International Affairs and Leadership, MA

At a Glance: program details

  • Location: online
  • Second Language Requirement: No
Learn real-world, character-driven leadership skills and gain a strong foundation in international affairs and U.S. foreign policy in this program taught by experienced professionals.

Program Description

Degree Awarded: MA International Affairs and Leadership

The MA program in international affairs and leadership prepares students for international leadership roles in a dynamic learning environment led by senior international affairs professionals from the public and private sectors.

The program offers a unique blend of leadership capacity development --- both theory and practice --- as well as substantive training focused on U.S. foreign policy decision-making, national security, international trade, human rights issues and other key global issues. Courses are taught by experts with real-world experience, from former U.S. ambassadors to three-star generals, with the goal of readying students to become leaders in the international affairs realm. Students have regular interactions with world-class professors and practitioners who help students learn how to shape the world in a meaningful and positive way.

The program is a collaboration between the School of Politics and Global Studies and the Leadership, Diplomacy and National Security Lab. The School of Politics and Global Studies is host to the Center on the Future of War, the Center for Latina/os and American Politics Research, and the SPGS Experimental Laboratory.

IAL Program Faculty and Staff


The program offers a unique blend of leadership capacity development, both theory and practice, foreign policy decision-making, regional international affairs knowledge, and key global issues training.

  • Coursework focuses on current challenges and future trends.
  • Classes are led by top foreign policy and national security experts who have vast experience developing policy and leading programs.
  • The program stresses practical applications and case studies of international affairs issues, and hands-on experience.

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Degree Requirements

30 credit hours including the required capstone course (IAL 560)

Required Core (9 credit hours)
IAL 501 Principles of Character-Driven Leadership (3)
IAL 502 The Making of U.S. National Security Policy (3)
IAL 503 Applied International Leadership: Case Studies (3)

Electives (18 credit hours)

Culminating Experience (3 credit hours)
IAL 560 Capstone (3)

Admission Requirements

Applicants must fulfill the requirements of both the Graduate College and The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Applicants are eligible to apply to the program if they have earned a bachelor's or master's degree in any field from a regionally accredited institution.

Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of a student's first bachelor's degree program, or applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in an applicable master's degree program.

Applicants are required to submit:

  1. graduate admission application and application fee
  2. official transcripts
  3. letter of intent
  4. professional resume
  5. writing sample
  6. proof of English proficiency

Additional Application Information
An applicant whose native language is not English must provide proof of English proficiency regardless of their current residency.

GRE or GMAT results are not required but can be submitted as an additional application material.

Applicants should have a deep-rooted interest in international issues of the future and a desire to influence them through character-driven leadership within the context of an increasingly complicated, globalized world. Ideal candidates are those who have previous leadership experience and who plan to devote their careers to working with other cultures and nations across a variety of sectors. While an ideal candidate has previous experience traveling or living overseas or has previously studied a language other than English, candidates with no prior experience in these areas are also welcome to apply. Both international and domestic students are encouraged to apply.

Using the letter of intent, applicants should narrate their own leadership journeys as well as their motivations for further studies in the areas of international affairs and leadership. The letter of intent should describe applicants' academic and professional interests to date, their reasons for pursuing a master's degree in international affairs and leadership, and how this advanced degree relates to their specific future goals.

The application review panel also reviews the applicant's writing skills. The writing sample could be an original essay or previously written research paper, essay, policy memo, or other document that demonstrates the applicant's writing and analytical skills.

Courses and Electives

Required Core Classes (9 credit hours)

IAL 501: Principles of Character Driven Leadership, 3 credit hours

Principals of Character Driven Leadership provides the student with the core concepts of character driven leadership defined as the commitment to do the right thing, the right way for the right reasons. The course focuses on values; individual, organizational, and national, along with ethics; culminating with a clear understanding of leadership. Students will explore the “leader in me” by examining the values that they embrace and the causes that they believe in, along with understanding “the environment I lead in” and the criticality of comprehending where they lead and who they lead.

IAL 502: U.S. National Security Policy, 3 credit hours

IAL 502 outlines the origins and current structure of America’s national security architecture. Using actual policy decisions, students will exercise the process of analysis, decision-making and translating into action, elements of the country’s national security agenda. The course will also include intensive analysis of the intent and outcome of such critical policy decisions and the leadership exercised by the participating decision-makers.

IAL 503: Applied International Leadership: Case Studies, 3 credit hours

IAL 503 builds on the theoretical and practical foundation of the development curriculum conveyed in IAL 501. During the semester, students will engage with faculty and with each other in multiple in-depth applied leadership scenarios, examining various aspects of leadership in international settings. The semester will culminate in individual student presentations analyzing a complex international leadership challenge. Case studies and scenarios in international settings with real-world choices and dilemmas that require group decision-making and leadership in a pressure-filled, crisis situation to achieve a peaceful and successful outcome.

Electives (18 credit hours)

Students will take six elective courses of their choice from a list of course offerings. These classes will cover a range of topics including regional focuses, leadership decision making, global issues, and international relation issues.

See the list of potential courses

Culminating Experience (3 credit hours)

IAL 560: Capstone, 3 credit hours

In consultation and with the approval of the instructor, students research and identify a specific international affairs leadership challenge they will present at the conclusion of the degree program. The capstone product should be a visually rich 20-minute oral presentation that shows analytical rigor and defends a tangible strategic plan for achieving impact and positive change. The oral presentation must be accompanied by written back-up material that substantiates and defends the student’s policy analysis and proposal for action.

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Application Deadlines



Session A/C
July 23rd



Session A/C
December 14th

Career Opportunities

Graduates are prepared to succeed in a wide variety of international affairs professions, including:

  • business operations specialist
  • career civil servant or contractor at the U.S. State Department, U.S. Department of Commerce or U.S. Treasury or Defense Department
  • foreign service officer
  • international political economist
  • military officer or noncommissioned officer in strategic, special or tactical operations
  • nonprofit or NGO analyst or program coordinator
  • permanent staff for a member of Congress or Congressional committee
  • public policy analyst
  • U.S. government intelligence community policy analyst or program manager

Attend Online

ASU offers this program in an online format with multiple enrollment sessions throughout the year. Applicants may view the program description and request more information here.

Program Contact Information

If you have questions related to admission, please click here to request information and an admission specialist will reach out to you directly. For questions regarding faculty or courses, please use the contact information below.