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Elliott School of International Affairs

The historical roots of The George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs (ESIA) can be traced to the establishment in 1898 of the School of Comparative Jurisprudence and Diplomacy. The University has continuously sought to meet the educational needs of persons intent on government careers, particularly in the foreign service. While such curricular offerings go back almost a century, the accompanying institutional structures have come and gone. The Jurisprudence School, for example, began promisingly with 90 students and an all-star faculty of the Supreme Court. By 1905, however, the GW law students who comprised most of its enrollees had concluded that an M.A. in diplomacy was superfluous to a straight law degree. Enrollments fell off, and the Administration replaced it with a School of Politics and Diplomacy. Two years later, the SPD metamorphosed into a hybrid entity called the College of the Political Sciences which, thanks to its first-time offering of international programs to undergraduates, seemed certain to prosper. Unfortunately, the College ran head on into one of the University's most severe financial crises, holding its last commencement in June 1913.

For the next decade and a half, international affairs slipped into what might be called "institutional custody," and all of its programs were transferred to Columbian College. By no means, however, were these programs eclipsed. Every GW Bulletin for the next 15 years highlighted Columbian's offering of courses "that will fit (students) for consular and diplomatic positions and for the public service." A separate institutional life returned in 1928 when President Cloyd Heck Marvin created the School of Government. The School was a product of its times: a high era of government-business cooperation. Its degree programs sought to integrate the study of international politics with international business. Whatever the perceived logic of such linkage, the School's two components gradually diverged. While the "professional" faculty offered degrees in accounting, business, and statistics, the "policy" faculty taught the combinations of history, economics, and political science more traditionally associated with international affairs as we know it today. By the mid-1950s, faculty sentiment strongly favored a separation. Amid committee studies and lobbying by the "policy" faculty, the international affairs component gained somewhat greater recognition in 1960 when the School of Government became the School of Government, Business, and International Affairs.

In the spring of 1966 the School broke apart cleanly. In one of his first official acts, Lloyd H. Elliott, fourteenth President of the University, carried out the Trustees' authorization to separate the two faculties. Since that time, the School of Public and International Affairs (now the Elliott School of International Affairs) has flourished under its three permanent deans: Burton M. Sapin (1969-83), Maurice A. East (1985-1994) and Harry Harding (1995 to the present). Sapin was largely responsible for the School's early programmatic expansion. During his tenure, he added interdisciplinary programs in Russian Studies; Science, Technology, and Public Policy; Latin American Studies; Urban Affairs; and Security Policy Studies.

Under Dean East (1985-1994) and Dean Harding (1995 to 2005), and Dean Michael E. Brown (2005 - Present) the School has taken a more central position in the University's over-all perception of its mission. Degree programs have been refined and integrated, the faculty strengthened, and the student body furnished with a growing array of academic services and opportunities for internships. The Elliott School, so named in 1988, is today the most successful adaptation of programs and purposes that University statesmen have so long envisioned for a Washington Environment.

Article written by Dr. Peter Hill, 1996 Updated 2008


School of Comparative Jurisprudence and Diplomacy (1898-1905)

Charles W. Needham

Charles Needham had become President of the University

No Dean

Renamed the School of Politics and Diplomacy (1905-1907)

Dean Henry St. George Tucker

No Dean

College of the Political Sciences (1907-1913)

C. William A. Veditz (Acting Dean)

C. William A. Veditz (Acting Dean)

Howard Lee McBain

Henry Parker Willis

C. William A. Veditz (Acting Dean)

No Dean

Columbian College (1913-1928)

William A. Wilbur

Creation of the School of Government (1928-1961)

Cloyd Heck Marvin

Arthur E. Burns

No Dean

Creation of the School of Government, Business, and International Affairs (1960-1966)

A. M. Woodruff

H. F. Bright (Acting Dean)

Creation of the School of Public and International Affairs (1966-1987)

Hiram Miller Stout (Acting Dean)

Maury Hall was taken over by students in protest

Burton Malcolm Sapin

Addition of multi disciplinary programs (1970)

Russian Studies

Science, Technology and Public Policy

Latin American Studies

Urban Affairs

Security Policy Studies

Peter Hill (Acting Dean)

Creation of the School of International Affairs (1987)

Maurice A. East

School of International Affairs renamed the Elliott School of International Affairs (1989)

Acting Dean Jim Miller

Harry Harding

Michael E. Brown