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2021 Charting a Career Path in Global Affairs

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Carnegie Mellon University, Institute for Politics and Strategy

Making Graduate Education—and Real-World Experience—Very Personal

When new graduate students arrive at Carnegie Mellon University’s Institute for Politics and Strategy (IPS), Assistant Teaching Professor Ignacio Arana expects to get to know each of them well very quickly. Though they come from all backgrounds and nationalities, only 10 to 15 graduate students join the school with each cohort.

So it goes at IPS, where personalized education lies at the core of the school’s philosophy and tradition. “This is a highly personalized program,” Arana says. “We have a strong relationship with the students. We don’t just train them, we help them find internships and jobs.”

“We want students to be prepared to make a contribution in the real world. Part of our goal is to produce things that are concrete and that are valued in the job market.” –Ignacio Arana, Assistant Teaching Professor, Institute for Politics and Strategy, Carnegie Mellon University

Indeed, much of that personal attention is focused on delivering real-world experience in research and analysis. Students pursuing the signature Master of Science in International Relations and Politics pack a great deal of work into two years of study.

For example, many students find themselves traveling from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC, where IPS maintains a facility on Capitol Hill, close enough to Congress to see the dome from the classroom. All graduate students are invited to travel to DC for a week, during which they network with decision makers and alumni, attend lectures, and learn firsthand from leading political figures.

Students pursuing the International Relations and Politics degree also are expected to complete an internship at a think tank, government agency, nonprofit organization, or elsewhere. They have interned at The National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance, Council on Foreign Relations, United Nations Foundation, US Department of Defense, and with members of Congress.

An Intern Informing Change

After Jordyn Gilliard completed her first year of graduate study at IPS, she is not taking a break this summer as she completes an internship at The Borgen Project, which aims to end extreme poverty.
Gilliard is writing articles, lobbying members of the US Congress, raising money, and otherwise working to help make poverty a greater focus of US foreign policy. It is work that fits her background as a 2019 graduate of Chatham University, with degrees in public relations, advertising, and applied communication.
“I would like to work with the media and share the truth of what’s happening,” Gilliard says. “No one believes anything that’s online now, and my goal is to make sure that everything is truthful and accurate.” 

All IPS students are expected to complete a thesis with a real-world application. For example, those whose courses include an emphasis on international security may take on a current security issue. One student wrote about private sector compliance with federal cybersecurity requirements. Students are encouraged to publish their thesis in the school’s own Journal of Politics and Strategy and other academic publications. 

“Part of our goal is to produce things that are concrete and that are valued in the job market,” Arana says.

Throughout these activities, faculty are there to advise and assist. “To reach your potential, you need to personally work with someone who is more advanced than you are,” Arana says. “We include students in our research community. We ensure students receive rigorous training so that they can succeed at the PhD level or in the policy world.”

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