International Affairs and Leadership, MA

The Master of Arts in International Affairs and Leadership, offered by the School of Politics and Global Studies, empowers students to be future leaders in the global arena.

Program Description

Degree Awarded: MA International Affairs and Leadership

This online program establishes a dynamic and active learning environment led by senior international affairs professionals from the public and private sectors. Drawing on ASU’s extensive academic capacity provide students a distinctive edge to succeed in the full spectrum of international affairs professions.

Students will also benefit from two week-long in-person experiences in Washington D.C. over the course of the program, allowing them direct access to the professionals and institutions involved in U.S. foreign affairs.

Degree Overview

Graduates of the program will be prepared for this complex international environment through extensive exposure to topics such as foreign policy, national security, international trade, human rights issues, and character-driven leadership. The program will utilize the unique expertise of former ambassadors and leading experts to teach the classes as well as to guide students of the program as they either enter or continue in the workforce.

Graduates of the program will be able to pursue a variety of careers such as foreign service officers, special and tactical military officers, security analysts, non-profit coordinators, business operations specialists, international economists and public policy analysts.


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.

Courses and electives

At a Glance: program details

  • Location: online
  • Additional Program Fee: No
  • Second Language Requirement: No

Degree Requirements

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 (1-2 pages)
  4. professional resume
  5. writing sample (3-5 pages)
  6. proof of English proficiency

Additional Application Information
An applicant whose native language is not English must provide proof of English proficiency regardless of 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 and has previously studied a language other than English, we also welcome candidates with no prior experience in these areas. Both international and domestic students are encouraged to apply.

Using the letter of intent (1-2 pages), 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 definitions of character-driven leadership, 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. Successful applicants must be able to tell a concise, coherent story about their past experiences and future goals.

Priority application deadlines*:

  • Fall Semester: July 23
  • Spring Semester: December 14

*Applications received after the priority deadline will be reviewed in the order they are completed and on a space available basis. An application is complete after all required materials are received by Graduate Admissions.

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.

IAL 504: U.S. Diplomacy in Action - the Embassy Country Team, 3 credit hours

Led by a former U.S. Ambassador, students constitute an U.S. Embassy Country Team for a specific country and manage a reality-based diplomatic agenda. Students will be assigned the actual roles of Embassy team members, and together with their “Ambassador” will practice how U.S. foreign policy is developed and executed in the field and for the final written and oral project will develop and present new, creative programs for promotion of U.S. interests to improve the bilateral relationship with the country.

IAL 505: The Modern Global Economy: Dollars and Sense

Students will be challenged to consider future economic and business trends and technology that offer growth and opportunities, but also economic and business developments that threaten stability such as cyber threats and pandemics. Traditional trading and finance global systems will be compared to the rising new economic “nationalism". Regional economic alliances will be evaluated.

IAL 508: Transatlantic Relations: Does Europe Still Matter?

IAL 508 projects forward the directions the U.S. and Europe are moving. The students will be challenged to analyze and consider “over the horizon” trends and opportunities, but also the risks of conflict and how to mitigate and solve challenges. Case studies will present “Character-driven leadership” by U.S. and European leaders as they manage issues of cooperation and competition.

IAL 509: Western Hemisphere: Good Neighbors, Tough Challenges

This course will explore the opportunities and challenges facing the United States in its relationships with its regional neighbors, including Canada, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America. The lectures and readings will consider how the region’s social, cultural and economic history shapes its relations with the U.S. and the rest of the world.

IAL 511: Human Rights and Realpolitik

This course will explore the origins of the human rights movement, watershed moments, and contemplate what may be next. The course is based on the foundation that respecting human rights is not simply the right moral choice, but one that has an economic and national security implications: that the world is more prosperous and more secure when freedom and rights are universally afforded.

IAL 512: Setting a Global Counterterrorism Agenda

Students analyze, discuss, and propose tactics and strategies for countering global terrorism, mainly, but not exclusively from the U.S. perspective. IAL 511 focusses on U.S. counter-terrorism strategy against Middle East terrorism since 9/11. Based on actual policy decisions, students will exercise the process of decision-making and translating into action, elements of the U.S. counter-terrorism agenda in partnership with allies and adversaries.

IAL 514: Transnational Challenges - Combatting Human Trafficking

A practical, global, interdisciplinary examination of the many issues surrounding human trafficking and modern slavery. Students will connect similarities and differences between historical and modern-day slavery, analyze the role and impact of criminal and civil justice sector decisions and actions in fighting human trafficking and understand the role of international and national laws and other government rulemaking.

Culminating Experience (3 credit hours)

IAL 560: Capstone, 3 credit hours

Each student must prepare a comprehensive presentation capturing the knowledge and insights gained during the degree program, focused on a specific international affairs leadership challenge. A 45-minute oral and written presentation must show analytical rigor and defend a tangible strategic plan for achieving impact and positive change.

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