Program Overview

10 Things To Know About MAAIS

1. What is “Applied International Studies”?

Applied International Studies is the perfect blend of theory and practice we are consistently striving to achieve. It is a curriculum that blends the teaching of expert Jackson School faculty with training and insights from skilled practitioners of international security, diplomacy, law, development and business. It is an experience that combines the best of a traditional graduate education – research, critical thinking, analysis, debate – with the professional skills you need to succeed in the international workplace, such as presentation, policy writing, media training, negotiation, and crisis management. It is coursework that links the past to the present, historical lessons learned to the global challenges of today, and the University of Washington to Seattle’s remarkable community of international affairs leaders.

2. What makes MAAIS distinct from other programs?

Seattle sits on the westernmost edge of the United States, far from the historical U.S. power centers of New York and Washington, DC. Yet here on the west coast, we have a unique blend of pioneers, innovators, and rebels. We see the world differently. The MAAIS program draws on that perspective and takes a multidisciplinary approach to understanding the international affairs landscape. The international affairs arena is changing, reflecting shifting economic, political, and societal influences. Diplomats are no longer the sole representatives of their nation abroad. There is an expanding community of stakeholders outside of government now engaged in finding solutions to pressing global challenges. To be effective, international affairs leaders must understand what is happening outside of their industries and organizations. They must be comfortable at the intersections of government, the military, business and civil society. Seattle, home to leading multinationals, NGOs, Foundations and the U.S. Military, is a microcosm of the larger changes at work in the world today. It is from that vantage point that the MAAIS experience begins. The MAAIS curriculum gives students a solid understanding of this rapidly changing world and a multidisciplinary perspective on the pressing challenges facing international affairs practitioners today.

3. Why study in Seattle?

The city of Seattle is a thriving center of business and culture located on the Pacific Rim with deep historical ties to Asia. The joint ports of Seattle and Tacoma represent the third-largest port system in North America, and Washington State is a top trading partner for countries around the world. Our region is home to major multinational corporations, including Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks. We also host a number of influential philanthropic organizations, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private foundation in the world. The area boasts a robust nonprofit community, including the headquarters of World Vision, and PATH, a leader in global health. Finally, the Pacific Northwest features a strong military presence that includes the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.

Seattle is also exquisitely beautiful. We have snow-capped mountains and water views in every direction. Our students enjoy easy access to ski slopes, lakes and sailing opportunities, the wild beaches and rugged coastline of the Pacific Ocean, and a generally laid back, outdoorsy atmosphere. We are also home to countless local coffee roasteries, an added benefit for students in need of a caffeine fix.

The MAAIS program at the University of Washington is the only accelerated (one year or less) masters’ program in international studies/affairs set in the American Pacific Northwest. We are one of only two programs on the west coast of the United States within the APSIA (Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs) network.

4. How Do MAAIS students engage with the Seattle community?

A distinct feature of our program is the MAAIS Civic Council, made up of corporate, non-governmental, political and security sector figures from companies and organizations across the Pacific Northwest directly influencing global policy and decision-making. Civic Council members bring their expertise and diverse perspectives to the MAAIS program through special lectures, field visits, simulations and client projects. This collaboration offers significant networking and job search opportunities and helps our students stay current and develop valuable skills. Learn more about the Civic Council here.

5. Can I work and study at the same time?

The MAAIS program is designed to meet the needs of global mid-career professionals. We offer two options: a 10-month program as well as a less intensive two-year option. All MAAIS courses take place Monday-Friday during regular working hours, with a limited number of additional activities scheduled on evenings and weekends. If you plan to work in any capacity while studying you will need flexibility in your schedule. If you plan to work full-time while studying, we recommend the two-year option.

6. What kind of courses will I take?

The MAAIS program draws on the UW Jackson School’s strengths – world-class faculty and a commitment to interdisciplinary and comparative teaching on the world’s regions, cultures and languages. It is important to note that there is no definitive lens through which our faculty understand global complexity. MAAIS professors are drawn from, and indeed draw upon, diverse disciplines, including sociology, anthropology, economics, history, government, and political science. Their courses are complemented with courses taught by leading Seattle-area practitioners working in diplomacy, law, business, advocacy, and many other professions.

The MAAIS curriculum changes every year in order to remain relevant and tackle topics both in the news and on the horizon. Over the course of the program, MAAIS students gain an understanding of the driving political, economic, cultural and historical forces around the globe, from Asia to the Arctic. You may take courses on the foundations of the world order, US foreign policy, negotiation, contemporary Asia, international humanitarian law and the use of force, international development, technology and society, human security, energy, migration, and more. Our current course schedule is found here.

7. Is there a final MAAIS project or thesis?

The MAAIS program provides two unique capstone experiences. The Applied Research Client Project (ARCP) takes place during spring and summer quarters. Students work in teams to tackle real-world challenges facing organizations with a local presence, such as Boeing, Starbucks, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Mercy Corps. The ARCP allows students the opportunity to “try out” a new sector, or tackle an issue they have never confronted in their own careers. The experience also serves to build strong relationships between our students and our Civic Council partners, as well as the subject matter experts we hire to advise each team.

MAAIS students also participate in an International Strategic Crisis Negotiation Exercise, delivered in collaboration with the Army War College. Each year, the MAAIS program and the U.S. Army War College team select a real-world crisis scenario to role-play, which is negotiated over an intense two-day period. Students from across the University of Washington are invited to enroll and participate. Participants role-play members of diplomatic teams charged by their governments with negotiating a solution advantageous to their national interests. A senior government official is brought in to mediate the discussions, and each team is coached by a high-level mentor, typically a member of the UW faculty or an invited subject matter expert drawn from the business, government, or military sector. In advance of the 2-day exercise, students receive background briefings on the conflict, as well as workshops on negotiation, crisis leadership, and decision-making.

8. Who is a typical MAAIS student?

All of our students have been working for at least five years and are looking for their next challenge. Some of our students seek a master’s degree in order to advance in their current field; others are working toward a career transition. All of our students have an interest in engaging in the world and making an impact. They come to us from all sectors – public and military service, business, philanthropy, nonprofit and civil society organizations, and far beyond. The average age of a MAAIS student is early to mid-thirties, though the range is typically anywhere from late twenties to early fifties. Geographically, up to half of our students call Washington State home. The other half of our students is drawn from across the United States and around the world.

9. How do you evaluate applications and who is eligible to apply?

Each year we seek to build a cohort of students who will learn from, and challenge, one another. Our application process is holistic, meaning one element is not weighted more or less heavily than another. We look for students with a history of strong academic performance and individuals with diverse personal and professional backgrounds who will bring a significant and unique perspective to the MAAIS program.

10. What do MAAIS alum go after they graduate?

Everywhere. Given the multidisciplinary nature of the MAAIS program, our alumni spread out in all directions. From a geographic perspective, many stay in Seattle, while others head out across the United States and around the world. In terms of professional opportunities, our alumni go back to work in all sectors – public and military service, business, philanthropy, nonprofit and civil society organizations, and far beyond. Check out a few of our alum hard at work changing the world.