In the mid-1970s, deans and directors from leading schools of international affairs began to discuss informally, “How to better prepare our students for professional careers in the field?” Admissions and career officers similarly began to work together to increase understanding of the value of a professional degree in international affairs among prospective students, employers, and the public.
How can we better prepare our students for professional careers in the field?
Then, through the 1970s and early 1980s, a grant from the Exxon Education Foundation helped these schools come together to compare curricula as a useful way to identify and evaluate how each program approached international affairs education, particularly the role of history in teaching international affairs.
In 1987, Robert F. Goheen, former Princeton president and former U.S Ambassador to India, conducted a comparative study, Education in U.S. Schools of International Affairs, to facilitate the exchange of “practice, experience, and thought” among professional schools of international affairs.
After comparing each school’s curriculum, mission, time to degree, implementation of foreign language and area studies, and overseas relations, Ambassador Goheen developed a list of recommendations for the schools. He concluded that they could be more effective in achieving their shared goals if they became a “true organization with a small central staff.”
Following Goheen’s recommendations, schools began to create a more formal structure for the organization. An APSIA Council formed with Louis W. Goodman of American University, Alfred C. Stepan of Columbia University, Maurice A. East of George Washington University, Peter F. Krogh of Georgetown University, George R. Packard of Johns Hopkins University, Donald E. Stokes of Princeton University, Jeswald W. Salacuse of Tufts University, Peter Gourevitch of the University of California at San Diego, E. Thomas Rowe of the University of Denver, Davis B. Bobrow of the University of Pittsburgh, Gerald Bender of the University of Southern California, John Haley of the University of Washington, and William Foltz of Yale University as the initial voting body. They elected Jeswald Salacuse as APSIA’s first President and – on April 13, 1989 – incorporated as a non-profit organization. On April 1, 1990, APSIA hired Kay King as its first Executive Director while the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace offered APSIA office space to begin operations.
In the early 1990s, generous grants by the Pew Charitable Trusts, Exxon Education Foundation, U.S. Institute of Peace, Hewlett Foundation, Rockefeller Family, and the Ford Foundation – as well as investments from its now 14 members – enabled APSIA to begin its work strengthening and promoting international affairs education.
As APSIA evolved, the world changed as well. With the end of the Cold War, APSIA members needed help to navigate and adapt to a rapidly changing international context.
In 1991, APSIA launched two major projects: the first enabled American and Russian diplomats, professors, and students to study, teach, and research at each other’s institutions. Through this exchange, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs admitted Americans to its educational institutions for the first time. Second, APSIA helped to improve Eastern European institutions of international affairs. From 1991-1993, an APSIA project provided advice on curriculum development, library resources, and personnel assessment to academic organizations in in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland.
Following the success of its endeavors in Russia and Eastern Europe, APSIA turned its attentions back to the United States. APSIA began to analyze how its member schools could best adapt their programs to a post-Cold War world. Funded by the Ford Foundation, the project brought together experts and professionals for symposia across the United States to discuss how to modify graduate-level programs. In addition, the effort sought to expand and diversify the network of people involved in international affairs education.
Expand and diversify the network of people involved in international affairs education.
APSIA members also sought ways to adapt their programs to new sectors of interest. By the mid-1990s, both practitioners and students had developed an increasing interest in teaching conflict resolution and international development on the graduate level. To adapt to these changes and with the support of the U.S. Institute of Peace, APSIA performed a review of conflict resolution programs in its member schools and helped members consider the evolving use of both practitioners and scholars as professors.
As the world entered a new millennium, APSIA too underwent a wave of changes. Its roster of member schools grew to 29 in the United States and around the world. APSIA’s executive office underwent several changes as well, both in staff reduction and in relocations, before ultimately settling at its current University of Maryland College Park location in 2008.
APSIA also returned to the Goheen Report for inspiration about its future. It launched new partnerships to promote the participation of traditionally underrepresented members of society in international affairs and found new ways to promote its member schools.
In 2004, APSIA became an institutional sponsor of the Public Policy & International Affairs Fellowship Program, which provides undergraduate seniors from traditionally underrepresented groups with the skills to be strong applicants to graduate schools of public and international affairs. With Foreign Affairs, APSIA launched a special annual Graduate School Forum section in the journal. It expanded its outreach through social media and coordinated in-person graduate school fairs throughout the world, which continue today.
In 2008, APSIA partnered with the Rosenthal Fellowship in International Relations and the Japan Foundation’s Center for Global Partnership to give students from APSIA schools the chance to pursue their international affairs interests in the public and private sectors. In 2014, APSIA launched a series of virtual events to complement its in-person programs and to reach students regardless of geographic location.
Today, APSIA includes member and affiliate schools in North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. It continues to help members improve the professional education in international affairs and the advancement, thereby, of international understanding, prosperity, peace, and security.