- Degrees Offered:
- M.A. in International Studies with nine options: International Studies (General); China Studies; Comparative Religion; Japan Studies; Korea Studies; Middle East Studies; Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies; South Asian Studies; Southeast Asian Studies
- M.A. in Applied International Studies (mid-career professional)
- Ph.D. in International Studies
- M.A. in Applied International Studies (mid-career professional)
- Annual Enrollment:
- Incoming Class Demographics:
- 27% International, 73% USA; Middle 50% of Incoming students GPA Range: 3.47-3.8, Average 3.66; 51% Male, 48% Female, 1% Non-binary
- 96% graduates enrolled in a higher degree or employed in the private, non-profit, and public sectors within 6 months after graduating
- National Resource Centers:
- East Asia, Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Canadian Studies, Global Studies
- Full-time Faculty:
- Languages Offered:
- Over 40
Through its commitment to interdisciplinary and comparative teaching of the world’s regions, cultures and languages, the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington equips students to lead in a globalized world.
Located in Seattle, our program offers students unique access to a global hub of business, trade, philanthropy and culture strategically located on the Pacific Rim, with deep historical ties to Asia. To name a few, we are home to major multinational actors, including Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks, and philanthropic organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private foundation in the world. The area also has a strong military presence that includes the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
Our graduates have found careers at these companies and organizations among others — and at the top levels of their respective governments and embassies abroad.
The Jackson School houses 21 centers and programs, of which five are federally funded under the prestigious Title VI federal program, to support and provide funding for the teaching and study of world regions and foreign languages, and generate public engagement in international affairs.
In 1983, the School was named for the late Sen. Henry M. Jackson in recognition of his strong support and lifelong interest in the field of international affairs.
To receive information directly from the Admissions Department, click here.
How do your programs prepare students for a more open dialogue on the global stage?
Crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change have revealed the urgency and complexities of addressing global challenges. Effective responses require a combination of good policies, strong institutions, and public communication and engagement. The Jackson School prepares students to meet practical challenges through a mission of public engagement that combines these varied aspects. This allows for a more open dialogue on the global stage. Public engagement includes a variety of actors, ranging from governmental officials and policymakers to nongovernmental organizations and social movements to the media. Our faculty have expertise that spans themes as wide-ranging as disability rights, space policy, and environmental justice. We combine thematic areas with deep knowledge and professional ties to particular regions. This allows us to train students to learn about and to collaborate with communities and partners across the world.
What role do matters of identity play in international relations and policymaking?
Global dialogue requires an understanding of identity in international relations. One of our unique strengths is a robust program in comparative religion. Our school provides students with a deep understanding of the critical role of religious literacy for policymaking and conflict resolution. We also foreground the study of race, indigeneity, and gender and train students to think about the ways in which diasporic politics and global migration deepen the centrality of identity in global affairs.
What innovations have your program implemented in the last 15 months?
We have implemented a number of initiatives that are designed to further these objectives. We have recently set up a series of courses that seek to train students in public writing and engagement with the support of the Calderwood program. Our inaugural graduate Calderwood seminar, Religion, Freedom, and the Public Sphere, will be taught this coming winter. We have been expanding our cybersecurity program and some master’s degree students in a graduate course from this past year will have the opportunity to produce a NATO publication related to this course. We have also created an inaugural professor of practice position on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, which we will be filling in the coming year. Finally, we launched a speaker series titled, Protest, Race and Citizenship Across African Worlds, that emphasized the significance of global and regional understandings for an understanding of the complexities of racial inequality and justice in the United States.
How can we engage new voices and new perspectives in the fields of international relations?
One of the few positive dimensions that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic was a broadening of the use of technology for collaborative work across the world. This has shown the significance of digital-based international studies. Over the coming years, we will be expanding such pedagogical platforms to bring in new perspectives and finding ways to address voices that are marginalized by a lack of access to such technology.
Why is a multidisciplinary approach important in addressing today’s global challenges?
The world is currently facing critical challenges. The effects of climate change and the current global pandemic highlight our interconnectedness across borders. These challenges intersect with the social tensions arising from inequality and movements for democratic and human rights. Such complexities demand innovative solutions that cut across traditional disciplinary boundaries. The Jackson School provides a unique interdisciplinary academic environment that sparks new ways of thinking about such pressing problems. Our expertise crosses the social sciences, humanities and professional schools. This allows us to develop complex understandings of the current challenges that we face.
What competencies does your program build inside and outside the classroom?
The Jackson School’s commitment to public engagement is a critical source of global leadership. Connections to local and global communities through its 21 outreach centers and programs allow students and the public to immerse themselves in firsthand global experience. Our School engages with broad cross-national issues and illuminates the ways in which such issues require deep understandings of particular places, historical contexts, cultural meanings and regional dynamics. We combine this with practical training that trains students to develop concrete solutions to pressing global problems.
We have a deep commitment to inviting practitioners from nonacademic fields to speak to students and teach special courses. In addition, the Jackson School houses six different federally funded centers and programs under the prestigious Title VI federal program, to support and provide funding for the teaching and study of world regions and foreign languages and generate public engagement in international affairs.
Our alumni are leaders in academia, industry, NGOs, tech, government and think tanks. Companies our alumni work in include Starbucks, Amazon, Boeing, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF, PATH, U.S. State Department, NATO, Cornell University, University of Auckland in New Zealand, China Daily, Accenture, the Defense Intelligence Agency and McKinsey & Company.
What are advantages in studying in the Pacific Northwest region?
Our location in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest regions places our scholarship in the center of global public and private innovation. We offer access to research, engagement and networking connections with global decision-makers in trade, technology, military, philanthropy, business and the public sector. Located on the Pacific Rim, with deep historical ties to Asia, we are distinctively poised to address changes in the global political economy sparked by the growing significance of the Asia-Pacific region.
What makes your school unique in preparing students for international careers?
Area studies, which simply refers to deep academic engagement with particular world regions, is critical to developing global citizens able to create new knowledge and contribute to pressing policy debates. Only by studying a region, by immersing oneself in a culture, language, and society, can one learn to think more sophisticatedly about a particular geographical space and to engage with it in a constructive, empathetic, and useful way. This is why the Jackson School, and in particular its MA programs in area studies and Applied International Studies, is so important to both the scholarly and policy communities.
What aspects of the Jackson community do you value?
The Jackson School has expert faculty in most of the world’s regions, from South Asia to Europe to North America, and also enjoys the privilege of having the most Title VI centers—eight—of any institution in the United States. These Title VI centers provide graduate students with unique resources that enable them to devote themselves to their studies and to research and write papers and theses that they can use as a knowledge base for the remainder of their careers, whether they be in public service, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, or academia. These centers, as well as the Jackson School as a whole, provide students with connections to diverse Seattle communities, including the business community—the Pacific Northwest is home to Starbucks, Amazon, Microsoft, and other major multinational corporations—and government community—for example, I was recently appointed to the City of Seattle’s International Affairs Advisory Board.
How is your institution keeping competitive in the face of new challenges?
We are leading new frontiers—in cybersecurity, technology, arctic research, outer space, and religion—and using innovative teaching of international studies that are important to society now. Simply put, the Jackson School takes its engagement with the world seriously; we value both our ability to train excellent scholars and global citizens dedicated to using their knowledge for public purposes. We are committed to providing students with hands-on training about how to use their knowledge in nonacademic settings. For example, in our MA in Applied International Studies program, students work on applied research projects that are designed to allow them to bring their academic knowledge to bear on decisions made by influencers of global policy. Indeed, many of our students take special efforts to communicate their knowledge to the public, writing op-eds, articles, and essays read by people throughout the world.
As a whole, the Jackson School combines the best in academic and pragmatic training. Students leave our programs with a deep knowledge of both theory and practice and use their knowledge to build lasting careers in the industries and sectors that presently define our world.
What distinguishes your master’s in applied international studies (MAAIS)?
Our mid-career program is designed for professionals looking to broaden their global perspective and more effectively engage with governments, international and nongovernmental organizations, foundations, and companies to tackle critical global challenges. We leverage the deep area expertise of the 107-year old Jackson School of International Studies, as well as the innovation and global engagement of stakeholders in and around Seattle, to curate a curriculum that is both relevant and distinct. Our faculty dive into the political, social, economic, historical and cultural drivers of international policy and decision-making. Courses cover the making of the modern world, views from the global south, international legal foundations, technology trends, energy and the environment, religion and politics, international migration, and much more. Students graduate with a nuanced understanding of how the world works, practical skills applicable to all international affairs sectors, and powerful professional connections.
Why is a multidisciplinary approach to international affairs important?
The international affairs arena is changing, reflecting economic, political, and societal influences at work in the world at large. Diplomats are no longer the sole representatives of their nation abroad. There is an expanding community of stakeholders outside of government now engaged in finding solutions to pressing global issues. To be effective, international affairs leaders need to understand what is happening outside of their industries and organizations at the intersections of government, the military, business and civil society. The MAAIS curriculum gives students a solid understanding of this rapidly changing world and a multidisciplinary perspective on the pressing challenges facing international affairs practitioners today.
Why study in Seattle?
The city of Seattle is a thriving center of business and culture strategically located on the Pacific Rim, with deep historical ties to Asia. The joint ports of Seattle and Tacoma represent the third-largest port system in North America, and Washington State is a top trading partner for countries around the world. Our region is also home to major multinational actors, including Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks, as well as influential philanthropic organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private foundation in the world. The area boasts a robust nonprofit community, including the headquarters of PATH and World Vision, and a strong military presence that includes the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
A distinct MAAIS feature is the Civic Council, made up of corporate, nongovernmental, political and security sector figures from companies and organizations directly influencing global policy and decision-making. Civic Council members bring their expertise and diverse perspectives to the MAAIS program through special lectures, field visits, simulations and client projects. This collaboration offers significant networking opportunities and helps our students stay current and develop valuable skills.
Who should apply?
The MAAIS program is designed to meet the needs of global mid-career professionals. We offer two options: a full time 10-month program and a part time two-year program. Prospective students hold a bachelor’s degree and have a minimum of five years of professional experience.
What is your educational philosophy?
We believe that international affairs education cannot be exclusively theoretical. Neither can it be solely driven by policy and security interests of the United States. Our students learn to look at different regions from the inside out, and learn what, how, and why people in other parts of the world do what they do and why they think what they think. At the same time, we instill in them the ability to think critically about their experiences, history, and the U.S. government. Finally, they develop the necessary skills to express their knowledge, ideas, and proposals in a prose that is clear and meaningful to experts and policymakers and the general public who are actively involved and affected by global trends.
What competencies does your program build inside and outside the classroom?
The Jackson School has a reputation for its emphasis on the study of foreign cultures and history. In recent years, we have begun to build new partnerships with Seattle-based global companies and nonprofits. Our students form teams and work on special projects that are important to these organizations. We also invite practitioners from nonacademic fields to teach special courses. The simultaneous pursuit of in-depth study of the regions of the world and learning the skills relevant to the real world of the public and private sectors make the training that students receive in the Jackson School uniquely relevant.
What is the relevance of the Pacific Northwest to the study of global affairs?
The Asia-Pacific region is becoming more central to the global economy and thus creating a zone of fast-paced change in international relations. Being located in the Pacific Northwest and having one of the longest-running Asian studies programs in the United States give us a distinct advantage and strong capacity to understand the contemporary world. In addition, Seattle, where the main campus of the University of Washington and the Jackson School are located, is home to some of the most important international firms of our times. Companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have transformed the region into an important hub of international activity. The U.S. government is paying close attention to the developments in our region that shape its foreign policy priorities, and the Jackson School is uniquely positioned to bridge the two coasts of the country.
What makes a degree from your school unique?
Our curriculum provides for bringing together representatives from both the public and the private sector to interact with each other and to teach together so that our students graduate with the skills they need in both worlds. We are also in the early stages of developing joint degree programs with some foreign universities where technology will play an important role.
Saadia Pekkanen is a Professor and Associate Director at the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. She is also the Founding Director of the Ph.D. in International Studies.
What are your current research interests?
The economic and security trajectories in Asia and how they shape the international relations of Asia in the future engage me. My particular focus is on space security and policy.
It was 20 years ago that I started delving into space security and cyber security, a time when not many people paid much attention to either. But today we need to seriously worry about things like militarized space or orbital debris, which can shut down civilian, commercial, and military operations worldwide.
How does the Jackson School’s focus on area studies contribute to your research?
The Jackson School is one of the pre-eminent schools that continues to focus on area studies. With our new Ph.D. program, we intend to take these forward under our four innovative thematic fields.
Being at the Jackson School allows me to take on research in a way not possible elsewhere. For example, if we think about space as a global strategic domain, we can compare it with others, such as the Arctic. I can ask, “What is it that will promote responsible and cooperative behavior from Asian governments and other actors in such domains?” The last thing anyone wants is a conflict in outer space.
The Jackson School has one of the only Arctic minors in the country, enabling me to do this kind of comparative research. Our job is to not just look at Arctic studies or outer space in isolation, but to think of them thematically under our broader Peace, Violence, and Security (PVS) field.
How do Jackson School students benefit from its unique offerings?
The students we attract want that area studies focus, but also to be able to place a country in broader thematic concerns: terrorism, space security, ethnic conflict, health, human rights. How does a particular country you are studying fit in with these global concerns? That concrete area focus is what makes the Jackson School exceptional and gives it an edge in connecting to the rest of the academy and the world.
We have a Ph.D. student looking at China’s military diplomacy, for example. Another is looking at ethnic tensions in the Balkans. Still another is studying how social media is changing politics in Japan.
We want students to have the skills that will allow them not just to enter academia, but also to go back into the real world, whether in policy, business, or the nonprofit sector.
How does the Jackson School’s Seattle location benefit your research?
I can be in Japan in about 10 hours! Washington state is a leading exporter to Asia and is cognizant of the fact that Asia is a rising power. That is where the future is, economically, politically, and militarily. Since 1909, the Jackson School has been concentrating on Asia. As an Asia specialist, I feel fortunate to be in a place that has such a long and distinguished history. That is a heritage we want to take forward into the 21st century.