In 1930, Princeton University established the School of Public and International Affairs, which was originally meant to serve as an interdisciplinary program for undergraduate students in Princeton’s liberal arts college. In 1948, the School added a graduate professional program and was renamed to honor Woodrow Wilson, who was the 13th president of the University, governor of New Jersey and the 28th president of the United States. In two of Wilson’s speeches at the University – first during its 150th anniversary celebration in 1896 and again at his inauguration as the University’s president in 1902 – he mentioned “Princeton in the nation’s service.” This was then expanded in the 1990s by then-President Harold T. Shapiro to “Princeton in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.” This phrase serves as the School’s unofficial motto.
The School stresses a multidisciplinary approach to policy studies, which includes a focus on politics, economics, sociology, psychology, physics, molecular biology, geosciences and health. Undergraduate students at the Wilson School take courses in at least four disciplines including economics, history, politics, psychology, sociology and science. In their junior year, students must enroll in and complete a Policy Task Force, which addresses a specific public policy issue. Students conduct research, propose recommendations and issue final reports. The two-year MPA program prepares students for international and domestic policy careers. All second-year MPA students must complete a Policy Workshop, which emphasizes policy implementation. Students conduct field-based research and present their research and recommendations to clients. The one-year MPP program is designed for mid-career professionals, Ph.D. research scientists, lawyers and physicians who are involved in international and domestic public policy. The Ph.D. in Public Affairs focuses on two research areas: security studies, and science, technology and environmental policy. The School works with other departments at the University to offer a Joint Degree Program that combines work in a social science with a multidisciplinary perspective on economics problems. Graduate students also have the opportunity to pursue certificates in demography; health and health policy; science, technology and environmental policy; and urban policy/urban policy and planning. In addition to the MPA, MPP and Ph.D. degrees, the School offers a four-year MPA/J.D. program, and has formal joint degree arrangements with law schools at Columbia University,New York University and Stanford University.
In 1961, Charles ’26 and Marie Robertson provided a gift to expand the graduate school. Their gift funded the construction of the School’s current home, designed by Minoru Yamasaki, who also designed the World Trade Center. In 2012, the Princeton University Art Museum announced the installation of the “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” exhibit by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei on Scudder Plaza.
Nearly all full-time Woodrow Wilson School faculty members have dual appointments with other departments at the University. The School also has visiting professors, lecturers and practitioners from the world of public and international affairs that teach. Faculty members at the School include Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners and former ambassadors.