Each MSFS student chooses one of the following fields of concentration. Each concentration includes 18 credits of coursework including at least one concentration-specific gateway/foundational course. Students may choose to specialize within a particular concentration by focusing coursework in a subfield.
There are four concentration options available within the MSFS degree:
- Global Politics & Security (GPS)
- International Development (IDEV)
- Global Business, Finance & Society (GBFS)
- Science, Technology, and International Affairs (STIA)-
- Self-Designed Concentration
Global Politics and Security (GPS)
Designed to prepare students to be foreign affairs practitioners and analysts in an increasingly complex global environment, the GPS degree places a premium on breadth of knowledge across disciplines to include history, politics, economics and culture. It requires an understanding of the “drivers” of contemporary change: forces of globalization including information technology, the impact of values and nationalism on politics, demographics, resource scarcity and global warming among others.
Students in this concentration are required to take at least 18 credits of courses approved for the concentration, including the 3-credit course, MSFS 570 – Practice of Policy Tradecraft, in the spring semester of year one. Concentrators must take at least 3 credits in each subfield and at least 9 credits in one primary subfield.
- Global Politics & Comparative Foreign Policy: includes courses on major policy issues and comparative foreign policy formulation. Focuses on other policy and implementation approaches and institutions charged with national policy making.
- National & International Security: develops knowledge about the causes of international conflict, approaches for resolving conflict and the use of force and political tools in conflict management. Potential topics of focus may include proliferation, criminal mafias, civil strife in weak states and asymmetric threats on the national and multinational level.
- Transnational Issues & Institutions: focuses on international organizations, law and transnational issues. It recognizes that many pressing issues of contemporary era (i.e. terrorism) cannot be addressed by individual national action alone. The tools and techniques of multilateral diplomacy are explored.
International Development (IDEV)
Bridging theory and practice, the IDEV concentration facilitates the mastering of various theories, frameworks and concepts and then testing and applying these in operational situations. It prepares professionals to work in a complex and rapidly evolving field. By the end of the program, IDEV students will have explored four key areas:
- Development theory and paradigms
- Key development actors and institutions and their modes of operation
- Specific operational tools and techniques necessary for successful program management
- In-depth knowledge of a specific technical field.
The IDEV concentration requires at least 18 credits of approved courses:
- A required 3-credit Gateway Course (Development Policy: Balancing Market Failure and Government Failure) in the first year
- At least 15 additional credits selected from among a list of approved electives
- Conflict & Humanitarian Response: students examine the strategies, mechanisms, and operational requirements to respond to humanitarian crises and effectively manage development programs in challenging post-conflict environments.
- Economics & Social Development: at both the national policy level and individual firm level, economic courses analyze the key drivers of growth and economic development in specific regional contexts and key sectors that either promote or constrain national development.
- Governance & Political Development: explores the relationship between governance and economic development, the role of the state in development, the significance of democratization and the specific challenges of different regions of the world.
Global Business, Finance & Society (GBFS)
The Concentration gives students a solid understanding of private sector view-points, metrics and motivations and the relationships between business, government and civil society.
The Concentration therefore provides a mix of technical skill, business and societal viewpoints designed to grow students as “cross-sector athletes” – professionals who have the skills, understanding and fluency to navigate and succeed in the public and private sectors, or at the intersection between them.
Students must successfully complete at least 18 credits of approved courses, consisting of:
- A required 3-credit gateway course (MSFS 515-Foundations of Corporate Finance) taken in the first year
- 15 additional credits selected from a pre-approved list which must
include at least one course from two of the three subfields outlined
To fulfill the above requirements GBFS concentrators may seek to enroll in courses offered by other graduate programs, including the McDonough School of Business, the Georgetown University Law School and the SFS International Business Diplomacy certificate program.
- Business & Society: Courses that focus on the relationship between business and society – subjects include Social Impact, Regulation, Sustainability, Corporate Diplomacy, Government Relations
- Trade: Courses that focus on the practical aspects and importance of trade to economic growth and International Relations
- Finance: Courses that focus on somewhat more specific skills or sectors – subjects include Emerging Markets, Project Finance, Strategy Finance & Valuation, Energy
Science, Technology, and International Affairs (STIA) – STEM Designated
Now more than ever, science and technology are at the heart of international affairs. The Science, Technology and International Affairs (STIA) concentration equips students with the knowledge, skills and confidence to engage with the challenges and opportunities this presents. Remember that STIA is STEM designated as of 2023. STIA concentrators must take the following courses:
- One Gateway course: MSFS 505: Science Policy Matters: Introduction to the Study of Science, Technology and International Affairs (further details below). Professor Theresa Sabonis-Helf will be leading the gateway course to be offered each spring semester.
- One “tech competence” course from a list of approved natural science, data science or computer science courses. In some cases, students with the necessary prerequisites may take courses offered in other programs of the university (3500 or above) subject to departmental approval. Students who majored or minored in biology, chemistry, physics, computer science or engineering as undergraduates may petition to the concentration chair to be exempted from this requirement, and take an additional elective course instead.
Additionally, students must take four additional courses selected from a list of approved electives, three of which must be in one of the three designated subfields:
Note that many STIA-approved electives qualify for more than one subfield.
- Energy and the Global Environment (EGE): Explores key international challenges at the intersection of energy and the environment including global climate change, disease, transboundary resource challenges, food, water and agriculture, and the sustainable energy transition. This subfield places a particular emphasis on global commons and natural resources.
- Innovation and Emerging Technologies (IET): Explores transformative technologies from biotechnology to artificial intelligence, as well as the technological innovation process. This subfield places a particular emphasis on the role of the market and the state’s efforts to shape it.
- Science, Technology and International Strategy (STIS): Explores role of technology in national strategy including the science and technology issues behind space cooperation and competition; nonproliferation, arms control and disarmament initiatives; cyber security and artificial intelligence in diplomacy, development and interstate competition. This subfield places a particular emphasis on science and technology as instruments of power and tools of diplomacy for state and non-state actors.
Students interested in designing their own concentration must propose a study plan comprised of 18 credits of clearly-related/relevant courses. This concentration option is developed with the advice of a faculty member and approved by the MSFS Curriculum Committee. Some students may wish to develop a multidisciplinary specialization in a particular region or field. Students should first look to existing concentrations and certificates before proceeding with a self-design concentration proposal.
Students pursuing a comparative and/or regional focus might develop a historical background in their area as well as an understanding of the economic, political and socio-cultural issues in the region. Regional specializations require appropriate language skills and a clearly outlined proposal of the course of study.
Given the breadth of MSFS Concentrations and availability of graduate certificates, few MSFS students elect to pursue the self-designed option.