University of Southern California
School of International Relations

School History: Tradition & Innovation

Rufus von KleinSmid, USC's fifth president, was dedicated to the study of international relations as early as the 1920s and made the field of study a priority for the university. In 1922, von KleinSmid hosted the Pan-American Conference on Education that brought together chancellors and university presidents from 22 countries to discuss the importance of education and to foster international cooperation. An offshoot of these meetings was the founding of the Los Angeles University of International Relations, later to be renamed the USC School of International Relations (SIR). Its mission was "to furnish opportunities for the training of statesmen for consular and diplomatic service, of businessmen for commerce and business administration, and of teachers in departments related to world affairs in colleges and universities." In the depths of the Cold War, the SIR housed the Research Institute on Communist Strategy and Propaganda.

Today, to better understand global interdependence and address new trends after the Cold War, we offer concentrations in culture, gender, and global society; international political economy; and have recently developed a new European Union Center. An additional new focus of the School is a center for active learning that assists educators from kindergarten teachers to university level professors in integration of international curriculum into the classroom. The Center for Active Learning in International Studies (CALIS) was originally funded by the U.S. Department of Education (as the Teaching International Relations Program) and is presently funded by the California International Studies Project.

The School was one of the first institutions of higher education in the United States devoted to the study of international relations. The School pioneered a distinctive curriculum in international studies, played an instrumental role in the founding of the International Studies Association (ISA), and offered one of the first Ph.D. degrees in international relations in the country. It is a charter member of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA), which now has over twenty members. Several USC faculty members have served as president of APSIA over the years.