS in: Development Management; International Relations and Business (online) MA in: Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs; Global Environmental Policy; Intercultural and International Communication; Comparative and Regional Studies; Global Governance, Politics, and Security; International Affairs Policy and Analysis; International Economic Relations; Natural Resources and Sustainable Development; United States Foreign Policy and National Security; International Development; International Economics; International Peace and Conflict Resolution; International Relations (online); PhD in International Relations; Executive Degree: Master of International Service (on-campus or online), Executive Track and International Studies Track; Dual Degrees: JD/MA; MA/MAT; MA/MBA; MA/MTS
Are you ready to take on the world’s challenges?
Rising seas. Food insecurity. Cybersecurity breaches. Pandemics. Nationalism. Racism. 417 ppm of CO2.
Are you compelled to realize a greater purpose through your career?
Create green public policies. Analyze the promise and risk of new technology. Advance US foreign policy goals. Combat global health inequities. Test the foundations of democracy. Advocate antiracist public policies. Research carbon removal.
We are the School of International Service (SIS), a top-10 school of international affairs based in Washington, DC. SIS is the place for people who want to lead, serve, and make a world of difference.
We prepare students to build successful careers of impact in government, nonprofits, and business—careers spent analyzing global problems and searching for solutions that improve lives.
Since our founding in 1957, we have answered President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s call to prepare students of international affairs to “wage peace.” Over the years, SIS has grown in stature and is a destination for students seeking to create positive change in our world.
Our students enjoy both the benefits of a tight-knit campus community and the advantage of being in the nation’s capital. Our faculty — leading political scientists, economists, sociologists, anthropologists, demographers, geographers, historians, and experts in international development, global health, communications, energy, and the environment — produce transformational, policy-relevant research.
Our city offers unparalleled opportunities for faculty and students not only to study and research international affairs, but also to actively engage in the ongoing work of this dynamic field. Our school, with nearly 20 degree programs, is a forum for collaboration and engagement with fellow students, faculty, an alumni network of more than 20,000, and the global leaders who frequently visit our campus. We hope you will join us.
To receive information directly from the Admissions Department, click here.
What lessons learned, adjustments made, and/or innovations has your program implemented in the last 15 months?
Our faculty learned that they could teach online and do it well. That doesn’t mean there weren’t bumps along the way—there were many—but in a crunch, we made it work. Faculty now have a new skill set—online teaching—and improved computer program competencies in Zoom, Canvas, and Teams. I expect we’ll take these skills with us back into the classroom. Ironically, holding office hours online may facilitate more one-on-one meetings between faculty and students as barriers to face-to-face meeting, including jobs, internships, and long commutes, are eliminated.
How are the mechanisms of policymaking changing to adapt to a post-pandemic world?
The global pandemic brought weaknesses in our local, state, and federal policymaking process into sharp relief. The need for cooperation became clear early on, when mayors, governors, and the executive branch initiated contradictory policies on masks, school closings, and travel. The importance of clear lines of decision-making was also made depressingly obvious when governors demanded the president purchase and distribute COVID-19 tests, only to be told it wasn’t the federal government’s job to do this. We weren’t ready for the pandemic. Our policymaking apparatus needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.
How does your school promote new voices and new perspectives in its diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) initiatives?
Like most higher education institutions, the School of International Service still has much work to do on DEIJ initiatives. At the faculty level, we’re focusing on hiring. We need to bring Black, Latinx, and Indigenous voices onto our faculty and into our classrooms to catch up with our increasingly diverse student population.
As a faculty, we’re building DEIJ skills for the classroom. We’ve decolonized core courses by adding units on nontraditional topics and incorporating authors from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East in our syllabi. We’re learning how to lead difficult conversations in the classroom and strategizing how to keep these conversations focused on readings rather than polemics. We realize that providing students with DEIJ knowledge and skill-building is crucial to their future professional success.
How do leadership roles for traditionally underrepresented groups enhance your programs?
Representation matters, especially at a school for international affairs and especially at the leadership level, because it provides a more accurate picture of the world. Having leaders from underrepresented populations broadens the perspective of everything we do, from helping students with problems they encounter to making policy and from designing curricula to forging new international partnerships.
As the new U.S. administration refocuses on international diplomacy and cooperation, how do your programs prepare students for a more open dialogue on the global stage?
We’ve always prepared our students to engage in diplomacy and dialogue with allies and adversaries alike. What’s different now is that we’re also teaching them how to repair damaged relationships and to build up what was lost during the last administration and the global pandemic.
How does American University’s School of International Service (SIS) view international cooperation?
In 1944, at the end of the Bretton Woods Conference establishing the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr, gave a closing address that resonates today. “There is a curious notion” that people from different countries cannot work together without sacrificing their national interests, Morgenthau said. He argued that the negotiators recognized the opposite: “… the wisest and most effective way to protect our national interests is through international cooperation.”
Schools such as SIS were created to prepare students to become leaders in an uncertain world, where complex problems do not respect national boundaries. Our mission is no less important today than it was decades ago.
What skills are needed to help students prepare to manage global crises in uncertain times? How does SIS instill these qualities in students?
Students at SIS learn how to think, analyze, question, understand, and act. They learn ethical perspectives that will guide them as they become citizens—and leaders—of the world. These fundamental skills are as essential today as they ever were. Leaders must be nimble, capable of responding to the unexpected, and hold a vision of what the future might look like and ideas on how to get there. The issues may change over time, and some are more complex than others, but fundamental skills are always applicable. Our students also learn many other types of skills from their courses and skills institutes. These can include data visualization techniques, strategic planning, grant writing, and research methods.
The School of International Service is constantly adapting. Our students benefit from an interdisciplinary faculty of over 120 professors, ranging from theorists who help us to understand broad patterns and larger perspectives to practitioner-scholars who have advised, devised, and implemented policy. All work to keep an environment of inclusivity foremost in the curriculum and in the classroom teaching and learning experience. Students can learn leadership skills from a history class or a class that examines institutions of foreign policy-making. They can take a class that teaches negotiation techniques, monitoring and evaluation strategies, and intercultural communication skills. They can take part in a practicum where student teams partner with outside organizations. They can even take advantage of all of these options through an online degree program.
As policy-making adapts to a post-pandemic world, and we all struggle to discern the evolving roles of institutions, what can we not afford to forget?
The role of international cooperation has never been more vital. The pandemic has produced sealed borders, set back globalization, and increased instability worldwide. We cannot even be sure about all the ripple effects it will trigger. We can be sure that global leaders are essential. Morgenthau’s advice should not be forgotten: “To seek the achievement of our aims separately through the planless, senseless rivalry that divided us in the past, or through the outright economic aggression which turned neighbors into enemies, would be to invite ruin again upon us all.”
What is the most important change in international affairs over the past five years?
Global leadership by the United States is no longer a given. By turning away from multilateral agreements, the Donald J. Trump administration accelerated a shift already underway with the rise of China as a global power. In response, other nations are creating new alliances or strengthening existing ones. A good example of this is the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. When the United States withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership in January 2017, eleven nations adjusted goals and proceeded with an agreement that more closely aligns them with each other.
How does the School of International Service (SIS) prepare students for a world in which the United States’ dominance in global affairs is no longer guaranteed?
We teach our students about the realities and the potential of an ever-changing world and prepare them with skills in international and intercultural relations, including diplomacy and communication. Our International and Intercultural Communication program is the first program of its type in the United States, and more than fifty years on, it’s still an innovator in the field. We also offer a graduate program in International Economic Relations, which focuses on international trade, finance, investment, development, and governance.
How does SIS remain at the forefront of international affairs teaching and learning?
The future of graduate education offers students a choice of where and when they can study. We now offer an on-campus, skills-based degree in International Affairs Policy and Analysis; starting this fall, we’ll offer a new online degree in International Relations and Business, jointly with the Kogod School of Business.
Our faculty continue to take prominent roles in advancing the scholarship and policy applications of our field. Our new Center for Security, Innovation, and New Technology is a forward-thinking collective that leverages research, engagement, and a community of scholars to find optimal, humane solutions to technology-based issues. Our Accountability Research Center, on the other hand, works toward global transparency and responsive governance with an impressive roster of partners promoting citizen action. Viewing these two together provides a snapshot of the SIS personality: engaged in important global questions from a human-centered perspective.
What responsibility do international affairs schools have to adapt to the changing face of work in how we prepare our students?
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is breaking down barriers between nations even more than previous moves toward globalization. This brings both challenges and opportunities. We prepare our students for cultural fluency and careers in global service.
As a higher education institution, we must advocate for coherent U.S. policy on international education, underpinned by an understanding that “international education” isn’t simply sending our students abroad or bringing international students to our campuses. We must holistically develop curricula that include scholars and thought leaders from the global south. We must engage with cultural nuance and prepare our students to flourish in a world where very little is clear cut.
How does your school approach the study of geopolitical conflict?
At the School of International Service (SIS), we have always relied on our greatest strength—diversity of thought and research. Our faculty of multidisciplinary experts includes political scientists, anthropologists, historians, geographers, diplomats, and practitioners. Through their translational and transformational research, they investigate the causes of conflict, identify opportunities to resolve them, and connect the global and the local.
How are you preparing students to navigate changes in the geopolitical landscape?
Because issues and challenges do not obey geopolitical borders, we provide students with strong academic foundations, practical skills, and opportunities to apply them outside the classroom. Our master’s students complete international practica on subject areas ranging from peacebuilding to cyber conflict in regions like the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. Their opportunities for practice are as vast as the challenges that face our world, and they work for real-world clients in capstone experiences that jump-start their careers.
What do you consider the most important emerging areas in the study of international affairs?
The important emerging areas of study all reflect globalization and the fact that no country, however powerful, can go it alone. These areas, including climate change, national security, public health, and migration, often cut across traditional disciplines. Our response at SIS is to think and teach in similar cross-cutting ways.
The impact of climate change on global public health is a great example of the intersection of social justice, human rights, and national security. The U.S. military believes climate change is a security issue. We teach global environmental policy with the understanding that, yes, clean water and safety from damaging storms are important for public health and prosperity, but they’re also critical for security. If unaddressed, the effects of climate change, including competition for arable land and clean water, will exacerbate conflicts related to border security, the identities of nations, and social justice. Our Global Environmental Policy students translate their passions for justice, ecological well-being, and humane governance into careers addressing those concerns.
SIS students of foreign policy and security work with faculty known for their research on terrorism, cybersecurity, politics, diplomacy, and executive-legislative relations. We also have a strong history of innovation in the emerging area of intercultural communication as it relates to geopolitical conflict and cooperation. Our Master of Arts in International and Intercultural Communication prepares students for national and international leadership roles in public-cultural diplomacy initiatives, business and political negotiations, and education.
Finally, SIS, in partnership with American University’s College of Arts and Science, has staked out a leadership role in a critically important emerging area of study—antiracist policies and movements around the world. Under the visionary leadership of Professor Ibram X. Kendi, our Antiracist Research and Policy Center produces knowledge for change’s sake. Determined researchers and policy experts study racial inequality, recommend policy correctives, and engage in campaigns of change.
SIS is a unique place. We attract service-minded leaders who understand that, in today’s world, a win-lose scenario produces no true winners. Our students and alumni will always strive for the win-win that acknowledges the concerns and human dignity of all.
You are a medical anthropologist specializing in humanitarian assistance and global health who teaches international affairs. Tell us about your research and approach to teaching.
My research draws on insights from ethnographic field work and ongoing conversations with many different people in the Horn of Africa to help improve the global health policies and humanitarian interventions that affect them. My goal as an instructor at the School of International Service (SIS) is to share these experiences with my students and, therein, help them more effectively recognize, analyze, and redress health inequities, both in faraway places like the Horn of Africa and right here in Washington, DC.
How has your work with humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF and the United Nations (UN) World Food Program informed how you teach international affairs?
As an anthropologist, I consider UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations as cultural systems with discernable histories, symbols, rituals, and values. In class, we study how power operates within these organizations. We ask how power relations affect how we define a humanitarian crisis, a famine, or an epidemic, and how and by whom particular health and humanitarian interventions are designed and evaluated. To supplement scholarly and policy texts, I introduce students to aid workers, policymakers, and beneficiaries who can offer grounded insights into the importance, challenges, and inadequacies of particular foreign interventions.
How does the SIS curriculum, built around the combination of knowledge and practice, benefit students?
In my classes, I make sure that every student ends the semester with three things: scientific and programmatic proficiency, depth of historical knowledge, and the ability to critically analyze global inequities. First, I make sure students are knowledgeable about the science and policy underpinning health and humanitarian interventions. Second, I teach the history and roles of international organizations and governments in the development of laws and intervention strategies. Students exit the class understanding, for example, the history, structure, and critiques of the UN World Health Organization and how it positions itself for future global health challenges. Third, students gain critical thinking skills to evaluate how diseases or problems are prioritized and how groups of people and problems can sometimes be left behind or obscured.
SIS was founded on the promise of educating international affairs students to wage peace. How do you apply this to your work?
“Waging peace” means building relations of trust and fighting for social justice. Anthropologists have long studied the role of health in people’s social identities and the cultural sensitivity required to optimize medical care—especially in the aftermath of war or violence. Health care has important societal effects; conversely, social relations shape the outcomes and evaluations of the medical care people receive. Therefore, health and humanitarian responses can never be limited to building clinics and donating material goods but must also include explicit efforts to foster trust and reconciliation. Histories of violence make relief operations and clinical encounters between oppositional groups formidable. However, in my work, I have found that healthcare providers and aid workers, by explicitly working to undo political tensions, can build meaningful rapport across antagonistic divides. In other words, peace can begin in the clinic.