The cover stories of the new issue of GSPIA Perspectives focus on our Master of International Development (MID) program. The MID was not launched as a degree program at GSPIA until 2000, but it is important to stress that a commitment to training specialists in international development was a central element of the blueprint for the School when it was established in 1958 by founding dean Donald Stone. Dean Stone had written his senior thesis at Colgate University on comparative colonialism and, during his long and distinguished career in public service in Washington, he had served as a U.S. representative on the Advisory Committee of Experts that helped draft the framework for the United Nations. When Stone was hired in 1957 by Chancellor Edward Litchfield to begin designing a Graduate School of Public Affairs, perhaps his most important strategic move was to argue convincingly that “his” new school should be called the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. Unlike most comparable schools of the late 1950s, GSPIA thus offered from the outset not only the traditional MPA program but also an MPIA (Master of Public and International Affairs) program with several majors, one of the most important of which was Economic and Social Development. For more than forty years, therefore, scores of students earned an MPIA-ESD degree at GSPIA and fulfilled Stone’s vision by embarking on careers around the world promoting international development. All that changed in 2000 was that GSPIA faculty decided to underscore even more their commitment to the international development field by spinning the ESD major off from the MPIA program to create a separate MID program.
Perhaps ironically, the fact that I have devoted most of my professional career to research and teaching on Western Europe has enabled me to acquire a special appreciation of the ethos of the MID community of faculty, students and alumni since my move to GSPIA in 2007. I began to notice that faculty frequently spoke with admiration of “the Save the World Kids” whose dream was to travel to the poorest—and often most conflict-plagued—parts of the world and, against all odds, try to mitigate poverty, help improve fragile governance and literally save lives. As you will see in the article about MID and MPIA-ESD alumni, international development work features remarkable challenges but, for that reason, also entails unique rewards. As Emily Tanner (MID ’11) says: “There’s something about this particular field… that’s almost like a higher calling—“You feel very motivated, because you’re there for a deeper purpose.” More dramatically, notes Nitin Madhav (MPIA-ESD ’92) of USAID, “I’ve been held hostage. I’ve been shot at. I have been in rocket attacks. I have seen people killed at close range.” Despite all that, he feels he has had the best career he could have hoped for given the gratification that comes from such experiences as supporting health clinics in Burma, working to prevent HIV in Pakistan and—his current job—striving to achieve stability and security in Afghanistan.
We strongly encourage prospective students who find these stories compelling to join us at GSPIA, benefit from the passion and hands-on experience of our MID faculty, become acquainted with our inspirational alumni, and follow in their career paths.
John T.S. Keeler, Dean