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Graduate Programs for Aspiring Global Leaders

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Penn State University, School of International Affairs

A Community-Centric School with Global Reach and Flexible Education

Penn State University’s School of International Affairs (SIA) takes special pride in being intentionally small and curating an exceptional educational experience that thrives on the strength of a close-knit community within the context and resources of a large, world-class university setting. This combination enables students to enjoy the best of both worlds, reaping the benefits of “small class sizes and direct interaction and advising from faculty and professional staff,” says Dr. Mitchell Smith, the School of International Affairs’ new director.

SIA stands out as an attractive choice for students who seek an on-campus university experience in a vibrant college town while remaining within reach of the international hubs of Washington, DC, and New York City, where Penn State boasts an extensive alumni network. Here, students have the opportunity to engage in the broader university community, participating in various activities and cultural events. One such example is the recently introduced International Affairs Discussion, an informal open forum that brings together faculty, staff, and students to talk about global affairs.

“Our students possess strong fundamental skills as well as crucial qualities, such as adaptability, teamwork, and empathy, which are essential for engaging in global affairs.” –Dr. Mitchell Smith, Director, School of International Affairs, Penn State University

The school’s other key strength is its curriculum, which places emphasis on experiential learning. Grounded in a core set of courses covering various facets of international affairs, the curriculum gives students a remarkable degree of flexibility. Students can draw from Penn State’s wide spectrum of elective courses, offering virtually limitless options to customize their degree according to specific interests. “These choices are not hypothetical,” explains Dr. Smith. “Students really can find classes in the things that they want to do. We only ask that students articulate the coherence of the concentration.”

Additionally, SIA students have the chance to earn graduate credits through multiple study-abroad programs, where they gain valuable global perspectives and hands-on experiences working alongside US government bodies, think tanks, private corporations, and nongovernmental organizations in various locations, including Australia, Ecuador, India, Jordan, Morocco, Peru, and South Africa.

The program’s diverse student body includes recent undergraduates as well as those with significant post-undergraduate experience, such as internships, service in the Peace Corps, and other forms of international and domestic policy work. Dr. Smith says prospective students need to demonstrate strong writing skills in a statement of purpose that makes a clear case for their motivation, preparation, and aspirations in pursuing a degree in international affairs. He adds, “We are particularly attuned to instances in which students have overcome hurdles to get where they are and to succeed.”

Active Alumni and Individualized Career Services Support Graduates

The Career Services office offers a comprehensive range of services, including professional development workshops, resume and cover letter review, and job search assistance. They organize career exposure trips to Washington, DC, and New York City, facilitating student networking with alumni and potential employers. The office also aids students in identifying suitable education programs abroad with internships as part of the program’s capstone requirement.
>>>Additionally, SIA hosts on-campus job talks and panels, featuring alumni, recruiters, and industry professionals. The school has recently introduced an Alumni Mentorship Program that connects students with SIA alumni whose roles align with their career aspirations. Furthermore, SIA students can tap into the extensive Penn State Alumni Association network, with new graduates receiving a complimentary one-year membership for exclusive benefits and event access.

Penn State University, School of International Affairs
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