First Degree Program in Public Diplomacy

The Master’s program launched by USC will prepare students for international careers in public service and non-governmental organizations.
“There is a pressing need for a cadre of well-trained graduates who will understand diverse cultures, new forms of communication technology and a wide range of communication tools," said USC Annenberg Dean Geoffrey Cowan.

Starting this fall, the USC Annenberg School for Communication and the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences will jointly offer the world’s first degree program in public diplomacy, the schools announced.

“In an increasingly democratic world, leaders of this nation as well as the leaders of other countries, businesses and non-governmental organizations know that they need to find more effective forms of communication,” said USC Annenberg Dean Geoffrey Cowan. “There is a pressing need for a cadre of well-trained graduates who will understand diverse cultures, new forms of communication technology and a wide range of communication tools, ranging from cultural diplomacy to exchange programs, to international broadcasting.

“We expect this program to attract and train students and mid-career professionals who will become the leaders of the next generation of public diplomacy professionals," said Cowan, who created the program with USC College Dean Joseph Aoun.

“The Master of Public Diplomacy brings together the resources and expertise of two of USC’s premier academic programs, making us uniquely suited to provide the highest quality of graduate training in this interdisciplinary field,” Aoun said. “This program is another example of our successful strategy to position ourselves as leaders in emerging fields, while remaining relevant in a globalized society."

Traditional definitions of public diplomacy include: government-sponsored cultural, educational and informational programs; and citizen-exchange programs and broadcasts such as the BBC World Service that are used by governments to promote the national interests of a country through understanding, informing and influencing foreign audiences.

While the program uses these definitions as a starting point, the research and curricula are designed to address the new ways such as blogs, independent news organizations like Al Jazeera and non-governmental organizations of influencing and shaping the worldview of citizens of foreign countries.

The curriculum will include graduate-level classes on topics such as international broadcasting, cultural diplomacy, corporate citizenship and images, and historical approaches to public diplomacy.

“Students in the program will be able to emphasize public diplomacy training specific to their career interests,” said Steven Lamy, professor and director of USC College’s School of International Relations, who will teach courses in the program. “The master’s program will prepare students for diverse opportunities in the field around the world, including careers in public service, the corporate world and non-governmental organizations.”

The Master of Public Diplomacy is a two-year program requiring 48 graduate units, equivalent to 12 four-unit courses. It is designed for students who already have a substantial undergraduate background in social sciences or relevant professional experience in subjects such as communication, public relations, media studies, journalism, political science and international relations.

Interested students can contact the USC Annenberg Admissions Office at (213) 821-0770 or or the USC College Office of Admission at (213) 740-5939 or

In addition to the new degree program, USC is home to the new Center on Public Diplomacy, which has arranged for internships at such institutions as the Sesame Workshop, the European Union, a number of major consulates in Los Angeles and several leading U.S. foreign policy agencies in Washington, D.C.

“The work of the USC Center for Public Diplomacy will enrich research opportunities for students in the degree program,” said Joshua Fouts, the center’s executive director. “This degree is the first step in creating substantive dialogue among students, scholars and practitioners at a critical period in global and political communication. We’re delighted to be a part of that conversation and look forward to facilitating rigorous intellectual debate in this field.”

Created and run jointly by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences’ School of International Relations, the USC Center on Public Diplomacy conducts research, helps create academic programs and holds conferences and other events that specifically emphasize the study of public diplomacy as both a theoretical and applied subject area.

The center is headquartered on the USC campus in Los Angeles.