In the mid-1970s, deans and directors from leading schools of international affairs began to discuss informally how they could better prepare students for professional careers in the field. Admissions and career officers similarly began to work together to explain the value of a graduate degree in international affairs to prospective students, employers, and the public.
Then, a grant from the Exxon Education Foundation helped these schools come together to compare curricula. They evaluated how each program approached international affairs education, particularly the role of history
In 1987, Robert F. Goheen, former president of Princeton and former U.S Ambassador to India, conducted a comparative study, Education in U.S. Schools of International Affairs, to facilitate the exchange of “practice, experience, and thought” among professional schools of international affairs based in the United States.
After comparing each school’s curriculum, mission, overseas relations, and other factors, Ambassador Goheen developed a list of recommendations for the schools. He concluded that they could be more effective in achieving their shared goals if they became a “true organization.”
Following Goheen’s recommendations, an APSIA Council formed among the deans. They elected Jeswald Salacuse of Tufts University as APSIA’s first President. On April 13, 1989, they incorporated as a non-profit organization. On April 1, 1990, APSIA hired Kay King as its first Executive Director. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace offered APSIA office space to begin operations.
In the early 1990s, generous grants by the Pew Charitable Trusts, Exxon Education Foundation, U.S. Institute of Peace, Hewlett Foundation, Rockefeller Family, and the Ford Foundation – as well as investments from its now 14 members – enabled APSIA to expand its work strengthening and promoting international affairs education.
As APSIA evolved, the world changed as well. With the end of the Cold War, APSIA members needed help to adapt to a rapidly changing international context.
In 1991, APSIA launched two major projects: the first enabled American and Russian diplomats, professors, and students to study, teach, and research at each other’s institutions. Through this exchange, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs admitted Americans to its educational institutions for the first time. Second, APSIA helped to improve Eastern European institutions of international affairs. From 1991-1993, an APSIA project provided advice on curriculum development, library resources, and personnel assessment to academic organizations in in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland.
Following the success of its endeavors in Russia and Eastern Europe, APSIA turned its attention back to the United States. APSIA began to analyze how its member schools could best adapt their programs to a post-Cold War world. Funded by the Ford Foundation, the project brought together experts and professionals for symposia across the United States to discuss how to modify graduate-level programs. In addition, the effort sought to expand and diversify the network of people involved in international affairs education.
APSIA members also sought ways to adapt their programs to new sectors of interest. By the mid-1990s, both practitioners and students had developed an increasing interest in teaching conflict resolution and international development on the graduate level. To adapt to these changes and with the support of the U.S. Institute of Peace, APSIA reviewed conflict resolution programs in its member schools and helped members consider the evolving use of both practitioners and scholars as professors.
As the world entered a new millennium, APSIA too underwent a wave of changes. Its roster of member schools grew to 29 in the United States and around the world. It launched new partnerships to promote the participation of traditionally underrepresented members of society in international affairs and found new ways to promote its member schools.
In 2004, APSIA became an institutional sponsor of the Public Policy & International Affairs Fellowship Program, which provides undergraduates from traditionally underrepresented groups with the skills to be strong applicants to graduate schools of public and international affairs. With Foreign Affairs, APSIA launched a special annual Graduate School Forum section in the journal. It expanded its outreach through social media and coordinated in-person graduate school fairs throughout the world, which continue today.
In 2008, APSIA partnered with the Rosenthal Fellowship in International Relations and the Japan Foundation’s Center for Global Partnership to give students from APSIA schools the chance to explore careers in the public and private sectors. In 2014, APSIA launched a series of virtual events to complement its in-person programs.
Today, APSIA includes member and affiliate schools in North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. It continues to help members transform professional education in international affairs and advance, thereby, international understanding, prosperity, peace, and security.