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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 (PAI 710)
The course provides an understanding of developments in the international arena and limitations of policy choices, as well as tools to analyze current international problems and policies.    

Principles of Economics  (PAI 720)
This course provides broad-based background in both micro- and macro- economics for MAIR students.  It develops understanding of the operation and failure of markets, as well as the instruments available to correct these failures. Following on this, it explores policy issues linked to price stability, employment and economic growth in an open economy. 

Introduction to Statistics (PAI 721)
This course 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. 

Research Design for IR Practitioners (PAI 705)

This course provides gives an overview of the conduct of social science research and its application to international affairs policy-making. Starting from the assumption that effective policies and programs are evidenced-based, it demonstrates that those designing, implementing, and evaluating policies should be grounded in social scientific research.   

Challenges of International Management & Leadership (PAI 762)
This course prepares students to lead and manage in a global environment. It introduces students to the context of international organizations; provides understanding of organizational structures, cultures, behavior, and management, delivers competencies needed to effectively manage organizations; introduces principals of effective leadership; and enhances cross-cultural understanding.   

Signature Courses

The signature courses draw on 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 (HST 645)
This course offers a broad overview of the history of international relations and is ivided 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 (PSC 783)                          
This course introduces the comparative analysis of foreign policy through a survey and critique of approaches to understanding foreign policy decision-making from the perspective of the practitioner conducting 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 (PAI 707)
International relations is conditioned by cultural issues, including the general background formed by cultural activities, and phenomena that are specifically cultural. This course offers a  survey of a variety of domains of world affairs in which culture is particularly important.

Economic Dimensions of Global Power (PAI 716)
This course’s analyzes the principal instruments of economic power and their effective deployment. This is done through an exposure to economic principles and concepts, emphasizing macroeconomics in the context of an “open economy.” The course will also introduce  principal constraints on the use of power, emerging from the major schools of thought in international relations. 

Development and Sustainability (GEO 606)
Sustainable development is not a 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 reviews sustainability, development, institutions, and  practices while discussing 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.  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.  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.