Scenic shot of the ASU in DC building

School of Politics and Global Studies partners with McCain Institute to offer master’s degree in Washington


Matt Oxford

Arizona State University continues to build on its educational offerings at the Barrett & O’Connor Washington Center in Washington, D.C., with a new Master of Arts program for those looking to lead in a career in international affairs.

The Master of Arts in international affairs and leadership, offered by the School of Politics and Global Studies, will empower students to be character-driven leaders in the global arena. In partnership with the McCain Institute for International Leadership at ASU, this program establishes a dynamic and active learning environment led by senior international affairs professionals from the public and private sectors.

The legacy of values-driven leadership embodied by Sen. John McCain, the McCain Institute’s access and connectivity in the international community and ASU’s extensive academic capacity provide students a distinctive edge to succeed in the full spectrum of international affairs professions.

The program will prepare graduates for the complex international environment through extensive exposure to topics such as character-driven leadership, national security, human rights, foreign policy, rule of law, democracy, counterterrorism and global economics.

Edward O'Donnell

Edward B. O’Donnell

Ambassador Edward B. O’Donnell, professor of practice with the School of Politics and Global Studies and program director of the new MA, offered insight into ASU’s new degree.

Question: What led to the creation of the MA in international affairs and leadership degree at ASU through the McCain Institute?

Answer: The new MA in international affairs and leadership (MA IAL) merges the strengths of ASU’s academic excellence and the McCain Institute’s career professionals, former U.S. ambassadors, military general officers and internationally respected foreign policy experts to offer graduate students a unique academic experience. ASU and the McCain Institute leadership offer this new MA as a mentoring and accelerating degree and platform for career professionals in Washington, D.C., as well as ASU graduates. It will strengthen their experience and skills by learning from practitioners with deep experience in international affairs.

Q: What is the benefit of classes for the degree being located in the heart of Washington, D.C.?

A:  Master's degree candidates will experience the international and political energy of Washington, D.C., as they learn about key issues of global diplomacy, public policy and international relations. The nation’s capital is home to the U.S. — and much of the international — foreign policy community. The program leverages this unique location as a source of learning and help as young professionals seek to launch and advance their international affairs careers. The MA degree in the nation’s capital also allows students to pursue their first career positions and internships in organizations located here that are crucial stepping stones to building a foreign affairs career.

Q: What do students have to look forward to in taking classes from top experts in the fields of foreign policy and national security?

A:  MA classes will be led by renowned experts such as former Deputy Secretary of State Ambassador John D. Negroponte. Guest lecturers will also include U.S. policymakers and program managers, senior diplomats, think tank experts and other international leaders and decision-makers. These professors’ experience in developing and implementing policies over five decades will both inform the students of “best practices” and “lessons learned,” and also lay a foundation for the students’ own creativity in addressing future challenges and issues in their own careers.

Q: How do you think this degree best prepares students for a career in international affairs?

A:  This MA degree is unique and unmatched by other MA programs in two respects: (1) Students learn directly from senior experts in an interactive “learning lab” that projects “over the horizon” to center on the new global and international environment; and (2) the integration of how to be a “character-driven leader” prepares the MA students for leadership positions that require creativity and courage in an increasingly complicated and dangerous world. 

The Master of Arts in international affairs and leadership has a scheduled launch date of spring 2020. Applications for a spring start date are traditionally in November, but for a start date of spring 2020 the application deadline is Jan. 5. Learn more about program on the School of Politics and Global Studies and the McCain Institute websites.