Penn State School of International Affairs Strategic Plan


Our mission is to provide graduate students with an exceptional education in international affairs in order to prepare them for careers and leadership positions in both the private and public sectors. The School of International Affairs fulfills this mission through a flexible, innovative, interdisciplinary graduate degree program taught by elite faculty; experiential learning, including internship and education abroad opportunities. 


Penn State SIA will be one of the world’s preeminent international affairs programs by creating informed, independent thinkers and concerned, responsible citizens to be a well-prepared cadre of professionals ready to help the world adapt and prosper. Our graduates and faculty will make significant, global contributions through cutting edge, engaged research, innovative, experiential teaching, customizable curricula, relevant outreach and professional service.

Our graduates will be equipped with the knowledge, skills and values the world needs to adapt to the current international affairs’ challenges, such as climate change and a global pandemic, and future ones not yet identified. The School will offer a welcoming, multinational, inclusive and individually adaptable learning environment for a diverse student body. The School will conduct cutting-edge research on a wide array of global and international affairs issues with a specific focus on interdisciplinary approaches to sustainability. In order to amplify the impact of its contribution to global sustainability, peace and professionalism in international affairs, SIA will cultivate a network of collaboration on Penn State campuses, nationally and globally. We will maintain a lifelong commitment to the careers of our students.


GOAL 1: SIA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 

Foster, develop and implement a welcoming, diverse and inclusive environment that promotes social equity and challenges institutional racism in all its forms.

  • Diversity and Inclusion Training: Integrate regular diversity and inclusion training programs for faculty, staff, and students.
  • Update Curriculum Emphasizing Specific Topics: Identify opportunities for increasing courses focused on social justice, human rights, ethics, and inclusion in the curriculum.
  • Expand Diversity Scholarships and Fundraising Initiatives: Develop processes and procedures that facilitate an environment to financially support students whose backgrounds contribute to the diversity of the Penn State communit.  

GOAL 2: World Class International Affairs Education 

SIA seeks to draw both on its outstanding core faculty as well as affiliate faculty, alumni, and resources from throughout Penn State to provide SIA students with a world-class, professional, international affairs education that prepares students for success in the fast-changing environment of international affairs career opportunities. This educational experience includes innovative and experiential courses that are relevant to professional success in international affairs careers.

  • Curriculum Assessment: Ensure that there is an understanding of the types of skills and nimbleness necessary to respond proactively to the challenges of a rapidly changing globalized world. If there is more information needed for this, SIA will survey potential employers and alumni about skills most desired in our graduates. Based on this perspective, SIA will review and assess its curriculum, especially the required core classes, to ensure that our educational offering enhances students’ employability, and develop these necessary skills. 
  • Innovative and Experiential Instruction: Foster innovative and experiential class instruction, especially in the required core classes, to prepare students for current and emerging professional needs of the international affairs employment market. Align Capstone opportunities and modalities with learning objectives of core classes, and requirements (such as, internships, participation in leadership roles) for professional success.
  • Expand Globally Relevant and Customizable Programs: Provide greater opportunities to match student interests, the professional needs of the global workplace, and the resources of SIA, Penn State and other sources to create relevant subject-matter programmatic offerings and continue to offer seamlessly student-driven customizable programmatic opportunities.
  • Create an International Affairs Doctoral Minor: Provide educational mechanism to globalize doctoral students’ pursuit of a PhD in other units.

GOAL 3: Academic Focus 

Strengthen research and teaching areas that address critical areas of global concern today and moving forward, when possible in collaboration with units and programs across campus.

  • Global Sustainability Faculty: SIA will complement Penn State’s impressive strengths in faculty research on issues regarding sustainability, climate change, and the environment with faculty strength in the School of International Affairs on Global Sustainability Policy. Faculty hires may be both collaborative between SIA and other units or housed exclusively within SIA. New faculty will both have research interests and approaches that connect to current SIA and to Penn State faculty research areas in sustainability, climate change and the environment as well as representing new areas of exploration.
  • Middle East Area Faculty: The Middle East is especially critical to a number of important SIA and Penn State areas of research and teaching, such as energy policy, international and national security, and cultural and religious understanding. SIA is interested in strengthening its faculty with research and teaching interests on the Middle East. The area and its related topics are also of strong interest to SIA students, frequently exceeding classroom capacity and available offerings.
  • Human Rights Area Faculty: The area of Human Rights is especially critical to a number of important SIA and Penn State areas of research and teaching, such as immigration, international and national security, and cultural and religious understanding. This area also reflects SIA’s commitment to DEI principals. SIA is interested in strengthening its faculty with research and teaching interests on Human Rights. The area and its related topics are also of strong interest to SIA students, frequently exceeding classroom capacity and available offerings.
  • Africa Topics and International Security Faculty: SIA will preserve its strengths in Africa and international security through continuing to make collaborative hires, in partnership with Center for Security Research and Education (CSRE) and other units on campus, and replacement hiring for any faculty losses.
  • International Business Area Faculty: SIA students and faculty have expressed a strong interest in expanding the School’s capacity in international business. In addition, Smeal College of Business has agreed to a 25% collaborative hire with a faculty member. We plan to renew the failed business search (2019-20) conducted jointly with SMEAL in international business to hire a tenure-stream international business faculty member.
  • Improve the SIA Scholarship Space: SIA seeks to create an increasingly robust, interactive scholarship environment that encourages faculty research excellence and student research engagement.

GOAL 4: Collaborations 

Develop collaborations both within PSU and beyond.

  • Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate (IUG) Degree Programs: Review the entire IUG process and expand the number of IUG programs available to Penn State students and expand in a variety of areas strategically designed to enhance students’ professional success.
  • Joint Programs: Create joint programs in a variety of areas strategically designed to enhance students' professional success. In particular, develop innovative programs that enhance Penn State’s engagement with global sustainability policy and global human rights.

GOAL 5: Enhance Development and Alumni Efforts 

Develop a robust set of programmatic, networking and initiatives to engage SIA alumni globally, incentivize their active support of students and School initiatives, and identify and cultivate prospective donors. Adapt core curriculum to increase attractiveness of SIA graduates to potential employers.

  • Alumni Mentoring Network: Identify and recruit alumni willing to serve as mentors to current students, ensuring a sufficiently diverse (demographically, professionally, nationally) group of mentors to be able to support needs of a similarly diverse student body.
  • Launch SIA Affiliate Program Group: Build alumni awareness of opportunity to network with fellow SIA alumni, within the institutional structure of the SIA Affiliate Program Group, supported by the Penn State Alumni Association.
  • Fundraising and Board of Advisors: SIA will build fundraising from private donors, corporations, and foundations to assist with scholarships and student support, and continue to build its Board of Advisors and Alumni Society Board.

Goal 6: Expand Online Course Offerings: 

Upon completion, the SIA MIA Degree program will be offered online. SIA currently has two core courses and two electives available through World Campus, which if approved by World Campus, allows a student to obtain a graduate certificate in International Affairs. SIA will develop and offer four additional core courses required in the MIA degree to provide access to all six of the School’s core courses online, allowing students to complete their MIA with SIA and PSU online electives.

  • Add Four Core Online Courses: Identify funding to add four core courses. Commit faculty member to create course material.

 Penn State Strategic Plan