Master of Arts in International Affairs

Master of Arts in International Affairs

Applications are now open to join the 2024-2025 inaugural cohort of students.

The Master of Arts (MA) degree in International Affairs at John Cabot University provides students with the training and skills to succeed in a professional career in global affairs. Taught by internationally renowned faculty and practitioners, the MA program draws on John Cabot’s strengths as a globally-oriented American liberal arts university in Rome. Dynamic, small-class-size seminars, mentorship by dedicated faculty, a vibrant multicultural student body, and a genuine English-speaking learning environment are all hallmarks of JCU’s educational approach and represent an ideal setting for graduate students to grapple with the big questions facing 21st century policy makers. 

JCU’s MA degree in International Affairs is also designed to take advantage of its unique location in Rome and the city’s intellectually vibrant past and present. The program and its faculty reflect the political character of the city itself, which is the birthplace of the Roman Republic and the European Union, the United Nations hub for food security and development, and the home to diplomatic missions to both Italy and the Holy See. All of this makes Rome one of the region’s major centers for policymaking, one which joins the worlds of Europe, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Students in the MA program will directly engage with the city’s rich confluence of global policy networks, complete a professional internship with a leading international institution in Rome, and take courses that will guide them for work in the field. 

The MA in International Affairs, thus, aims to train students in practical policy skills and site-specific learning seldom accessible at the MA level. They will graduate with a strong foundation for further advanced academic study and professional policy work.

Read an interview with Professor Michael Driessen, Director of the MA in International Affairs.


Seminars and courses for the MA are taught by professors of International Affairs from John Cabot University’s Department of Political Science and International Affairs. Faculty members teaching for the MA come from diverse national backgrounds and hold PhDs and professional experience in international affairs, law, and political science from leading global institutions. See the full faculty profiles

Faculty at John Cabot University are committed to teaching and dedicated to a liberal arts model of education which charges students to be entrepreneurs in their educational and career choices. Their research specializations reflect a wide range of academic interests and policy experience. JCU’s Department of Political Science and International Affairs has developed special expertise in the politics of Europe, the United States and the Mediterranean; human rights and international law; democracy and development; and diplomacy, international relations and security governance. Faculty have worked in various policy making capacities and served as advisers to the United Nations World Food Program and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Union, the US State Department, the Holy See, and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

JCU professors teaching in the MA of International Affairs are widely recognized in their fields of study, frequently sought out for professional consultation and advice, and appear in international media outlets. Many of JCU’s faculty have long experience working in the foreign policy hubs rotating around Rome and the broader Euro-Mediterranean area. Seminars, practicums, lectures and internships for the MA program are intended to connect students to these networks and worlds of experience and expertise. 


The degree program can be completed in three semesters of full-time study (Fall-Spring-Fall). It unfolds in three phases: 

  • a structured Foundation Year 
  • a Comprehensive Exam in international affairs  
  • a Capstone Term  

Seminars and courses take place at John Cabot University’s campuses in the centrally-located Trastevere district of Rome. The curriculum of the MA is designed to provide students with the courses, training and skills necessary for either an academic, research-oriented career or a professional, policy-making one. Before advancement to the thesis, students must take eight courses, including two foundation courses in International Relations and Comparative Politics, one International Political Economy course, a Political Science Research Methodology class and four graduate seminars. Following the Foundation Year, students must pass a comprehensive exam in international affairs. In their final Capstone Term, students take an International Affairs Research Practicum, complete a professional internship or research assistantship and write a policy-oriented MA thesis. They also must demonstrate proficiency in at least one foreign language relevant to their research area.  


John Cabot University's MA program in International Affairs was created thanks to a generous donation by the Hon. Frank J. Guarini, Chairman Emeritus of the JCU Board of Trustees. After a distinguished career as an attorney, Mr. Guarini served in the New Jersey State Senate for two terms and in the U.S. House of Representatives for seven terms. Throughout his career in public and private life, he has always maintained a strong interest in education and international affairs. He founded centers and institutes at Dartmouth College, New York University School of Law, St. Peter’s University, New Jersey City University, and John Cabot University. Since joining the JCU Board of Trustees in 1995, Mr. Guarini has shown unwavering support of the University.

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During the Foundation Year students complete twenty-four credit hours of coursework:

  • Two Foundation Courses (six credit hours total) in International Relations and Comparative Politics. Both courses are advanced survey courses taught by core faculty in the department. They are designed to serve as the academic foundation for the MA program. 
  • One Political Science Research Methodology course (three credit hours) and one International Political Economy course (three credit hours)
  • Four Graduate Seminars (twelve credit hours in total). Students choose from a range of dedicated, graduate-level electives.

The Foundation Year also includes a public lecture attendance component: each student will attend and review at least two scholarly lectures, conferences, workshops or other approved events over the course of each academic semester. This can include participation in the MA program’s High-level policy speaker series. Rome is especially rich in opportunities for intellectual expansion thanks to its unique wealth of embassies, international organizations and institutions, foreign scholarly academies, centers, universities and ministries, each with its own public programming. Students must also demonstrate proficiency (at the B2 level) in a second language other than English.

Following the first year of study students sit for a Comprehensive Exam in International Affairs (administered once a year). The Master’s exam requires a high-level synthesis of international relations and political science concepts and theories coupled with policy-driven, problem-solving analysis. The remainder of the summer (mid-May through late August) can be devoted to coursework, thesis research, research-related travel, internships in or outside of Rome, supplementary language training, or other professional or educational activities. MA Students have access to JCU’s Frohring Library and other university facilities through the summer.

The degree culminates in the completion of a Master’s thesis (six credit hours) during the Capstone Term. The thesis is typically based on a research project initiated during the Foundation Year in the context of a graduate research seminar or elective. Students will sign up for a small-group thesis course for the semester with a designated faculty member which includes a colloquium component meant to accompany and structure the thesis-writing experience. Colloquium participants present and discuss their research in progress; invite prominent guest professors to speak and critique their work; and prepare and deliver public presentations of their theses. Students may register for the Master’s thesis course upon fulfilling all requirements of the Foundation Year and receiving a passing grade on the Master’s exam. The thesis is expected to be policy-oriented, the result of scholarly research, and of a publishable length for an academic journal article. 

During this final semester (or the preceding summer), MA candidates also complete an International Affairs Practicum (two credit hours) taught by a senior practitioner in the field, a short Professional Development Course (one credit hour) and a Research Assistantship or Professional Internship (three credit hours total). Students interested in pursuing an academic career are encouraged to pursue a research assistantship with one of JCU’s research active faculty. Students interested in pursuing a professional career in international affairs are encouraged to pursue a professional internship.  

The University currently has internship agreements with a range of international organizations and governmental entities in Rome, including the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Foreign Embassies to Italy and the Holy See, the Italian Institute of International Affairs (IAI), SOS Méditerannée, Jesuit Refugee Service and the Italian Carabinieri’s Center of Excellence.  JCU students in international affairs have previously held internships with the US Embassy to Italy, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the International Food and Development Bank (IFAD), as well as major Human Rights organizations and law firms, Vatican institutes and Italian state ministries. 

Learn more about John Cabot University’s Office of Career Services and the aid they provide students in internship placement and post-graduate professional planning.

  • Graduate Seminars are research-intensive colloquia focused on specialized themes devised to stimulate original student research. They begin with the reading of a discrete body of scholarly sources and the examination of source material and proceed to the development of a focused research project, presentation, and paper by each seminar participant. Weekly seminar meetings are devoted to analyzing readings and presenting and discussing the results of individual research. 
  • Political Science Research Methodology required of all MA students. This course provides a systematic understanding and critical appreciation of alternative approaches, methodologies and paradigms of political science research. Students will learn techniques to interpret and analyze data. The tool-driven training will enable students to think through how they can use their knowledge and skills of advanced qualitative and quantitative methods in different contexts and apply them to a variety of problems; and, progressively, to identify their own needs for research.
  • The Practicum in International Affairs provides a hands-on introduction to policy work in the field of global affairs. Practicums will feature participation by high-level practitioners from the field with experience in areas like the United Nations, Foreign and Defense Ministries and international advocacy organizations.  The course is designed to introduce students to the professional world of international affairs and engage with the networks of policymakers present in the city of Rome. 
  • Proficiency in a Foreign Language: Given the international nature of policy-making as well as John Cabot’s traditional identity as a hub for intercultural relations, MA students must demonstrate proficiency in a second language beyond English at the B2 (upper intermediate) level or higher in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). This component can be satisfied by passing a language exam administered by the John Cabot University Foreign Language Resource Center or by presenting a B2-level certificate from an approved language school or testing service (CILS, DELF/DALF, etc.). John Cabot offers multiple language resources through its library and Foreign Language Resource Center to help students work towards this requirement. JCU also regularly offers language instruction in Italian, French and Spanish and MA students may audit JCU language courses as schedules permit. 

Fall semester I
Course or requirement

Credit Hours Spring semester I
Course or Requirement
Credit Hours
Foundation I: International Relations 3 Foundation II: Comparative Politics 3
Political Science Research Methodology 3 International Political Economy  3
Graduate Seminar I  3 Graduate Seminar III 3
Graduate Seminar II 3 Graduate Seminar IV  3
Lecture & events attendance    Lecture & events attendance   
Foreign Language test (Fall or Spring)   MA Exam prep  

Summer: Master’s exam, followed by opportunities for thesis research, research-related travel, internships, supplementary language training, and other professional or educational activities, including the JCU-UNICRI Summer School on Migration and Human Rights, the Rome Summer Seminars on Religion and Global Politics, and the ChinaMED Summer School. 

Fall Semester II
Credit Hours
International Affairs Practicum 2
Professional Development Course 1
Research Assistantship or Professional Internship* 3
MA Thesis  6

*Research Assistantships and Internships may also be completed in summer between the Foundation Year and the Capstone Term.

Applicants who are EU citizens or who have an Italian permit of stay (permesso di soggiorno) are eligible for admission as part-time students. Part-time students take between three and nine credit hours per term and are allowed four years to complete all degree requirements.

As an American Liberal Arts University, John Cabot University’s MA in International Affairs is built upon a critical, seminar-style learning environment in small-sized classrooms that prize scholarly mentorship. As an American graduate institution in Rome, the MA program aims to serve as a policy hub for policy-oriented reflection in conversation with the city’s rich European, Mediterranean and global environment. The MA in International Affairs aims to provide graduate students with academically rigorous, professionalizing, hands-on training for a career in international affairs.  In all of its work, the program exemplifies the University’s mission to produce inspired graduates who will be leaders in their field, dedicated to the international community and devoted public servants. 

The MA in International Affairs degree is designed to serve as a foundation for pursuing careers in international affairs. Students will graduate equipped to begin work in international governmental organizations; International non-governmental organizations; Governmental Foreign and Defense Ministries; international consulting, finance and legal firms; as well as public service and civil society organizations. Students will also be prepared for further graduate and post-graduate scholarly work.


For further questions about the MA program or application process please sign up for one of our webinars or contact: [email protected].