Academic Advising for Master of Arts in International Relations Students Entering in August 2021

Welcome to the professional Master of Arts in International Relations!

We are pleased that you chose to join us here at Maxwell. You will be joining a class of talented individuals with impressive academic accomplishments, language skills, and professional experience. We look forward to meeting you at our mandatory new student orientation, held during the week of August 23.

Our associate director, Josh Kennedy, is available to explain program’s procedures and to offer guidance about how to best embark on your chosen career. However, do also reach out to other staff or faculty who can provide more detailed information on your area of interest. 

The MAIR program features five curricular components, detailed on the website and in our Graduate Handbook for MAIR students, available on our Policies and Procedures page and our student blackboard page

During your time at Maxwell, you will:

  1. Complete five core courses that provide general knowledge and skills needed in the global workplace; 
  2. Focus your studies through one of five career tracks
  3. Take one interdisciplinary “signature course” each of which draws on the Maxwell School's cutting edge applied social science research; 
  4. Prepare for your global professional training through an international relations capstone simulation; 
  5. Engage in in-depth professional development through one of the program's exceptional global opportunities.  

This page is designed to help you decide how to initially navigate your options. For more detail, we are hosting three interactive online advising sessions this summer.  These sessions will be held on June 18, July 2, and July 23, 2021 at 1 pm eastern.

Planning Your Schedule

Below is a multi-step plan for crafting your fall schedule. 

1. Select your Career Track and choose your 'morale course'

Before you embark on your studies, you will need to decide what path to follow in the international field. To help you make this decision, we have organized the IR curriculum around the following five Career Tracks:

  • International Political Economy: Finance, Trade and Migration
  • Development and Humanitarian Assistance
  • Governance, Diplomacy and International Organizations
  • Peace, Security and Conflict
  • Regional Concentration in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America or Middle East

Once you decide on a career track, choose the first of the courses from across the Maxwell School's internationally-focused social science offerings.  This course should be your 'morale course' one that covers a topic of greatest interest and serves as a cornerstone for your development as an international relations specialist. 

2. Enroll in PAI 710 - International Actors and Issues

Taught by University Professor and former Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, Professor Renee de Nevers, Professor Ryan Griffith, or MAIR Director Professor Michael Williams, International Actors and Issues provides background on a variety of international affairs and foreign policy approaches and is required for all incoming MAIR students. 

3. Enroll in your fall core courses

Due to the sequencing of our core courses, MAIR students must take PAI 721 - Introduction to Statistics. This will equip you for success in the spring research design courses. Students with sufficient prior knowledge in economics or statistics may fulfill those quantitative requirements through the passage of a waiver exam.  More information on waiver exams can be found on the student blackboard page.

4. Select a signature course

The signature course provides an interdisciplinary perspective, allowing you to view international relations challenges through a political science, anthropology, economic, or geographic lens. This skill will allow you to craft policies that are most appropriate to address global challenges.  

  • GEO 622 - Water: Environment, Society, Politics (fall 2021)
  • HST 645 - History of International Relations (spring 2022)
  • PAI 716 - Economic Dimensions of Global Power (fall 2021)
  • PSC 783 - Comparative Foreign Policy (spring 2022)
  • PSC 788 - Political Leadership (fall 2021)

5. Integrate your off-campus plans into your course schedule

The MAIR program is designed to integrate on-campus academic coursework with off-campus applied learning. Since the MAIR degree is a professional degree program, we see training in the field as a key component to your development as practitioners, allowing you to apply their academic training to real-world problems. You should plan to spend the summer and fall of 2022 off campus. This allows you to gain a practitioner perspective on contemporary challenges and build key experience and understanding needed for success in the competitive international relations field.

You should consider these off-campus experiences as key components of your career track coursework. This includes your global internship experience, which should be directly related to the career track sub-field you are pursuing. Take time this summer to learn about our global program offerings and determine how to fit this into your career preparation path.

6. Plan for the IR Capstone Seminar

You will be required to participate in the IR capstone seminar, a one-credit foreign policy simulation exercise. This simulation will allow you to confront a structured foreign policy challenge. The capstone seminar will take place in 2021.  We will issue more details at the beginning of the year. 

The Capstone is the culminating experience of your first year of studies here at Maxwell, bridging the academic and professional aspects of your education and look forward to your active participation in this exciting course.

This concludes the multi-step plan. The schedule above represents a typical (and close to ideal) beginning. There may be good reasons to depart from it, though, but you should first examine the other options. When selecting courses, you should always keep your MAIR requirements as well as (and most importantly) your longer-term career goals in mind. The MAIR program is short; completing it efficiently is crucial.  Also, do not forget about the language requirements. More info on that can be found in the MAIR Handbook. 


Please note, you will be registering for courses before you officially arrive on campus. The registration begins at  on Monday, August 2, 2021, but you can change your schedule until September 7, 2021. 

Syracuse University students register via the MySlice on-line system, which requires a Syracuse University NetID, you will need to make sure you have (1) returned the Intent to Register form to Syracuse University; (2) Activated your NetID; and (3) Set your NetID password.

1. "I’ve always done more than was required.  Can I take five courses?”
As workloads at the graduate level are significantly higher than at the undergraduate level, we do not recommend this.
2. "Can I take additional language training?”
The Graduate School does not permit courses taken at the undergraduate level to count toward the completion of requirements for a graduate degree.  Therefore, you cannot count introductory or intermediate language courses toward completion of your MA, unless you negotiate to pursue them for graduate credit.  Up to six credits of language study at the graduate level can be counted toward the 40-credit MA degree.  Many students decide to brush-up on a language or study a new language here on campus.  In this case, you may wish to consider auditing an undergraduate course.  There would be no charge if you are carrying a full load, but you need the approval of the instructor.  Double-check with the PAIA Department and Language Department for further explanation.  I also may be able to offer suggestions about integrating language instruction with your internship or other off-campus work that will enhance or expand your language skills.  Alternatively, there are many language study groups or language tables with native speakers serving as teachers (remember, one third of students in our department are international).  You may want to learn a language in this fun and informal environment.  More info will be sent out over the listserv about these opportunities.
3. “How can I be sure that I won’t get swamped by the requirements in my four courses?  That is, if they all have papers due on the same day?”
Time management is an integral skill to develop for professional success in international affairs. We have collected class syllabi on the current students blackboard page, so that you can have an idea of when planned assignments may be due.
4. "I’m lost and don’t have the slightest idea what to take.”

It is a good idea for everyone to “shop around” a bit--for the first week attend two more courses than you can fit into your schedule.  Then select the four courses you want to take for the semester.  (Only don’t miss the deadlines to drop and add.) You need not be registered in a course to join it for the first week.  In the US, undergraduate university-level education is generally intended to make you “broad,” so that you appreciate the key concepts and theories of a number of different fields.  But graduate education is intended to make you “deep.”  In advising you one-on-one, I’m guided by the thought that your studies should cohere--they should focus on the development of expertise in areas that are essential for advancement in the career that you seek.
5. “What kinds of technological and professional skills should I have?”
The MAIR curriculum provides competency in general skills needed by international affairs professionals, including research and analysis, project evaluation and management, along with the technical knowledge to efficiently apply these concepts in the field (from experience with specific software packages to the ability to write concise policy memos, negotiate resolutions or give a quick elevator speech). However, do not underestimate the value that an in-depth knowledge of an area may have. You should also focus on further developing your research or writing ability.
6. “Can I take credits outside of the Maxwell School?”
Depending on your professional interests, it may be wise to take courses outside of Maxwell, and MAIR students can take a maximum of six credits from outside of the Maxwell School. Many IR students take courses in the Schools of Law, Management, Public Communication, and Information Science and Technology.  Students with environmental interests may want to take courses at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry, whose campus is adjacent to Syracuse University.