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Master of Arts in International Relations

Special Features

Academic and Professional Blend

The USD MAIR program mixes academic and professional instruction in an effort to connect theory and practice, both substantively and pedagogically.  Our classic academic seminars survey the rich theoretical traditions in international relations and comparative politics, while our professional seminars and workshops focus on empirical and policy challenges.  The research design short course adds a methodological component to the academic side of the program, while our short course workshops and some of our semester long seminars (not to mention our international courses) bring accomplished professionals into the program.  Academic courses often require literature reviews and research papers; some of the professional courses emphasize position papers and presentations.   Our academic seminars are normally offered by the permanent faculty in the department, all with PhDs from distinguished universities.  Our professional courses are typically led by guests from outside the university; we have recently offered courses with accomplished professionals like Aboubakr Jamai, a Moroccan journalist and recipient of the International Press Freedom award; Rodrigo Villamizar, former Minister of Energy of Colombia; Pete Nunez, former US Attorney and Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement; Feroz Khan, former Pakistani General; Barbara Tato and Michael Turner, both formerly with the CIA; and Michael Dobbs, former SSBN commander in the US Navy. 

Customized and Flexible Curriculum

Students design their own curriculum.  They select seventy percent (21 of 30 units) of their coursework.  The only specified course requirements in the program are the two seminars on IR Theory and Comparative Politics (both 3.0 unit courses) and the two short courses on Research Design and Capstone (both 1.5 unit courses.)  There are generic ceilings for types of courses (6 units of travel courses, 6 units of electives, 6 units of transfer units), but even these ceilings can sometimes be waived if there is a sound basis to make an exception corresponding to the student's programmatic design.  Students also proceed through the program at their own pace; part time students can complete the program in slow motion over two or three years, full time students can comfortably complete the program in sixteen months (three semesters), and students can fast track the program in twelve months if they begin in January or June and are totally devoted to their program of study.  Students are also welcome to incorporate an independent study into their agenda provided they meet certain academic requirements (3.5 GPA, 15 units completed, and a written prospectus/syllabus approved by a faculty member and the program director.)

Small Seminars

USD believes that close and personal faculty student interaction is fundamental to educational success at any level of sophistication.  Our courses are all organized in seminar or semi-seminar format; we do not offer on line instruction.  The normal maximum size of our seminars is 18 students; while there are occasional spillovers depending on the specific course and overall enrollment in the program, they are typically sized between 10 and 15 students and organized in roundtable format; (undergraduate courses typically have a maximum of 30 students, and many courses in the USD professional schools also have larger class sizes.)  MAIR program instructors are responsible for all grading; there are no intermediaries or teaching assistants. 

Travel Courses

Our international relations program is global in substance and sometimes in  venue as well.  We regularly offer courses overseas at roughly the same price as courses on campus (although students normally pay for their international airfare.)    Programming costs (hotels, some meals, local transportation, honoraria for local experts, etc.) are accommodated by the university's willingness to offer significant reductions in tuition for international courses because of our commitment to global competence and responsibility.  Sometimes, international travel airfares are subsidized for students who can accept modest tuition scholarships.  Over the past few years, we have offered courses or course segments in Paris, Brussels, Vienna, Bucharest, Prague, Istanbul, Madrid, and Istanbul, and have planned opportunities in China, Morocco, Mexico, and India. 

Evening Programming 

We schedule nearly all of our courses to begin at 530 pm and meet once a week Monday through Thursday to accommodate our students who have day jobs.  Around half our students have already begun their careers and are taking courses part time.  Some courses, like special workshops, are organized with 400 pm start times or on Fridays and Saturdays to avoid scheduling conflicts with other MAIR courses.  MAIR travel courses are organized in five to nine (1.5 unit) to eighteen (3.0 unit) continuous day blocks, again to minimize interference with professional constraints.   Electives outside the department are unfortunately sometimes organized by their programs during the day and are therefore only realistic for our full time students. 

Rolling Admissions

Students can enter the program in the Fall (first week of September), Spring (last week of January), or Summer (anytime according to course schedule.)  Applicants should complete their applications (including submission of GRE scores) two months before their entry date to assure time for review, decision, processing, and admission; applicants with financial need should respect the FAFSA deadlines which are typically in the Spring for Fall consideration and in the Fall for Spring consideration.  Please note that summer sessions operate under different financial aid guidelines; in particular, graduate grants from the financial aid office are not available during intersession and summer sessions.

Affiliated Programs

USD has professional schools in Peace and Justice, Business, and Law (in addition to graduate programs like History within the College of Arts and Sciences where the MAIR program is situated.)  MAIR students are welcome and indeed encouraged to take up six units of electives from these affiliated programs on campus.  Permission from both program directors is required but normally routine.  See the electives page on the website for a list of the electives that are suitable for the MAIR program in the current and/or upcoming semesters. 

Scholarships, Grants, and Loans

Tuition for the MAIR program runs 1310 dollars per unit (2013-2014 academic year) so that the total program cost runs around 39,000 dollars.   MAIR students can seek various sources of financial support, both in grants and in loans.  The department offers dean merit scholarships to all students based on outstanding academic achievement running several thousand dollars per award.  The financial aid office, in conjunction with the federal government, can award grants of 325 dollars per unit subject to financial eligibility (determined by USD on the basis of a FAFSA submission, and subject to enrollment in at least six units per semester.)  These graduate grants could total as much as 10,000 dollars over the course of the MAIR program.  International students can receive dean merit money but not graduate grant money; graduate grants are available during the academic year but not during inter or summer sessions.  Military students, both active duty and retired, automatically receive a 15 per cent tuition scholarship from the university, in addition to their educational benefits such as the GI Bill, Yellow Ribbon, GEV, from the government. 

Military Benefits

USD has a close relationship with the military, especially the Navy and Marine Corps communities, with a ROTC located on campus in Camino Hall and a tuition scholarship for military students that reduces the normal rate by 15 per cent and is thereby worth around 6000 dollars over the course of the 30 unit program.  The MAIR program offers several courses on international security and intelligence, accepts up to nine transfer units from the Naval War College program (assuming those courses did not count for a separate degree), and typically has an enrollment that is around 25 to 33 per cent military (active duty and retired.) 

Career Outcomes

The MAIR program is predicated on the dual reality that attractive professional opportunities more and more require postgraduate degrees and that international careers more and more require political sophistication.   A look at some of our alumni profiles will demonstrate the career paths that have been enabled by the program and pursued by our students, including careers in the government, in the military, in academia, in foreign countries, and in the nonprofit and corporate sectors.