International Affairs and Leadership Courses

Program Requirements

The MA in International Affairs and Leadership program requires 30 credit hours to be successfully completed prior to graduation. The program has four required courses, for a total of 12 credit hours, that are to be completed at various stages of the program. The four required courses are listed below:

  1. IAL 501: Principles of Character-Driven Leadership
    • Must be completed within the first two semesters of enrolling in the program.
    • To be offered every Fall semester
  2. IAL 502: The Making of U.S. National Security Policy
    • Must be completed within the first two semesters of enrolling in the program.
    • To be offered in both the Fall and Spring semesters.
  3. IAL 503: Applied International Leadership: Case Studies
    • Should be completed prior to the final semester of study
    • To be offered every Spring semester
  4. IAL 560: Capstone
    • Must be taken during the last semester of study

The remaining 18 credit hours, 6 classes total, are elective courses to be selected by the student. Any IAL 3-credit class will fulfill the requirement of an elective. Select courses from other programs will be considered on a case by case basis. Please consult with the academic advisor on any advising questions.

Course Descriptions

Please find descriptions of courses to be offered throughout the program:

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

Principles 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: The Making of U.S. National Security Policy, 3 credit hours

IAL 502 explores the mechanisms through which policy is formulated and takes students through case studies to examine the realistic process of developing and implementing U.S. national security policy. 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 character-driven leadership 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.

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: Key Issues in Today's Global Economy, 3 credit hours

IAL 505 is a project focused course that will analyze select elements of the international economic system from the perspective of both business and government decision makers. Students will learn about international trade, investment, and finance, including financing for development; the role of innovation in the U.S. and other countries; the new digital marketplace, privacy, and intellectual property rights; sustainable development and green economic development; and international energy and health issues. Students will emerge from the course with a strong background on the international economic system and sharpened analytical skills. A basic understanding of economics prior to entry in the class is strongly encouraged.

IAL 508: Transatlantic Relations: Does Europe Still Matter?, 3 credit hours

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, 3 credit hours

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, 3 credit hours

Seventy-five years after the world community solemnly declared that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” states and other international actors around the world continue to infringe, ignore, and/or violate these and other supposedly universal human rights.  This course aims to explore why this is still the case.  More accurately, it will examine the role of actors in today’s international system in protecting – or not – human beings throughout the world.
Students will explore whether there exists an inevitable tension between national interests and values in the international arena -- in which interests must always trump values. Or, more optimistically, students will probe whether and how states can advance their national interests while also protecting human rights inside and outside their borders.

IAL 560: Capstone, 3 credit hours

Offered in the Spring and Fall semesters as appropriate, this course serves as the culminating experience for the Masters’ Degree in International Affairs and Leadership.  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.

IAL 598: Congress in US Foreign Policy: Does politics still stop “at the water’s edge?”, 3 credit hours

The 2015 invitation by the congressional Republican leadership to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s to address a joint session in order to openly oppose the Obama administration’s nuclear negotiations with Iran is considered an important demonstration the polarization of congress had moved squarely into the realm of foreign policy.

“Does politics still stop at the water’s edge? The role of Congress in US foreign policy,” is an in-depth look at the legislative branches’ influence on the development and execution of US foreign policy. The class will study the behind the scenes, day-to-day interactions between the two branches as well as the traditional tools afforded Congress under the Constitution including the authorization/appropriations process, ratification of treaties and confirmation of nominees and how these tools are utilized in today’s hyper-partisan political environment. Students will hear from academics, former and current executive and legislative branch staff, embassies and the special interests that influence Congress’ thinking on foreign policy with coursework emphasizing the preparation of briefing memos, speeches and op-eds.

IAL 598: Special Topics: Diplomacy - Preventing Genocide, 3 credit hours

This course will focus on the role of diplomacy and “soft power” in preventing war crimes, atrocities, crimes against humanity and ultimately Genocide. Using the history and experience of the Holocaust and murder of six million Jewish people during World War II, the students will also examine other tragic events in the 20th and 21st century where the ultimate human rights violations were perpetrated – death of innocents. Victims of these crimes include civilians during war or civil war, i.e. military conflict or innocents as a result of hate, prejudice and persecution of minorities. Course objectives are to position students to explain US interests in preventing Genocide and violations of human rights, the international political system and laws and frameworks in place to prevent these tragedies. Students will be challenged to explain the interaction between the U.S. Government, U.S. Congress, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at both the “grass-roots” community engagement level and at the strategic level involving other governments, regional organizations and multilateral agencies such as the United Nations. Case studies and a reality-basis simulation exercise will deepen students’ skills of communication, analysis and leadership working in a group to solve an emerging problem and crisis using the diplomatic toolkit of non-military means to stop an emerging crisis before atrocities and Genocide occur.

IAL 598: Special Topics: Religion and Diplomacy, 3 credit hours

Religion matters – to individuals, to international governments, and to diplomacy. An oft-overlooked component of statecraft, religion has an understated influence in international affairs. Failure to understand or even acknowledge its impact on the Diplomatic, Informational, Military, and Economic (DIME) elements of national engagement, is to do so, as renowned strategist Douglas Johnston has asserted, at our peril, or at least to our disadvantage. The purpose of this course is to prepare current and future leaders (diplomatic, military, and political) to respond to religiously-charged situations and to enable students to identify religious elements, analyze the theoretical and practical considerations of religiously challenging circumstances, and derive possible resolutions.

IAL 598 Special Topics: The Holocaust and WWII Today

Students will explore the Holocaust as history, but also the remaining unresolved issues of the Holocaust such as justice and restitution for Holocaust survivors and their families. The importance of remembrance and education about the Holocaust and the lessons of the Holocaust for the future will also be discussed and evaluated and related to other current Genocides anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination, bigotry and hatred and the importance of preventing future reoccurrence of these tragedies.

IAL 598 Special Topics: The Dark Side of Foreign Policy

The United States faces constant, yet dynamic, national security threats at the hands of a myriad of foreign actors. America’s vast national security apparatus must simultaneously protect the nation’s critical infrastructure, its borders and ports of entry, its intellectual property, and its citizens and allies. From al Qaeda and ISIS to Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, America must vigilantly defend itself against terror plots, cyber hacks, nuclear weapons development, and nation state aggression.

Behind many of these international threats are the crimes that fund them or advance their mission. This course explores the nexus between international criminal activity and national security threats to America and its allies. The course will explore the link between international drug trafficking and foreign terrorism, the role of transnational organized crime and corruption in destabilizing governments, the ransomware and cyber hacks increasingly used to disrupt the U.S. economy, and more.  

This course will also provide an overview of the federal and international agencies charged with disrupting these international crimes and the pivotal role this plays in America’s international diplomacy.

IAL 598 Special Topics: International Negotiations – Trust but Verify

Students will learn through and conduct reality-based exercises on how to negotiate cross-cultural international agreements. Learning blocks include how to conduct win-win negotiations, how to understand and navigate cultural differences and messaging, and how to set negotiating goals and measure success. Case studies and scenarios will be exercises from government, business and NGOs.

IAL 598: Security, Peace, and Human Rights in Cyberspace

Ensuring human rights, security, and peace in cyberspace has become particularly pivotal in times of global conflict, attacks on democracy, and global health emergencies. With the United States and the European Union recently joining the Paris Call on Trust and Security in Cyberspace, the issue has been elevated to a key policy priority on both sides of the Atlantic. Negative human rights impacts for users of ICT and populations are exacerbated in challenging environments, such as in conflict zones, the latest being Ukraine. This course examines the human rights responsibilities of ICT companies and digital technology providers as well as public policy formulations in light of evolving international norms to protect human rights, integrity, trust, and peace in cyberspace, such as through the Paris Call and discussions around a Digital Geneva Convention. We have increasingly seen troubling practices in cyberspace with serious off-line impacts that are destabilizing for democracies, global security, and the human rights of marginalized groups and even entire societies, including election interference, targeted misinformation, attacks on critical infrastructure, cyberwarfare, cyber threats to the security of NATO, online incitement of off-line violence, systemic cybersurveillance, internet shutdowns, etc. This course studies the evolving international normative framework and implications for policy formation and the responsibility of ICT companies around these areas of threats. Further, strategies by the public and private sector are being discussed to protect human rights online and prevent off-line harms arising from online conduct especially in conflict zones and high-risk areas, moderate online content inciting violence and human rights violations offline, protect human rights defenders, and responsibly manage government requests for user information and address issues of direct access. The course analyzes these issues from an international and comparative law perspective and addresses them through a multi-stakeholder lens outlining the responsibilities of companies, public policy tools, and multilateral approaches to effectively address the challenges outlined above, including within a NATO context.

IAL 598: Exploring the Complex Realities of the African Continent

Africa is a continent of 54 countries but in the West it is little understood. With hundreds of ethnic groups and languages, followers of most of the world’s religions, and governments ranging from weak, nascent democracies to outright dictatorships, it is a complex area that is young and rapidly growing and in the coming decade will have a significant impact on the rest of the world. Whether that impact is positive or negative will depend on how Africans and the West deal with current issues. This course will look at those issues in an effort to get a better understanding of the diversity and complexity of the African continent and its relationship with the global economy.
IAL 598: Diplomacy Lab: Foreign Policy Research

Under the guidance of an ASU instructor, students in this course will conduct research on a foreign policy issue requested by the U.S. Department of State and will present their findings to State Department officials toward the end of the semester. This course is offered within the framework of the State Department’s Diplomacy Lab project, a public-private partnership that enables the State Department to ‘course-source’ research related to foreign policy challenges by harnessing the efforts of students and faculty experts at colleges and universities across the United States. ASU joined the Diplomacy Lab alliance in August 2022. The research topic for this course will depend on the menu of available projects presented by the State Department. According to the State Department, Diplomacy Lab projects have encompassed a very broad range of topics, including, but not limited to, women’s economic empowerment, sustainable development, human rights, countering violent extremism, global health, and energy security.