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Maxwell School
Maxwell / Department of Public Administration & International Affairs

MA in International Relations

Core Requirements

The 16-month MAIR Program features five curricular components.  Students: (1) complete five core courses to prepare them with general knowledge and skills needed in the global workplace; (2) focus their studies by choosing from five comprehensive career tracks, while also integrating regional studies; (3) depending on their chosen Career Track, take one of five interdisciplinary signature courses – courses that draw fully on the Maxwell School’s expertise in public affairs and up-to-date/cutting edge applied social science research (4) take a capstone course at the end of their second semester in preparation for their summer internship; and (5) complete an internship through one of the Program’s global opportunities. 

Following is the required curriculum for the MAIR degree.

Core Courses

As part of the interdisciplinary social science framework of the Maxwell School, the core courses are designed to provide all students with general knowledge of the field of international affairs from both the theoretical and applied perspectives.  The “skills” component of the core curriculum is intended to provide students with valuable management, as well as quantitative and qualitative professional skills for the global workplace.

International Actors and Issues 
The goal of this course is to enable students to understand how social sciences theories help explain international developments in the international arena, and their contributions and limitations regarding policy choices.  It is intended to provide students with tools for analysis of current international problems and policies.    

Principles of Economics
This course is designed to provide broad-based background in both micro- and macro- economics for MA IR students whose career aspirations do not require substantial training in these economic specialties. Half of the course will be devoted to the operation of markets, the failures of markets, the policy instruments available to correct for these failures and the strengths and weaknesses of these policies.  The market model is extended to the international sphere with a focus on market transactions within the global economy and policy issues associated with  the regulation of international trade.  The final portion will focus on macroeconomics and the policy issues linked to price stability, employment and economic growth in an open economy. 

Quantitative Skills in IR 
This requirement familiarizes students with the diverse sources and methods used to analyze data upon which decisions are made, upon which programs and policies are designed and implemented.  Upon completion of this core requirment IR students will be knowledgeable users of such data. 

Research Design for IR Practitioner

This course provides an overview of how social science research is conducted and how it can be used in policy making in international affairs. It is based on the assumption that good policy-making and program design should be evidenced-based, and that those designing, implementing, and evaluating these policies should have grounding in how social scientific research is conducted, and what separates good research from bad research.  Complementing Quantitative Skills in IR, this course will cover: ethics of research; survey methods and design; qualitative research and research as a management tool. 

Challenges of International Management & Leadership 
This course is designed to prepare students for leading and managing organizations in a global environment, including  governments, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations and corporations.  The course will introduce students to the context of organizations working in the international arena; provide macro-level understanding of organizational structures and cultures; introduce micro-level  organizational behavior and management concepts; provide core competencies needed to effectively manage organizations; introduce principals of effective leadership and enhance the students understanding of the importance of cross-cultural understanding in an international context. 

Signature Courses

The signature courses were designed to demonstrate Maxwell's competitive strengths in comparative political analysis and cultural studies as they relate to international affairs.  Each signature course matches one or more career tracks.  Students can chose a course relevant to their career track to develop more depth, or one that will broaden their perspective outside their chosen area of focus.         

History of International Relations 
This course will offer a broad overview of the history of international relations with readings from theorists, historians, and practitioners.  The course will be divided into three related parts: Realism and Great Power Conflict, the Cold War as an International System, and Ideology and Institutions.  It will discuss key historical events and issues over the past century in the context of the major theories of international relations. 

Comparative Foreign Policy                           
This course offers an introduction to the comparative analysis of foreign policy for the professional degree students in the MA in International Relations Program. A survey and critique of approaches to understanding foreign policy decision-making from the perspective of the practitioner who must deal with problems of individual choice, small groups, bureaucratic politics, and organizational constraints in the conduct of foreign policy. Case studies and simulations are used to provide first-hand experience in policy decision-making in the United States and other countries.

Culture in World Affairs 
The entire enterprise of international relations is conditioned by cultural issues. These are of two kinds; the general background that is formed by cultural activities, and phenomena that are specifically cultural. Both of these levels of culture are becoming more important in the international relations. This course offers a basic and systematic survey of a variety of domains of world affairs in which culture is of particular importance.

Economic Dimensions of Global Power 
This course’s central objective is to delineate and analyze the principal instruments of economic power and their effective deployment. First, students will receive a rigorous exposure to economic principles and concepts, with a relative emphasis on macroeconomics. These principles will be explicated in the context of an “open economy,” hence the course will survey many of the key issues in international trade and commercial policy, on the one hand, and international macroeconomics and finance, on the other. Second, in the context of introducing principal constraints on the use of power, the course will present and scrutinize various hypotheses emerging from the major schools of thought in international relations, notably Realism (in its balance of power and balance of threat varieties); liberal internationalism (including hegemonic stability theory), institutionalism and constructivism. Third, the course will steep students in the most important historical episodes that provide an indispensable backdrop for current challenges and controversies.

Development and Sustainability
It is important to view sustainable development not as a radical departure from traditional development thinking, but rather as a product of it. In order better to understand what sustainable development is, we must examine its roots: how and from which ideas did it emerge?   This course will review current and evolving theories of sustainability and development; review institutions and their practices; and discuss key policy areas related to energy, resource consumption, urban sustainability, rural development, water resources and agriculture.                       


The Capstone Seminar is a one-credit course to be offered during the Maymester, offering professional training to students before they embark on their summer internships.  The object of the seminar is to provide students with the opportunity to apply what they have learned in a professional (albeit simulated) setting.

Students will be engaged in a policy simulation exercise, confronting an alternative future policy problem or crisis.  Based on your particular Career Track, each student will be assigned a role (e.g. Foreign Minister of Nigeria, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, or President of Human Rights Watch).  Each Career Track group will meet periodically during the fall and spring semester with a faculty advisor to prepare for the simulation.  This faculty advisor will eventually assess students' performance during the exercise (as well as on potential written deliverables) and assign grades.  We see the capstone as the culminating experience of your first year of studies here at Maxwell and as a way to bridge the academic and professional aspects of your education.

Global Internship 

Practical training is an integral part of the MAIR degree program.  As such, all students will be required to complete a 3-credit internship (with the exception of mid-career students).  The IR Program offers students multiple global program opportunities in the United States and abroad.  See the “Global Programs” section for a more complete description.