- Approx. 1,000
- % International:
- Employment sectors:
- 35% public sector, 38% private sector, 21% nonprofit sector, 6% multilateral
- Degrees offered:
- Master's of Science in Foreign Service, Master's of Arts in Arab Studies, Master's of Arts in Asian Studies, Master's of Arts in German and European Studies, Master's of Global Human Development, Master's of Arts in Latin American Studies, Master's of Arts in Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies, Master's of Arts in Security Studies
The Georgetown Walsh School of Foreign Service awarded its first graduate degree in the early 1920s. Since then, thousands of SFS graduates have applied the values-led training they gained at the School to leadership roles in every area of international affairs. Graduates from SFS master’s programs include world leaders, ambassadors, top business leaders, high-ranking military officials, development innovators, award-winning reporters, and human rights champions.
For close to a century, SFS has continued to develop innovative approaches to graduate education for professional careers in international affairs. In a continually changing and unpredictable world, we believe that our mission to prepare women and men to be creative, service-driven leaders with a deep understanding of the ethical components of global affairs is more important than ever.
Located in the heart of D.C., our students learn from scholars and practitioners at the top of their fields and can take advantage of the networking, internship and career opportunities and front seat to global events offered by our city. The unparalleled opportunities offered by an SFS graduate degree led Foreign Policy to rank Georgetown University as the #1 school for master’s programs for international policy careers in the most recent ranking released in 2018.
When you study at SFS, you join a century-long legacy of service to the world. We can’t wait to see your contribution to our community!
To receive information directly from the Admissions Department, click here.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution will change the way people work and live. What innovations has your school promoted to prepare for these changes?
We recognize that technological innovation is the underlying foundation of the international system. Everything is rooted in how changes in technology impact the way people engage with each other, either the way they do harm to each other or the way they cooperate and create opportunities. If the forms of engagement change, as they have with changing technology, that will have ripple effects on all the other elements based on that foundation. Changing technology has also impacted the ways that great powers, nonstate actors, and small powers engage with each other and the international community.
We are making a major investment to try to understand the implications of new technology. In January 2019, we launched the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET), a research organization focused on studying the security impacts of emerging technologies, supporting academic work in security and technology studies, and delivering nonpartisan analysis to the policy community. As one of the biggest centers on how emerging technologies reshape the security landscape, CSET will initially focus on the effects of progress in artificial intelligence and advanced computing.
We have hired new faculty who are working on cybersecurity, and students in our Security Studies graduate program can choose to concentrate on technology and security. Georgetown has always been an innovator in science, technology, and international affairs at the undergraduate level, and we’re working on expanding it to the graduate level. We recently launched a partnership between the World Bank and our Master’s in Foreign Service program, Global Human Development program, and Science, Technology and International Affairs program, focused on how digital technology is transforming agriculture around the world. Students will be asked to delve into multiple facets of technology and agriculture, including digital financial services and precision crop monitoring with the aim of examining how these will transform markets and individual livelihoods worldwide.
Cities and other subnational areas are becoming more influential on international issues. How do you prepare graduates to lead on the local, national, and global levels?
Increasingly, there are more entities outside of the U.S. federal government who are playing roles in international affairs. Our students need to be prepared for that. They need to understand how Washington, DC, works, but they also need to be able to make innovations outside of the Beltway. With the federal government pulling back on issues such as climate change and the recent changing trade policies, states are building up their own apparatuses to handle international affairs. Our alumni are taking the lead on that; for example, Bud Colligan, class of 1976, recently became senior advisor for international affairs and trade to California Governor Gavin Newsom. Although we’ve always been a Washington school, that doesn’t mean we only train students for the Washington power structure.
How do the graduate programs within Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS) address the changing nature of conflict in the world in 2018?
SFS, the first school in the United States dedicated to international affairs, was founded nearly one hundred years ago in the aftermath of World War I. In the words of our founder: “Unprepared as we were for war, we are resolved never to be unprepared for the peace.” This is our mission and it remains as relevant today. At the mission’s core is a commitment to peace through understanding. We believe that understanding global issues is fundamentally multidisciplinary. To that end, we offer eight degree programs: the broadly oriented Master of Science in Foreign Service (MSFS) Program, the Security Studies Program, the Global Human Development Program and five regional studies programs (Latin America, Asia, German and European Studies, Russia and Eurasian Studies, and Arab Studies). Each degree is built around an exploration of the history, politics, economics, and culture of global regions and problems. We are incorporating solutions to problems driven by technology. We frame these programs around a set of values promoting engaged service to the world, which we believe is essential to sustaining peace.
What other unique advantages does SFS have in making its graduate students more prepared to address conflict?
SFS has a faculty with an unparalleled understanding of the roots of conflict, but also many with experience in preventing and resolving conflicts. Madeleine Albright leads our students through crisis simulations. Bruce Hoffman and Dan Byman unpack the complexities of global terrorism. The last four directors for Asia on the National Security Council teach in our Asian Studies program. Our Global Human Development Program is led by USAID’s former chief economist. Our core faculty, supplemented by some of the most prominent practitioners in Washington, DC, work on solutions to global crises every day. Our students are engaged in analysis and practice in a way that virtually no other school can provide.
“Service” is not only part of our name, it is the core of our identity. It drives our faculty. It unites our students. And we are located in a city that is at the center of global service with multilateral organizations, think tanks, multi-national corporations, nongovernmental organizations, and, of course, U.S. government institutions. This enables our students to build service into their degrees through internships, sponsored fieldwork, and summer opportunities.
What specific skills are SFS students working on that would have been less common a generation ago in preparing to address conflict?
At the moment, what is most critical for our students is a skill that we must revive from a generation ago—the skill of diplomacy. Of course, we now have a greater emphasis on the technological drivers of change. We build solutions to global problems at the intersections of traditional disciplines, combining economics and security to understand fragile states, culture and politics to unpack global populism, or domestic and international risks to understand international migration. Yet, as critical as these new approaches are, we have never been more in need of a revival of the art of diplomacy to prevent and resolve conflict.
Both within the United States and abroad, groups espousing nationalism and isolationism are on the rise, casting doubt on global trade and international institutions. How has this affected the Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS)?
Our mission—preparing the global leaders of tomorrow—has never been more important than today, with the global order being questioned in so many ways. This is a critical and exciting time to be engaging students in interdisciplinary discussion at the highest levels, and we find that SFS students are intellectually engaged and politically committed. Concerns that applications to a school of international affairs might dip in this environment have, to date, proven unfounded: SFS applications are at an all-time high.
How is SFS adapting as the world and the job market change so quickly?
The strengths of our graduate programs in international affairs have always been on the cutting edge. We are top-ranked for many reasons, but surely one is that our Washington, DC, location provides faculty who are top practitioners as well as important thinkers. Our location also offers unparalleled access to internships and practical experiences—exactly the kind of interdisciplinary problem-solving that marks the best education today. Students may spend the morning studying global trade with a government economist who worked on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and then head to the Federal Reserve in the afternoon to research capital flows. Classes from Monday to Wednesday might give way to an internship at Freedom House on Thursday and Friday.
What are the advantages of SFS having nine different master’s degrees in international affairs?
The SFS graduate programs offer an ideal balance of focus and context. Our three largest programs cover broad and vital themes: international affairs and diplomacy, security studies, and international development. Then, we have five additional programs that offer multi-disciplinary focus on regional studies: Asian studies; Arab studies; Eurasian, Russian, and East European studies; German and European studies; and Latin American studies. We have also just introduced a new master’s in business diplomacy aimed at executives. This range of choices gives students a small cohort experience within a larger graduate community.
How does the atmosphere at Georgetown bring students the diverse perspectives that are increasingly important?
At their core, the SFS graduate programs are highly global. We have students from many countries and cultures, each of whom contributes in critical ways to inquiry and discussion. Our faculty of more than one hundred and twenty professors comes from and understands a huge variety of cultures, languages, and philosophies. And, because Georgetown is located in our most international and global city, our campus continuously hosts important international leaders. Just last year, we heard from foreign ministers from France, Argentina, Sweden, Panama, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates and the former president of Kiribati—not to mention former Secretary of State John Kerry and the former chief executive officer of GE, Jeff Immelt. In most cases, these visitors not only spoke to the university but also took the time to engage with SFS students in small groups. There simply is not a more powerful university forum in the world for the leaders and thinkers who matter most in international affairs.
How does SFS prepare graduate students for changes around the world?
The SFS Centennial is quickly approaching in 2019, and we have been thinking deeply about how to update our approach for the 100 years ahead. Some things remain the same, even as international concerns have shifted from maritime trade to issues like global warming and terrorism. As ever, SFS offers an intensive graduate education, delivered by faculty who are both top scholars and, due to Georgetown’s ideal location in Washington, D.C., engaged practitioners with personal experience facing complex problems. At SFS, students get to deepen their understanding of key global issues from a multi-disciplinary perspective and to put into practice what they are learning through internships and direct engagement with decision-makers and practitioners.
How is the 100 year history of SFS relevant to today’s graduate students?
Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service was established in 1919, immediately after the First World War, because of the need to adjust to a changing world. It was the first school of international affairs in the United States, predating the creation of the U.S. State Department Foreign Service. The School drew its name, rather, from the broader idea behind its founding: building peace through a better understanding of the world and a desire to serve the rapidly changing global landscape. This early vision prepared students for challenges in both the private sector and the public sector. A passion for service, then and now, is central to the identity and mission of our school.
What are the unique strengths of the SFS graduate program?
SFS offers eight different master’s programs, from our thematic programs in international affairs and diplomacy, global human development, and security studies to five regionally focused programs. This means that at SFS, students get the best of both worlds: smaller, intensive cohorts of like-minded students and faculty working on particular topics housed within a larger graduate school with the convening power to bring in the most influential figures in international affairs. We are constantly evolving. We have added new initiatives to strengthen our engagement with China and India. We have launched a new Executive Master’s Program together with the McDonough School of Business to look at the interactions between international politics and global business. We are expanding the graduate offerings of our innovative Science, Technology and International Affairs program.
How will the Centennial benefit the graduate program at SFS?
The Centennial is, of course, an opportunity to rethink what and how we teach, but also to ask the SFS community to reinvest in what has made us the top-ranked graduate program in international affairs. We will be reaching out to our network of alumni—who are leaders in government, diplomacy, private industry, humanitarian relief, and multilateral organizations across the world—to ask them to provide even more opportunities for our students and graduates. In the years approaching the Centennial, we will engage an extraordinary range of leaders to come to SFS to work with students and celebrate this remarkable milestone.
How do your graduate degrees prepare students for their first job out of graduate school?
The eight graduate degrees offered by the Walsh School of Foreign Service prepare students for careers in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors of international affairs. They do so by combining curricular, cocurricular, and extracurricular activities that provide students with an interdisciplinary approach to global issues. This approach instills in the students a nuanced understanding of the realities of the history, politics, economics, and culture of the international system. We also equip our students with the fundamental skills of analytical thinking, critical writing, and effective speaking so that they can hit the ground running as they begin the next phases of their career.
What competencies will your institution’s program build in the classroom? Outside the classroom?
Small classes are a hallmark of the Walsh School. The classroom serves as an incubator for intensive interactive sessions with students and faculty. Because the faculty are experienced in the practice of international politics, students are able to gain firsthand knowledge of how things work—or don’t work—in the messy world of global affairs. Representing a diversity of countries and backgrounds, students can make the classroom experience a training ground for cross-cultural communication and politics. Outside the classroom, the School offers numerous workshops, clinics, and other enrichment activities— from ethics retreats to accounting boot camps to leadership staff rides to the Gettysburg Battlefield.
What is your educational philosophy? What do you hope to instill in students for the long term?
The goal of the Walsh School is to prepare women and men to be creative leaders. In keeping with the vision of the School’s founder, Father Edmund A. Walsh, S.J., the School seeks to instill in its students a commitment to service in the international community and an appreciation for the ethical dimension of international affairs. We want our students to both understand and reimagine the international system.
How does the Walsh School help to prepare students as they embark on their careers?
Career preparation is fundamental to all the graduate programs in the Walsh School. With a professionally staffed Graduate Career Center within SFS providing individual support, students are empowered to explore a wide variety of career opportunities. In addition, each degree program works with students to help them secure internships in all sectors of international affairs. Thanks to an extensive alumni network across the globe, Walsh students can connect with graduates for both career advice and employment opportunities.
Do you have a successful alumnus who has carved their own name in international relations or public policy?
Alumni of the Walsh School have served the international community in so many ways. To name a few: Kenneth Okoth is a Member of the Parliament of Kenya; Kelly Coffey is CEO of US Private Bank at JP Morgan; Maria Eitel is President of the Nike Foundation; General John R. Allen was Commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan; and Denis McDonough is White House Chief of Staff.
What initially drew you to study Eastern Europe?
I grew up on an Arkansas cattle farm and was drawn to a place seemingly so different from the world I knew. My first trip abroad, in 1987, was to the Soviet Union, and I was immediately taken with the changes under way there. From that point, I became part of the first generation of American scholars shaped not by the cold war but by the transition away from Soviet-style communism: the miracle of 1989, the turbulent post-Soviet years, the wars in Yugoslavia and the Caucasus.
How important are regional studies in today’s international affairs landscape?
Policymakers consistently say that what they value most are people who know about real places: the languages, the history and culture, the key political players. To me, there is no contradiction between doing all of that well and being concerned with generalization, which is the lifeblood of social science. What regional studies offers is not some mystical connection but rather a commitment to doing work that is up close, values a specific context, and is fine-grained enough to be able to say something that engages the world beyond the academy—whether inhabited by novelists, human rights lawyers, business people, or policymakers.
What drives your research? How do you choose what you want to study next?
The naturalist Stephen Jay Gould said it best: you have to sneak up on your generalizations rather than charge them head-on. I have always been a researcher who likes to find the world in a water drop—to take a particular topic and draw out its bigger relevance. Students are great sounding boards. If you really engage them, it’s likely that you’re onto a topic worth exploring in more detail.
What is the benefit of doing a graduate program in Washington, DC?
The world’s greatest library, some of its finest museums and archives, direct access to diplomats from just about every country, and of course the seat of the U.S. government—it’s hard to think of a better place to study. Washington is also a great city in its own right, offering a vibrant intellectual, cultural, and culinary scene that is hidden to most people outside the Beltway. And so many of its persistent challenges—wealth disparities, immigrant integration, ethnic politics—are relevant everywhere.
What makes teaching at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service special?
SFS alumni can often say they were classmates with a future U.S. president or a future king of Spain, or studied with a best-selling author or a former secretary of state. Any given class might include someone who started a micro-lending program, a diplomat on sabbatical, a demobilized soldier, and likely a future senior U.S. government official. That we have multiple graduate programs and a full undergraduate program—with a rigorous core curriculum, a focus on language learning, and interdisciplinary majors—makes us a rarity. Students leave SFS with a knowledge base and a worldview that stress adaptability and ethical behavior. The Georgetown ideal of “reflective engagement” means that graduates have superior academic preparation plus a built-in commitment to putting ideas into action.