- Annual Master's Degree Enrollment:
Approximately 300 students, with 110 new students entering annually
- Average Class Size:
- # of Full time faculty:
- Work experience (in yrs):
- % International:
- Employment sectors:
- Government (Foreign Service, Civil Service, UN Diplomatic Missions, Ministries of Foreign Affairs), United Nations, NGO and Civil Society Organizations, Think Tanks, Private Sector and Consultancies (political risk analysis, energy finance, clean tech)
- Degrees offered:
- Master of Science in Global Affairs with eight possible areas of concentration: Environment/Energy Policy, Global Gender Studies, Human Rights and International Law, International Development and Humanitarian Assistance, International Relations/Global Futures, Peacebuilding, Global Economy, Transnational Security
The MS in Global Affairs is the flagship graduate program of the NYU School of Professional Studies Center for Global Affairs (CGA), repeatedly ranked by the Foreign Policy Association as one of the nation’s leading institutions, preparing students for international careers. The master’s program provides students with the in-depth knowledge and the contextual perspectives for becoming successful, well-rounded professionals in the global arena.
Faculty members are skilled practitioners and scholars, including diplomats, activists, economists, former officers of the United Nations, international attorneys, leaders of organizations engaged in refugee relief and the protection of human rights, and global energy experts from whom students will acquire both nuanced analytical understanding and the methodologies to develop and to implement strategic solutions that address critical global problems.
The curriculum provides rigorous analytic training in qualitative and quantitative research and professional methodologies, including monitoring and evaluation, project development applied peace-building strategies, and strategic foresight and scenario development. This training aims to prepare students to identify and implement solutions for the most pressing global challenges.
The MS in Global Affairs is a 42-credit program, which includes three components: a core curriculum of four courses, a choice of eight concentrations, and either a graduate thesis or a capstone project. The core curriculum focuses on the fundamentals of global affairs. Global Field Intensives allow students to focus on topics of interest in advance of travel to locations including Tanzania, India, Rwanda, Bolivia, China, and the United Arab Emirates, among others, where briefings with practitioners in the field connect them to applied research.
To receive information directly from the NYUSPS Admissions Department, click here.
You came to the NYUSPS Center for Global Affairs (CGA) from a practitioner’s background, having worked globally with the United Nations, the military, and the private sector. What struck you most about the program at CGA?
What stood out to me was CGA’s truly interdisciplinary approach to global affairs. The world is a complex place, and CGA’s Master of Science in Global Affairs (MSGA) ensures that students have the most effective tools to make sense of it. Students can choose from eight concentrations, taught by experienced scholar-practitioners—International Relations Global Futures, Global Economy, Human Rights and International Law, Peacebuilding, International Development and Humanitarian Assistance, Environment/Energy Policy, Global Gender Studies, and Transnational Security. Offering an array of courses—both core and elective—means that MSGA graduates are extremely capable of looking at global conflict through a number of lenses.
In addition, the MSGA program is unique in its real-world focus. The topics discussed reflect the dynamic nature of today’s global conflicts. The courses offered are constantly being tweaked so that they remain grounded in the essential foundational concepts while addressing what’s happening in the world around us. Also, CGA affords students a truly immersive educational experience that goes well beyond the classroom walls. This includes a dizzying selection of guest speakers and public events; opportunities for internships and consultancies with organizations in the private, public, voluntary, and international sectors; and noncredit courses aimed at enriching a student’s professional development. Then, there are the many CGA global field intensives, which take place each year. These afford students the opportunity to learn about, and travel to, countries around the world. Global field intensives focus on current issues and challenges, and are led by faculty members and facilitated by academics, and government and business officials. This year, students explored India, Taiwan, Bolivia, the United Arab Emirates, and Tanzania—truly remarkable learning opportunities that allowed them to better understand the sources of, and potential solutions to, a world in conflict.
I should mention that CGA is located in the heart of a global city—New York City. It is just next to Wall Street and the Financial District and is minutes away from the United Nations, the Council for Foreign Relations, the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, and the International Peace Institute.
How does the MSGA degree prepare students for life in a world of conflict?
The program’s real-world focus empowers students to look at all possibilities and to see connections, allowing them to break down artificial silos. This prepares them to be successful in jobs that combine a security approach to threats and risks, with a private sector eye for value creation. Moreover, CGA students benefit from a robust and rigorous approach to analytical skills acquisition and application. This enables them to make immediate contributions to evidence-based policy analysis and development wherever they go.
Finally, CGA has cultivated a powerful professional network that its graduates can tap into. Among its board members, adjunct faculty members, and alumni are well-placed, influential women and men who are concerned about the potential for conflict and who go out of their way to provide leadership and stewardship for the next generation.
You’ve been asked to comment on how to “stay ahead in uncertain times”. Why is this such a critical question?
The goal of any graduate program in global affairs must be to educate students on how to be effective in shaping the future in whatever occupation they choose, when that future is surrounded by uncertainty. Political realism teaches us to expect surprise: relations among states are anarchic, power competition is never ending, periods of stability are transitory. Globalization and rapid technology innovation accelerate change and further widen the range of uncertainty. The current power transition, from U.S centric to non-centric, and the absence of effective management of this transition, make the present period in IR uniquely unstable and dangerous.
Making smart strategic decisions in conditions of uncertainty is a critical source of future competitive advantage, and is a focus of the MS in Global Affairs offered by the NYU School of Professional Studies Center for Global Affairs (CGA). Managing uncertainty is hard. Some organizations wait for ‘clarity’ before making big decisions, but clarity never arrives while opportunities to shape the future are forfeited. Some double down on existing strategic assumptions, but rapid change degrades these assumptions and existing strategy loses its robustness. Some conclude that all is uncertain, failing to leverage what we do know about the world, and thus make poor choices that invite unintended consequences.
So what are the attributes of organizations that succeed in an uncertain world?
They take the future seriously. They try to understand and track forces for change in their environment. They make sure the assumptions upon which strategy are based leverage the best knowledge available, and are subjected to reality checks as the world evolves in unexpected ways. Their strategies are tested against alternate, plausible futures, which minimizes surprise and helps prepare for change, both positive and negative. They are conscious of risk, but not immobilized by it, understanding that any strategy comes with downsides, and that these can be mitigated by making risk explicit and planning actions if risks materialize. Successful organizations find the right balance between knowledge and imagination. They know how to think about uncertainty, how to organize themselves to reduce surprise and manage risk. Because they see the world more clearly than others they turn uncertainty to strategic advantage.
So how exactly does CGA prepare students to excel in this world of surprise and uncertainty?
Thinking about the future permeates the MS in Global Affairs. I oversee a concentration (one of eight) called International Relations/Global Futures, which is devoted to teaching the substance and process of future international developments. My book Pivotal Countries, Alternate Futures, recently published by Oxford, synthesizes many years of teaching and consulting on the future. I also supervise an ongoing research project for the UN, involving five students per semester, on countering emerging terrorist threats. Many other professors who teach in the program also are focused on the future. Regina Joseph teaches strategic foresight and the uses of big data, conducts forecasting tournaments and policy hackathons; Mary Beth Altier leads our Transnational Security concentration, which focuses on emerging global threats; and Jennifer Trahan who heads our International Law and Human Rights concentration, ran a global conference at CGA this past semester on the future of global justice. These are just a few examples of how coping with uncertainty and surprise is woven into CGA’s curriculum and public events.
You lead the MS in Global Affairs concentration in Transnational Security. What does this concentration cover, and to what careers does it lead?
The concentration in Transnational Security runs the gamut from conventional interstate threats to sub-state threats including civil war, terrorism, insurgency, and organized crime, in addition to environmental threats including climate change; infectious disease; and food, water, and energy security. Students grapple with the implications of the Iranian nuclear agreement, Russia’s actions in Ukraine, the rise of ISIS, the refugee crisis, a proliferation of failed states, intelligence reform, drug and human trafficking, homegrown radicalization, and post-conflict reconstruction. We discuss how technology and globalization alter the conduct of war and challenge norms from cyber to nonlinear warfare, to unmanned weapons, and terrorists’ use of social media, encryption, and the Dark Web.
Employers find our students possess not only the academic knowledge and analytic skills necessary to excel, but also the practical experience and connections in their field. Graduates work as intelligence analysts or officers in the military or at US government agencies (or in similar organizations in their home countries). Our alumni are employed as intelligence or political risk analysts in the private sector at organizations such as Kroll, RANE, Morgan Stanley, and AIG. Others are on the front lines of counterterrorism, monitoring and analyzing terrorist behavior on the Internet and Dark Web for companies such as Dataminir and Flashpoint. Many put their skills to use as research analysts for think tanks, NGOs, or the UN.
Many students in the MS in Global Affairs have served in the military or will return to service after graduation. How is their perspective integrated into the Transnational Security concentration?
At the NYUSPS Center for Global Affairs, I have encountered students from all branches of the military. These students have helped direct counterterrorism drone strikes in the Horn of Africa, have served on the front lines in Iraq, and have taken part in counter-insurgency operations and reconstruction in Afghanistan. The military’s perspective permeates much of the Transnational Security concentration and the presence of current or former members of the military in the classroom provides operational and strategic insight in our classroom discussions. At the same time, I find service members are enthusiastic about the opportunity to step back and critically examine larger international security and foreign policy issues apart from day-to-day operational security issues or other tasks.
One example is our course, Security Sector Governance and the Rule of Law. It examines best practices for rebuilding the military and police in post-conflict and post-democratization contexts as well as continued oversight and reform of these organizations in developed democracies. We discuss the structure of the military and the police, the role of private military companies, security sector reform and transitional justice initiatives, the reintegration of ex-combatants, countering violent extremism, and community relations (or “winning hearts and minds”). In my experience, those who have a military or law enforcement background are drawn to this course and the larger concentration because it contextualizes their experiences and provides a bridge to additional career opportunities within the military or in civilian sectors.
The Center for Global Affairs has launched a new concentration in IR futures, which you oversee. What led to this decision, and what exactly is a concentration in IR futures?
The pace of change in International Relations (IR) is accelerating, and strategic surprise is now the norm. Nearly every day we wake up to something new and unanticipated. This concentration offers an advanced understanding of the factors shaping IR, placing these factors in a futures context. How are the forces for change in IR shaping the policies and capabilities of states and non-states? What are the emerging issues that the world will face, and how might they be addressed? Courses within this concentration help students improve their ability to anticipate change and give them analytical tools essential for professional success—in government, business and civil society organizations.
This launch reflects our already strong futures emphasis in course work and in research, and the growing demand in government and business for enhanced foresight, improved risk management, agile decision-making and conflict prevention. IR Futures seeks to explain the world as it is (why no great power war in 70 years? what forces explain the advance of globalization? why did terrorism become a major threat?) with a systematic focus on the world as it is becoming (is the era of ‘leading power peace’ about to end? is the future one of multiple great powers, or will U.S. primacy be restored? will globalization survive its inherent insecurities?).
What particular capabilities does CGA bring to this area of study?
A futures orientation suffuses much of the course work and public events at CGA. I’ve been developing and applying futures techniques for many years, in my consulting practice, and in my decade teaching at CGA. Several years ago we were awarded a grant from the Carnegie Corporation to construct alternate scenarios for pivotal countries, a project that employed over thirty students and led to a book, forthcoming from Oxford University Press, on the strategic value and method of alternate futures. The IR Futures concentration incorporates courses and alternate scenario exercises. It includes new courses taught by Regina Joseph, a senior member and ‘super forecaster’ at Philip Tetlock’s Good Judgment project, funded by the Intelligence Advanced Research Project Agency. My colleague at CGA, Mark Galeotti, is launching an Emerging Threats focus within our Transnational Security concentration, reflecting the growing centrality of unconventional threats in IR.
How does this futures orientation fit within CGA as a whole?
Curriculum requirements encourage students to select courses in order to mold an individualized program: an IR Futures student takes the required concentration courses but may add courses on Emerging Threats within Transnational Security, or from our concentrations in Peacebuilding, Private Sector, Environment/Energy Policy, etc. Students build experience through internships, global field intensive research abroad, and by supporting faculty research and public events. And not to be ignored, our New York location provides unique opportunities to engage in the intellectual and professional life of the city.