The Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS) at Georgetown University in Washington is world renowned as an institute of higher education in international affairs and the art of diplomacy. Although it’s a private entity and not a public institution, the SFS is considered by many to be to the State Department what the Military Academy at West Point is to the Army. A high percentage of SFS graduates go on to serve in the U.S. Foreign Service and many have become notable American statesmen and diplomats.
The SFSwas founded in 1919 in response to the involvement of the United States in the First World War, at which time the country assumed a more prominent role in world affairs. The establishment of a program at Georgetowndedicated to educating students on global issues and preparing them for lives of service in foreign affairs reflected the University’s Jesuit heritage, with its emphasis on multicultural understanding, and its origins as an institution of the American Enlightenment, dedicated to human rights and the education of citizens.
The SFS undergraduate program features a rigorous core curriculum that includes a freshman seminar, two philosophy courses, two theology courses, two humanities and writing courses, two government courses, two courses in engaging diversity, three history courses, a four-course macroeconomics sequence, and a highly regarded geopolitics course called Map of the Modern World. To graduate, students must attain proficiency in at least one modern foreign language, demonstrated by passing an oral exam.
Following completion of the core, students elect to focus on one of the following majors: Culture and Politics, Global Business, International Economics, World History, International Political Economy, International Politics, Regional Studies, Comparative Studies, Science, Technology, and International Affairs.
Students may also obtain certificationin programs including African Studies, Arab Studies, Asian Studies, Australian and New Zealand Studies, German Studies, European Studies, International Business Diplomacy, International Development, Muslim-Christian Understanding, Jewish Civilization, Justice and Peace Studies, Latin American Studies, Medieval Studies, Russian and Eastern European Studies, Social and Political Thought, and Women’s and Gender Studies.
There are other excellent foreign affairs programs at the undergraduate level at a number of American universities, including public institutions such as the University of Virginia at Charlottesville and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. However, there are unique aspects to the SFS at Georgetown that make it worth considering for those high-achieving high school students who set a course for a career in foreign service. They are described below:
- SFS is attended only by students focusing on foreign affairs and diplomacy. Due to this critical mass of interested students, SFS can offer in-depth courses that other schools cannot.
- SFS benefits from its location in Washington. Opportunities for summer and part-time internships in foreign affairs are plentiful.
- Career opportunities for graduates are also more plentiful in the Washington area than elsewhere. The international affairs community is aware of the quality of SFS graduates regarding their knowledge of foreign affairs and diplomacy. Such organizations more readily hire SFS graduates.
- SFS foreign language classes are designed to make the student fluent rather than just able to read and write the language. They also teach colloquial speech and culture. Each major language has a progressive set of classes that lead to the desired level of fluency.
- SFS alumni are dispersed all through the international relations field. The contacts that students make as undergraduates can pay dividends throughout their careers.
Enthusiasm for a diplomatic career has had cause to wane in light of the policies of the current administration, which has reduced force at the State Department and de-emphasized the role of American diplomacy in the world. Nevertheless, it appears that interested students are taking a long term view of career opportunities in the U.S. Foreign Service. Even as new hiring for the State Department has declined, applications to the SFS undergraduate program have grown. Last year’s application pool was the school’s largest ever, and marked the largest annual increase in both early and regular applicants.
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