Masters in Public and International Affairs (MPIA)

Masters in Public and International Affairs (MPIA) 2017-08-17T17:14:28+00:00

The Masters in Public and International Affairs (MPIA) program focuses on the governance of political, economic, social, and environmental security and risks at the global level.  Combining theory and insights from the policymaking world, the degree draws from the fields of political science, international relations, geography, history, sociology, and economics to provide students with the tools to understand the evolving challenges of globalization on international, national, and local politics.  Students learn to shape creative responses to current global events from a critical and comparative perspective.

Who Should Consider this Degree?

  • Full- or part-time professionals in the Washington DC area
  • Military leaders stationed near Washington DC
  • Recent graduates interested in studying or pursuing a career in international affairs in Washington D.C.

What goals can this degree help you achieve?

  • If you want to progress in your career, but are not sure you have the knowledge or confidence to engage people at the next level
  • If you need a Masters degree to get promoted
  • If you want to understand a bigger picture when it comes to international trends

Short Guide to the Masters in Public and International Affairs

How to Succeed in this Program

These alumni have been where you are now. They know it’s easy to talk yourself out of your dreams. They also know that if you chip away at your goals with the assistance of Virginia Tech, even one course per semester, you will get there. As the saying goes:

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” – Earl Nightingale

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How is the degree structured?

  • 36 credit hour degree open to part-time and full-time students
  • Classes are taught in small seminars and mostly in the evenings
  • Some online classes are available, taught by full-time faculty
  • Students enjoy individualized guidance from their academic advisers
  • Semester Abroad Option
  • Funding Opportunities – scholarships and tuition support are available.
GIA/UAP 5004 Power and Policy in the U.S: This course reviews theories of power before examining studies of power in the United States. Reading classic and contemporary studies, it considers how power structure, relations and conditioning factors shape the exercise of policy within the US state and in its foreign relations.

GIA/UAP 5164 Collaborative Governance & Civil Society: In this course students explore the foundations of collaborative governance and theories of civil society. This foundation includes related concepts such as the public sphere and deliberative democracy and the relationship between these concepts and contemporary labels such as “the third sector,” “the voluntary sector,” and “the nonprofit sector.” Through case studies, students analyze various practices of partnership between these sectors and other actors, such as the government and businesses.

GIA/UAP 5274 Comparative Social Movements: This course examines the emergence and activities of social movements around the world. Social movements are ubiquitous and broad ranging, from movements that advocating more nutritious meals in schools to those demanding the overthrow of governments. The course focuses how and why social movements form, how the interact with governments and global institutions, and why some social movements adopt violence. The class uses broad theories of social change and in depth case studies of individual movements.

GIA/PSCI 5434 Politics of Developing Areas: The course explores the politics of market reforms in emerging markets since the 1980s, diverse paths to economic development that challenge some of the “conventional wisdom” on economic growth prevalent in the 1990s, and new patterns of economic resilience in the world economy. The limitations of growth trajectories common to middle income countries are also analyzed.

GIA/PSCI 5434 International Politics: This courses offers a graduate level survey on the theories of international organizations and relations among nations focusing on research in foreign policy formulation and implementation, international integration, conflict resolution, and global political economy.

GIA/UAP/PAPA 5034 Global Political Economy: The course explores the contemporary history of capitalism since the crash of 1929 to present, highlighting episodes of financial instability in the US and abroad. Case studies of debt and financial crises are explored, including the Asian crisis of 1997, the Argentine crisis of 2001, the US/global credit crisis of 2007-08, and current challenges to the endurance of the Eurozone.

GIA/PSCI 5484 Contemporary American Foreign Policy: This course reviews the societal and cultural sources, the bureaucratic structures that implement, and the personalities that are the key-decision makers in US foreign policy. The course reviews topical themes and policy dilemmas.

GIA/PSCI 5474 Global Governance: In this course students will explore the history and practice of global governance. Readings include political theories that help to explain the relationship between global actors and the nation state, including intergovernmental organizations and nonprofit organizations. Students will examine the norms, institutions and practices developed by the international community to address systemic global governance problems in the context of contemporary case studies.

GIA 5634: Global Social Policy: This course examines the history and practice of national and global welfare regimes since WWII. Students will explore theories of comparative welfare regimes and the emergence of global welfare regimes. Students will apply theories of social rights and human rights to contemporary issues in social policy at a global level and intersections with international development policy.

GIA 5514 Global Security: This course focuses on key themes in global security—the challenge of weak and failing states and the efforts to rebuild them. For over a decade U.S. national security strategists have label weak and failing states as a danger to U.S. interests and global stability, spawning civil wars, terrorism, and mass atrocities. The U.S. has taken on numerous state-building projects, including Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. This class will look at the deeper historical factors that affect the formation of states and the various policy tools available to try to fix them.

GIA 5314 Middle East Geopolitics: This course focuses on issues in international relations in the Middle East, including impact of political geography, emergence of regional system, relationship between identity and citizenship, domestic and transnational political contestation, and U.S. regional policy. It uses theories of social, cultural, and economics change to examine linkage between citizenship, religion, and political authority, particularly in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and the Persian Gulf region.

GIA 5624 Conflict Resolution & Peace Building: This course provides a comprehensive survey to contemporary conflict resolution. It discusses the strategies and approaches for mitigating and resolving conflict and the processes of conflict transformation and importance of reconciliation.

GIA 5404/GEOG 5424 Topics in Political Geography: This course is a graduate introduction to the core concepts of political geography: space/power, territory, borders, geopolitics and geographic imaginations. The course reviews classic and contemporary works that grapple with these questions in the field.

GIA/UAP/PSCI 5254 Global Conflicts: This course is a graduate introduction to the triangle of conflict: state-territory-identity. After reviewing core concepts and literatures, the course examines select topical territorial conflicts for in-depth analysis.

GIA 6114 Critical Geopolitics: This is an advanced seminar examines the foundational texts in critical approaches to geopolitics. Thereafter it examines a series of central themes and topics in critical geopolitics: geopolitical fields, technology and time-space compression, intellectuals and geopolitics, popular geopolitics, practical geopolitics, the role of affect and visuality in geopolitics.

GIA/PSCI 5354: Public Policy Analysis: This course examines the various approaches to policy analysis and program evaluation including the techniques appropriate to specific stages of the policy process. Case studies will focus on national and global security.

GIA 5524 International Development: This course explores the contentious concept of economic “development” as an intellectual paradigm and policy road map. It focuses on some of the main theories in the field, emphasizing the role of ideas in development policy. The goal is to provide students with tools for critical analysis of middle and low-income countries’ persistent challenges in some historical perspective.

GIA 5614: Understanding the Israeli Palestinian Conflict: This course addresses the underlying dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and discusses the critical issues that divide Israel and the Palestinians. It particular, it discusses the various diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the conflict and why a resolution to the conflict has remained so elusive.

GIA 5464 Qualitative Research Methods in Global Studies: This course introduces MPIA, MPA, and Ph.D. students to key topics in qualitative and multi-method social science analysis. The course offers a broad overview of methodological approaches, including causation, hypotheses, and concept formation. It also uses real world examples to teach techniques like interviewing, archival research, ethnography, and combining statistical analysis and case studies.

GIA 5115 Research Methods: This course provides an introduction to research methods and a non-exhaustive description of analytical avenues and parameters in qualitative research in the social sciences. Special attention is given to small-N, comparative case study analyses. Students learn key processes in the effort of designing original and theoretically grounded research projects.

GIA/PSCI 5214 Contemporary Political Theory: This courses focuses on elected topics in contemporary political theory, including different models of social science inquiry and the use of basic concepts like power, ideology, rationality, and the state in the study of politics.

GIA/UAP/PSCI 5504 Discourse Analysis: This online course is a graduate level introduction to the foundational thinkers and the key concepts behind social science discourse analysis theory and methods. The course reviews key works that grapple with discourse and associated notions like affect and gender.

How to Apply

Admission to the Master’s in Public and International Affairs (MPIA) is based on a combination of four criteria:

  • Undergraduate performance (GPA)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose/interest in program
  • Professional background and experience

The Master’s in Public and International Affairs (MPIA) does not have an application deadline but has a ‘rolling admissions’ policy. As a general guideline, applications for Fall Admissions (Fall semester starts in late August) should be filed by 15 July, and applications for Spring admissions (spring semester starts in late January) should be filed by 1 January in order to allow time for review. Applications for Summer admission is 15 April.

A limited number of Graduate Student Assistantships are available year. Students wishing to be considered for one of these assistantships should apply by 15 February.

Students can be admitted to the MPIA degree program in the Fall, Spring, and Summer. However, it is recommended that students enter in the Fall or Spring semesters as our foundational courses are taught face to face during the Fall and Spring semesters

Information Sessions: All Washington D.C. based applicants are encouraged to attend an information session before applying.

  • A GPA average minimum 3.0 in an undergraduate degree is required for admission to the MPIA degree
  • TOEFL minimum 580 or 237 (if electronic) for international students whose first language is not English.
  • GRE scores of at least 1100, verbal and quantitative.

Non-traditional, part-time working professionals can make a case for the GRE to be waived. Applicants wishing to request a waver are encouraged to come to an information session or contact the program director, Prof. Joel Peters to be considered.

If your undergraduate GPA falls below 3.0 you can begin the MPIA program as a non-degree Commonwealth Campus student.  If students perform well in the courses they take, they can build a case for admission into the MPIA degree. You can take up to four courses as a Commonwealth Campus student – for more details see the Test Drive this Degree tab.

Prospective student statement of purpose indicating their areas of interest, professional background and experience (if applicable) and their interest in pursuing a Master’s of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech. They should include a professional resume.

Three letters of recommendation from a mix of former professors and others who have had the opportunity to observe the applicant in a professional capacity.

Graduate Online Application – This is housed on the Graduate School website. It is a centralized application process for all graduate degree programs.

Tuition – A breakdown of costs is available at the Bursar’s Office

Financial Aid Office

Are you uncertain about enrolling in this program but would be interested in trying a class?

Many part-time, non-traditional students begin the MPIA programs as a non-degree Commonwealth Campus student. If students perform well in the courses they take, they can build a case for admission into the MPIA degree.

Students can take up to twelve credit hours (typically four classes) as a non-degree Commonwealth Campus student. And all credits earned are automatically transferred to the student’s transcript should they enroll in the MPIA program.

Commonwealth Campus status is open to an applicant who holds an earned bachelors or higher degree from a regionally accredited U.S. university. International students in F1 or J1 visa status are not eligible for Commonwealth Campus status.

Get info on our non-degree programs

Contact us today!

Please note that International students must have a decision on their applications no later than the following deadlines:

  • For Fall Admissions – 1 April
  • For applications for Spring admissions – 1 September

Please allow plenty of time for the review of your application. Any decisions made after these time frames need to be approved in advance and on a case-by- case basis, by the Graduate School’s International Graduate Student Services staff.  The contact email is

Evidence of English Proficiency: International applicants are exempt from demonstrating English proficiency if they have graduated from an accredited university where English is the language of instruction or if they are U.S. permanent residents (“green card” holders).

International applicants may demonstrate English proficiency by submitting scores from the Test of
English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). A minimum TOEFL score of 550 on the paper-based test (PBT) or 80 on the internet-based
test (iBT) is required for consideration of the application.

International students in F-1 or J-1 status who obtained admission into a degree program are eligible for consideration by the academic departments for assistantships and in-state tuition scholarships.

How this Degree Helped Me Achieve My Goals

Meet our Students

Dawn Cutler

Dawn Cutler

I got my undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech in 2015 studying Political Science with a focus in National Security. I then became one of the first students to attend the University of Kent in Brussels under Virginia Tech’s new Two Capitals, Two Master’s program.

Meet more of our students

Meet our Faculty

Giselle Datz

Giselle Datz

Giselle specializes in the field of global political economy with research interests in sovereign debt restructuring processes, economic policy reform (particularly pension reforms), financial crises and financial development. Her regional focus is on Latin America.

Meet more of our faculty