Princeton School of Public and International Affairs

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Princeton School of Public and International Affairs
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.jpg
Robertson Hall, home to the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs
Parent institution
Princeton University
DeanAmaney Jamal
Academic staff
85 full-time faculty members and approximately 45 visiting professors, lecturers, and practitioners
StudentsApproximately 300 undergraduate students and approximately 190 graduate students
Location, ,
United States

The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs (formerly the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs) is a professional public policy school at Princeton University. The school provides an array of comprehensive coursework in the fields of international development, foreign policy, science and technology, and economics and finance through its undergraduate (AB) degrees, graduate Master of Public Affairs (MPA), Master of Public Policy (MPP), and PhD degrees. From 2012 to 2021, Cecilia Rouse served dean of the Princeton School until her confirmation as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors under the Biden Administration. The school is consistently ranked as one of the best institutions for the study of international relations and public affairs in the country and in the world.[1] Foreign Policy ranks the Princeton School as No. 2 in the world for International Relations at the undergraduate and No. 4 at the graduate level, behind the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.[2]


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,[3] 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.”[4] This phrase serves as the basis for the university's unofficial motto, which was amended in 2016 to "Princeton in the nation's service and in the service of humanity."[5]

In 2015, student protesters forced Princeton to reconsider having the school named after Wilson due to his racist views, of which they disapproved. The Wilson Legacy Review Committee ultimately decided to keep his name attached to the school, noting that, like many other notable figures from American history, Wilson had a "complex legacy of both positive and negative repercussions".[6][7]

On June 26, 2020, following the eruption of George Floyd protests and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Princeton University board of trustees decided to rename the Woodrow Wilson School the "Princeton School of Public and International Affairs,” citing Wilson's "racist thinking and policies [that] make him an inappropriate namesake for a school or college whose scholars, students, and alumni must stand firmly against racism in all its forms."[8][9][10][11] It was also announced that Wilson College, the first of Princeton's six undergraduate residential colleges, will be renamed First College. Woodrow Wilson opposed admitting African-American students to Princeton, and introduced racial segregation into the United States federal civil service as president.[12]


On February 23, 1930, the front page of the Sunday New York Times announced:

Princeton Founds Statesmen’s School – Institution Will Train Youths for Public Life and Will Stress Internationalism – Hoover Hails The Project. De W.C. Poole Quits Diplomatic Service to Be Its Liaison Officer With World Affairs. The establishment of a school of public and international affairs at Princeton University was announced today by President John Grier Hibben in his annual message to the National Alumni Association. The school’s primary purpose is to train young men for public life and to equip them—and others—with a broad sense of "the fundamentals of citizenship."[13]

President Hibben made the announcement in Naussau Hall, "where in 1783 George Washington received the thanks of the Continental Congress for his conduct of the Revolutionary War." De Witt Clinton Poole, a noted foreign service officer and "until recently counselor of the United States Embassy in Berlin" had been the prime advocate for the creation of the school.[13] The next year in August 1931, the Fédération Interalliée des Anciens (FIDAC), the most influential international veterans association of the interwar period (representing nine million allied veterans), chose Princeton to receive its educational medal for promoting world peace and understanding.[13]


Undergraduate program[edit]

The school stresses a multidisciplinary approach to policy studies with undergraduate students at the Princeton School taking courses in at least four disciplines including economics, history, politics, psychology, sociology, and science policy. [14] 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.[15] Students are also allowed to work towards certificates in an array of fields, including Global Health and Health Policy, Urban Studies, and the History and the Practice of Diplomacy.

Master's degrees[edit]

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. Through the graduate policy workshops, students conduct field-based research and present their research and recommendations to clients. Students also develop analytical and quantitative skills through coursework emphasizing the political, economic, and behavioral aspects of complex policy issues. MPA candidates may select one of four fields of concentration:

The one-year MPP program is designed for mid-career professionals, PhD research scientists, lawyers, and physicians who are involved in international and domestic public policy.

Doctoral degrees[edit]

The PhD 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.[16] 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.[17] In addition to the MPA, MPP and PhD degrees,[18] the school offers a four-year MPA/J.D. program, and has formal joint degree arrangements with law schools at Columbia University,[19] New York University[20] and Stanford University.[21] Students often refer to the Princeton School by its colloquial abbreviation, "SPIA". The school also offers a joint degree program (JDP) in social policy, allowing students to take courses in the departments of politics, psychology, sociology, and economics.

Robertson Hall[edit]

Robertson Hall with James FitzGerald's Fountain of Freedom in the foreground

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 New York's original World Trade Center.[22] To the north of the building is James FitzGerald's Fountain of Freedom (1966).[23] "Before construction could begin [on Robertson], the building that had housed the School since 1952, then called Woodrow Wilson School Annex, had to be relocated."[13] In May after two months of preparation, "the 3-story, L-shaped, 7,000,000-pound building was moved 296 feet in 12 hours by 38 men and 9 hydraulic jacks..."[13] The Annex, renamed Corwin Hall, subsequently housed the department of political science and Center of International Studies. The new structure, completed in the fall of 1965, was originally named Woodrow Wilson Hall, but was "renamed Robertson Hall in 1988 to honor its benefactors” and as President Goheen characterized upon its completion, was "a fit embodiment and expression of the high aspiration we hold for the [SPIA]."[13]

In approximately 2005, the SPIA established the Bernstein Gallery in Robertson Hall. The gallery “presents art exhibitions to stimulate thinking about contemporary policy issues and to enable understanding the world beyond the power of words. Each year, six curated shows are presented… and…are complemented by …panel discussions with experts from Princeton University, the School and outside organizations." The exhibits are "…Integrated with the School’s multidisciplinary approach…to enhance the impact of the course curriculum and to deepen people’s commitment to the ideals of public service."[24] A retrospective of political art was held in 2017.[25] The lower level lobby and gallery are named for Marver Bernstein, SPIA's first dean[26] and his wife, Sheva. Bernstein participated in Robertson's architectural selection process and his wife, and interior designer, participated in its mid-century modern interior.[citation needed]

In 2012,[27] the Princeton University Art Museum announced the installation of the “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” exhibit by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei[28] on Scudder Plaza.

In 2019–2020 Robertson Hall underwent a major renovation of its "offices, work areas, and gathering spaces" to provide more open, collaborative spaces. The exterior, auditorium, and lower-level classrooms were largely unchanged.[29][30]

Centers and programs[edit]

The Princeton School has 19 unique centers and programs:[31]

  • Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing (CRCW)
  • Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies (CACPS)
  • Center for Health and Wellbeing (CHW)
  • Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP)
  • Center for International Security Studies (CISS)
  • Center for the Study of Democratic Politics (CSDP)
  • China and the World Program (CWP)
  • Education Research Section (ERS)
  • Innovations for Successful Societies (Institutions for Fragile States)
  • Julis-Rabinowitz Center for Public Policy and Finance (JRC)
  • Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination (LISD)
  • Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance (NCGG)
  • Office of Population Research (OPR)
  • Princeton Survey Research Center (SRC)
  • Program in Law and Public Affairs (LAPA)
  • Program in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (STEP)
  • Program on Science and Global Security (SGS)
  • Research Program in Development Studies (RPDS)
  • Research Program in Political Economy (RPPE)

PolicyNet is a network of prominent public policy schools around the world, founded in 2005 as a joint venture between the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Centre for International Governance Innovation for interaction and collaboration on issues of common interest, curricular programs, joint research projects and other activities.

The school is a full member of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA), a group of schools of public policy, public administration, and international studies.[citation needed]

Notable alumni[edit]


Nearly all full-time Princeton 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, a university president,[32] and former ambassadors.[33] Nobel Laureates include Angus Deaton, Daniel Kahneman, Paul Krugman, and Arthur Lewis.


In July 2002, dissenting family members of the Robertson Foundation board, which was established initially by a $35 million gift in 1961, filed suit seeking to more narrowly focus the SPIA curriculum on training for careers in government and public service vs. Princeton's broader conception of "public affairs" which “embraces some non-government activities, for example, certain types of work in journalism, in private foundations, and in business, labor and consumer organizations."[34]


  1. ^ "International Affairs Grad School Guide" (PDF). Foreign Policy Association.
  2. ^ "The Best International Relations Schools in the World". Foreign Policy.
  3. ^ "Princeton Timeline".
  4. ^ "Princeton in the Nation's Service".
  5. ^ "Our History".
  6. ^ Hannon, Elliot (April 4, 2016). "Princeton Decides to Keep Woodrow Wilson's Name on Campus Buildings Despite Racist Past". Slate.
  7. ^ Markovich, Alexandra (April 4, 2016). "Princeton Board Votes to Keep Woodrow Wilson's Name on Campus Buildings". New York Times.
  8. ^ "U. renames Woodrow Wilson School and Wilson College". The Princetonian. Retrieved 2020-06-27.
  9. ^ "President Eisgruber's message to community on removal of Woodrow Wilson name from public policy school and Wilson College". Princeton University. Retrieved 2020-06-27.
  10. ^ "Board of Trustees' decision on removing Woodrow Wilson's name from public policy school and residential college". Princeton University. Retrieved 2020-06-27.
  11. ^ Pietsch, Bryan (2020-06-27). "Princeton Will Remove Woodrow Wilson's Name From School". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-06-27.
  12. ^ Princeton To Remove Woodrow Wilson's Name From Public Policy School
  13. ^ a b c d e f Gellman, Barton; English, Beth (2005). In the Nation’s Service, Seventy-Five Years at the Woodrow Wilson School. Woodrow Wilson School of and International Affairs. ISBN 0-9773544-0-7.
  14. ^ "Undergraduate Academics".
  15. ^ "Policy Task Forces".
  16. ^ "Graduate Academics".
  17. ^ "Programs".
  18. ^ "Joint MPA/JD".
  19. ^ "Joint Degree Programs". Columbia Law School.
  20. ^ "Dual Degree with Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University". NYU Law.
  21. ^ "Overview of Joint Degree and Cooperative Programs". Stanford Law School.
  22. ^ Zielenziger, David. "Miss The World Trade Center? Princeton's Robertson Hall Remains Reminder". International Business Times.
  23. ^ "Fountain of Freedom". Campus Art at Princeton. Princeton Art Museum. Retrieved 11 August 2016.
  24. ^ "Bernstein Gallery". Retrieved 27 October 2020.
  25. ^ "Bernstein Gallery Retrospective: 15 Years of Political Art". Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. 12 Feb 2017. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  26. ^ "Marver Hillel Bernstein". Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  27. ^ "Welcome to Ai Weiwei at Princeton".
  28. ^ "Ai Weiwei - Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads".
  29. ^ Shevin, Zachary (15 Dec 2020). "Here's what happened at the last CPUC meeting of 2020". Daily Princetonian. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  30. ^ "Robertson Hall Renovations Begin". Princeton Alumni Weekly. 6 March 2021. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  31. ^ "Centers and Programs".
  32. ^ Marver H. Bernstein, first Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School and 4th president of Brandeis University
  33. ^ "Faculty & Research".
  34. ^ "Robertson Foundation lawsuit Q&A". Princeton University News. 26 March 2007. Retrieved 30 March 2020.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°20′54″N 74°39′17″W / 40.34835°N 74.65467°W / 40.34835; -74.65467