- Annual enrollment:
- 730 (school-wide)
- 70-80 (MA in International Relations)
- Work Experience:
- 2-3 years preferred (MPA and IR)
- % International:
- 25% (MPA and IR)
- Employment Sectors:
- Government, NGO/nonprofit, international, related private sector
- Degrees Offered:
- MA in International Relations (MAIR), Master of Public Administration (MPA), Joint MPA/MAIR, Joint MAIR/Economics, Joint MAIR/MS Public Relations, Joint JD/MAIR, Executive MIR (EMIR), EMIR in DC
- Info here
The Maxwell School’s graduate professional degrees in international affairs develop leaders who are committed to the public good to be successful across sectors and disciplines. As a top-ranked policy school and a college of social science, Maxwell provides students with crucial, transferrable leadership skills and expansive opportunities for interdisciplinary exploration across nine school-based research centers, including the Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs.
Maxwell has consistently ranked #1 or #2 in the US News and World Report ranking of Best Grad Schools in Public Affairs, and this year also ranks top 10 across 10 specialty rankings including #1 in Public Management and Leadership and #5 in International/Global Policy.
Maxwell’s professional degrees are efficiently structured, yet remarkably complete. The MA in International Relations (MAIR)—typically earned in 16 months—integrates core management and policy analysis with instruction in international affairs and regional concentrations that are aligned across five career tracks.
Students gain hands on experience through well-structured global internships offered in dozens of locations around the globe, a critical component of the 16-month program. In addition, a Maxwell-in-Washington program is co-located at the Center for Strategic & International Studies—the school’s headquarters for all Washington-based study.
As a result, MAIR graduates land great jobs, return to their careers quickly, and are exceptionally well-prepared with both knowledge and skills to be successful in their fields across a variety of sectors and policy areas.
To receive information directly from the Admissions Department, click here.
Preparing for today’s shifting global landscape requires conceptual knowledge, leadership skills, and exposure to real-world challenges. Maxwell’s Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR) draws on leading social science departments, a top-ranked public administration program, interdisciplinary research centers, and faculty comprised of scholars and practitioners.
How is Maxwell’s professional program in IR distinctive?
Maxwell is both a public policy school and a college of social sciences and includes a broader range of disciplinary offerings than other professional schools, with built-in opportunities for interdisciplinary exploration.
The Mapping Global lnsecurity Project, which I direct, is one example. Students and faculty have analyzed and mapped over 150 regions outside the government’s reach yet effectively governed by nonstate actors. We draw on economic geography, global supply chains, and social science literature on sovereignty to understand transnational criminal behavior. Students have written and updated eighty in-depth case studies, developing expertise that led to job offers at Interpol, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and NATO. The collected information comprises a novel data set that allows us to understand how transnational criminal groups map the world, leading to a fundamental rethinking of globalization and sovereignty.
Maxwell is uniquely positioned to take on this work. As an economist, I’m working alongside public policy and international affairs scholars while drawing on the expertise of political scientists, geographers, historians, anthropologists, sociologists, and linguists, many of whom are regional experts. This and other interdisciplinary research is conducted within Maxwell’s Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs, which is home to our regional centers. In addition, Maxwell sponsors or cosponsors eight other interdisciplinary centers, focused on topics such as environmental policy, public health, international security, and conflict resolution.
How does this scholarship advance toward applicability and, ultimately, careers?
First, many Maxwell professors are practitioners, with careers in international institutions. For example, I’ve worked on a bond-trading floor in London, heading research on emerging market sovereign risk for two investment banks as well as an IMF economist. Our faculty boasts a former NASA administrator, a secretary of the U.S. Navy, a director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and a deputy secretary of state. We always have one foot planted in the real world.
Second, a central part of our MAIR degree is a global internship experience; students have interned in Ghana, Israel, Geneva, Singapore, and Brussels. Program directors in these regions facilitate internships at UN agencies, nongovernmental organizations, government entities, and international business and trade organizations. MAIR students also engage in practitioner-focused coursework and internships through our Maxwell-in-Washington program with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC. Students pursuing public diplomacy careers with our dual degrees in IR and public relations, offered with Syracuse’s prestigious Newhouse School, complete both a global internship and a semester in our Washington, DC, program.
Third, we emphasize leadership skills. MAIR students draw on management training provided by Maxwell’s MPA faculty, ranked number one in public management and leadership and number five in international global policy and administration by U.S. News.
Add the resources of Maxwell’s famously loyal alumni network, and you have it all: world-class interdisciplinary scholarship, professional leadership training, and networks around the world.
The power of Alejandro Pérez’s international relations degree is its breadth. Maxwell’s Master of Arts (MA) program uniquely combines international scholarship with transferable leadership and management skills drawn from the number-one ranked public affairs program in the country. Backed by a required internship in Washington, DC, or abroad, the degree provides excellent preparation and access for public service professionals to find and succeed at their vocation.
As a political science undergraduate who grew up on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, Perez first prepared for a career in the U.S. Foreign Service; however, he later discovered a passion for policymaking. In all cases, Maxwell served him.
You have spent eighteen years on Capitol Hill and in the White House. How did your time at Maxwell impact your career path?
Maxwell’s MA program, with its built-in flexibility and diverse intellectual community, gave me the tools to develop my own path and exposed me to people who were also trying to find their own paths. Through its Washington program, it gave me the opportunity to participate in internships at the Department of State and on Capitol Hill. During those internships, I discovered that I enjoyed international work, but I also decided that rather than serving in diplomacy, I would prefer to help shape foreign policy.
As Deputy Assistant and Special Assistant to President Obama for eight years, you offered strategic guidance on a wide range of major issues, some of them international in focus and some of them not. How did Maxwell prepare you?
On Capitol Hill, you have an opportunity to make major contributions in the policy arena, but you need to absorb, understand, and distill a wide range of complex subjects quickly, and you need to put your thoughts on paper concisely. From international trade, the environment, and national security to taxes, health care, and education, Maxwell’s interdisciplinary approach to public policy issues offers a unique space for developing and enhancing this type of analytical thinking. In addition, the range of disciplines and viewpoints at Maxwell challenged my thinking and prepared me for the diversity of backgrounds and partisan viewpoints on Capitol Hill and for building coalitions across various groups.
How does your current work for the Attorney General of California build on your prior experiences?
My job now is to monitor federal legislation in Washington through the California lens to keep the California Congressional delegation up to speed on the Attorney General’s actions and to partner with them to defend and advance California’s interests. Some of these have an international dimension—immigration and clean energy and the environment are key issues in California, for example. Much of my work pertains to domestic policy, like health care. Both are served by my Maxwell degree.
Wherever I end up serving, I believe there is a positive role for government to play, and my main goal is to be part of a government that helps people. Maxwell shares that belief and prepared me well.
David M. Van Slyke became dean of the Maxwell School on July 1, following 12 years on the faculty. A recognized expert on public-private partnerships and government contracting, Van Slyke has worked with senior leadership in China, India, Peru, Singapore, and Thailand, and has advised the World Bank, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, and the Government Accountability Office.
How does the Maxwell School approach the needs of today’s IR student?
The attributes IR professionals need most are adaptability and breadth. The world is changing and careers change with it.
Maxwell’s answer is an interdisciplinary MAIR that is grounded in the social sciences, is attuned to substantive and regional interests, and integrates transferrable management and finance skills born of our #1-ranked MPA. It’s a powerful hybrid for training the next generation of international leaders.
Plus, the world-class scholars in Maxwell’s social science departments provide the IR program’s theoretical and conceptual content. Add to that Syracuse University’s broad programming, 32 research institutes, seven regional centers, and a neighboring SUNY campus focused on environmental policy. Opportunities are nearly boundless.
How does this diversity impact students?
Much of the core curriculum—statistics, economics, management, and evaluation—is applicable across sectors, policy areas, and organizational type and tailored to the international context. Many Maxwell professors are former practitioners, bringing strong global experience and leadership that shapes their engagement with students. In addition to the mix of social science, management, and policy analysis concepts, we require a global internship, providing real-world application of how theory and practice are complementary and reinforcing.
Imagine a student interested in humanitarian aid and conflict resolution, whose professors not only hold appointments in economics, political science, and geography, but are also former heads of international aid organizations—such as the World Food Program. Imagine that student attending classes in Syracuse and at the UN; learning firsthand from visiting leaders of international NGOs; immersing herself in language, politics, and culture through a university regional center; and experiencing a global internship specifically designed around her career interests. We have students on that path every year, and students building similarly rich programs in international development, security studies, foreign service, sustainability, and many other fields.
And you can still finish our MAIR in 16 months and start your new career. It’s a remarkably complete degree on a condensed schedule—really, all the degree most IR professionals will ever need.
What is your proof that this approach to an IR education pays off?
The easy answer is that our alumni get great jobs in diverse sectors. More than 90 percent have field-relevant jobs within months of graduating.
But the real proof is something distinctively Maxwell. When you talk to Maxwell alumni, you find they share a commitment to making a difference in the world. Grounded in the social sciences and management and policy skills, they have a heartfelt connection to how their work and careers matter. They appreciate the difference they can make in the world, and rise to it.
During your 30-plus years in foreign policy and international affairs, what has been the biggest change?
There have been many, of course, but one key change is the growing importance of transnational problems and, with them, nontraditional actors.
In the past, students and practitioners could concentrate primarily on the interests and strategies of governments. But today international events are driven increasingly by nongovernmental entities—from NGOs and the private sector to dangerous nonstate actors such as terrorist groups and criminal organizations. They have emerged as technology and globalization have revolutionized international affairs. Just witness the growing concerns about cybersecurity, nuclear proliferation, and climate change.
Of course, governments still matter. We still face traditional state-to-state problems, as we’ve seen in eastern Europe and in East Asia, and governments remain central to the solution of even nontraditional threats.
How do you prepare future professionals for such a complicated and evolving environment?
Students need to be prepared not only for the challenges of today, but to handle future problems, the outlines of which we can only begin to imagine now. A generation or two ago, it would have been difficult, for example, to anticipate how central cyber and environmental issues have become. Perhaps in 20 years, the revolution in biology and life sciences may present similar challenges. The leaders of the future need a flexible set of skills and knowledge, which will allow them to creatively cope with new international actors, emerging technologies, and a more knowledgeable and active global public.
Maxwell’s International Relations program offers a unique combination of professional training and cutting-edge social science research; the result is a rich blend of analytic and operational skills. For example, Maxwell is home to an interdisciplinary research program involving scholars, practitioners, and students who focus on the international role of NGOs; it includes an annual global conference of NGO leaders. Similarly, our innovative work on cyber-security brings together scholars and practitioners from engineering and computer science, political science, law, and economics, along with senior former policymakers.
We teach students to draw on social science research and to then apply it to a real-world context. That is our bridging function and it is unique. While providing conceptual understanding, we develop leadership and management skills that will allow our young professionals to translate insights into practical solutions.
For students, then, there is—in addition to knowledge and skills—an emphasis on adaptability.
Yes. There are career-track implications for them. People embarking on an international career will see their jobs change. Their employers will change. They will likely find themselves in leadership positions in different kinds of organizations. And the issues themselves will change.
By bringing together the world’s leading MPA program with a strong interdisciplinary IR program, we complement conceptual understanding with crucial, transferrable leadership skills. We prepare students to move fluidly between government and NGOs, for example. Between global and local. Between policy, administration, and implementation. For each student, this will be a key to a long and rewarding career.
What does Maxwell do to prepare IR students for expanding opportunities in international affairs?
The greatest opportunities and challenges in IR today are in economic development. We want to educate professionals who can help build systems that communities truly want and need, and that are sustainable once the donor or outside interest leaves.
While we excel at teaching technical and management skills at Maxwell, we also make certain our graduates understand the importance of communication and sensitivity to local conditions. They have people skills geared to cross-cultural settings. And they know how to listen.
They also understand strategic development—how to create a mission, work toward that mission, and motivate everybody around it. They understand the importance of social entrepreneurship—creating a business model around a social good and bringing for-profit business values to a social service.
These characteristics are crucial in international development, but they really serve all our IR students.
How does the Maxwell School create those attributes in its graduates?
Maxwell offers skills-oriented professional degrees alongside social science degrees such as economics, political science, sociology, and anthropology. Our IR degree is ambitiously interdisciplinary, with social sciences at its core but supplemented by strong skills instruction. That’s a powerful combination.
Great research is being done by professors on both sides of the house—not only in the social sciences, but within the management and policy programs, in fields like microfinance, national security, nonprofit management, and public finance. Robert Christen, for example, also directs an international institute in microfinance. I think it’s a Maxwell hallmark to have so much applied research going on.
What role does experiential learning play in Maxwell’s IR program?
It’s crucial. Our program includes a required, semester-long internship—either in an international setting or in a domestic setting with an international emphasis. We offer academic and practicum opportunities in close to 20 countries. I taught a course in Geneva last summer on international organizations, combining classroom and internship experience.
Sometimes people are surprised that a program based in Syracuse, NY, is so globally connected. We take the experience component very seriously. It gets students out of the books and into the world, where they take what they have learned in a philosophical, historical, and pragmatic perspective and connect it to real experience. There’s no replacement for that. You can watch videos, read books, or hear from speakers and professors. But for the two students, for instance, who went to work in Amman, Jordan, for the World Food Programme, supporting Syrian refugees, this was a totally different world—to be going everyday to the camps, seeing firsthand what the issues are, what people are suffering through, how the organization tries to get food to them, and the pulls and tugs from the Syrian and Jordanian communities, the refugees, and donors. You can’t teach that in class.
Students need to have hands-on experience, as part of an umbrella of understanding about what international relations is, how economic issues have an impact, how international organizations influence, and then how they, the new IR graduates, can contribute. We are training practitioners. Our mission is to send people into the world to make a difference.