Professional Skills Courses

A leader among professional schools of international affairs, the Elliott School was the first to offer its graduate students a full set of professional skills courses focusing on practical skills that help students succeed as practitioners in their careers. The courses are designed to supplement the substantive and theoretical aspects of our academic curriculum and teach skills applicable to the professional world.

All professional skills courses are one credit and designated under course numbers IAFF 6502/6503

Fundamental Skills

This course will enhance international students' skills for graduate level writing in the field of international affairs. It will use a content-based approach, giving students the opportunity to refine their skills at the same time as they apply them to sub-fields or topics in international affairs. Using peer review as a discussion and learning tool, it will focus on the development, organization and revision of academic writing in the American university, discourse analysis in the social sciences, research conventions, as well as style, grammar, syntax and other linguistic issues commonly experienced by international students.

This course will help international students to improve their analytical writing. This course is intended primarily for non-native English speakers and students whose background is in educational systems other than those of North America.

This course will examine the traditional understandings of international ethics held during the twentieth century. The course will look at whether these ethical understandings can help to address today's fearful and uncertain international situation.

This course will introduce students to editing and to the publishing process more generally. Students will receive basic training in proofreading and editing their own and other's work, in the process, they will become aware of the most common problem addressed by editors.

This course will provide an introduction to the analysis and interpretation of corporate financial statements. Emphasis will be given to placing financial information and its analysis within an actual market context. Students will learn basic financial analysis tools and apply them on real world examples. Special attention will be given to the analysis of multinational corporations and the financial performance of businesses in an international context.

This course explores the why, what, and how of creating and presenting information to an audience. It will start with why briefings are an important mode of expression, and why storytelling is the single most important consideration in conceptual design.

This course will focus on speech construction and delivery, including: topic selection, research, organization, support materials, audience adaptation, visual aids, and presentation.

This course will involve a series of short written assignments that are drawn from actual needs occurring in the workplace. These will include memos and briefings. While correct grammar is important, the focus of this course will be on rapidly producing written materials that are crystal clear, concise and accurate. This means that research is not necessary and the facts and background for each assignment can be drawn from experience, current events or previous assignments.

Clear, concise and persuasive writing is an essential skill for international affairs professionals. Writing that is effective for policymakers depends upon an ability briefly to present what they need — reporting on the facts and context, analysis and clear recommendations. The premium is on quick production, brevity and relevance to the matter at hand. The course will involve short written assignments, as well as group discussions, aimed at focusing students on writing and analytical skills necessary in government to support, inform and influence policymakers. Specifically, students will write briefing papers, public statements, talking point papers, a demarche, and a report on a meeting/conversation. To develop a common platform, initial sessions will revolve around the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 and outbreak of fighting between Georgia and Russia in August 2008. For the last two sessions, students will select foreign affairs topics in which they are interested.

Advanced Skills

Qualitative Analytical & Forecasting Skills

This course introduces students to the concept and application of alternative analysis. Alternative analysis is used not only in intelligence analysis and military operations, but also in commercial and business analysis. This course is designed for graduate students across many disciplines, who look to gain a better understanding of the intelligence community, learn alternative analysis techniques, and practice critical thinking skills that are applicable to any context.

This short course will develop student's skills in conducting economic data analysis applicable to academic pursuits and professional demands. The curriculum is designed to provide hands on experience using internet sources of economic data, online software to specify data queries, and covers how to download and manipulate electronic data. The course will expose students to sources, terminology, and definitions unique to analyzing international economic data.

The course will concentrate on the skills necessary to navigate the investable world, all assets, all regions. It will include a case study analysis of investing during the sub prime financial debacle of 2007-08 as well as a look at some of the key instruments/entities influencing markets today such as Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) and Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs). The course will also include investment presentations by students as well as the class coming together as an investment committee to vet those investment ideas. The class will focus on real world issues of investing from both an institutional approach such as hedge funds, endowments, mutual funds etc as well as from an approach of a family office or high net worth individual. Discussion is likely to touch on current issues affecting various markets, including those faced by the teacher in his investing practice.

The course will review collaborative analysis techniques that have been developed to game out or simulate issues and situations of significance. The course presents an overview of public and private sector applications of these methods for analysis and training. It will also provide detailed descriptions of various approaches and their conceptual underpinnings.

The objective of the course is to improve each student's ability to analyze a complex policy situation and craft a paper dealing with some aspect of that situation.

Policy Formulation & Advocacy Skills

Each week, we will examine a different case study of international advocacy on an African human rights issue, exploring how different messages, messengers, targets and tactics have succeeded or failed. We will then explore the different institutions and their strengths, (i.e. regional, continental, international, donor governments, former colonial powers, etc.) Of course each of these subject areas deserves a semester-long examination, however, the point is not to be an expert in the substance, but rather to glean the important advocacy lessons from each.

Leadership, Teamwork & Management Skills

Uncertain times call for courageous and adaptive leadership. Global systems are failing. Human rights violations are prevalent. People continue to face discrimination. Poverty is spreading. Nationalism is on the rise. And domestic violence thrives worldwide. The list goes on. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless, or to feel outrage at how big the “mess” really is and how little progress is being made.

This high-impact skill course is designed to equip current and emerging leaders with the mindset, frameworks and tools to navigate the uncertainty and politics of change in order to solve pressing social, environmental and developmental issues. This course draws on real-life examples of current global issues to help leaders better understand how to navigate challenges and maximize their impact. Students will learn how to challenge assumptions, explore new mental models and develop the grit needed to sustain the political and social pressures of creating change. 

The focus of the course will be development of cross-cultural communications, management, and negotiation skills.

This course examines concepts of team-building and leadership which are critical to managerial success. Topics include leadership, decision making, communication and conflict, work motivation, building effective teams, and organizational change and culture.

Globalization has changed how organizations develop a compelling strategy that is understood by managers and employers. The goal of this course is to provide you with the knowledge and tools necessary to devise and implement your own smart strategies. The basis is how leaders determine their vision and key strengths and then communicate them.

This workshop will introduce the student to the practical components and tools for designing, monitoring and evaluating international development projects. By the end of the workshop participants will understand how to frame a development problem in relation to an intervention design, use a logical framework to express their projects' development hypothesis, and create process and outcomes indicators to monitor project progress and evaluate project results. Participants will also gain an overview of the key M&E events and tools within the project life cycle.

This class is primarily designed to give students, in an interactive setting, a framework for learning about and using joint problem solving based on the concepts of interest-based negotiation developed by Roger Fisher at the Harvard University Program on Negotiation.

Participation is a fundamental concept to development. The challenge for development practitioners is to put participatory development theory into everyday practice. This course aims to build an appreciation of the nuances of participation and to impart specific methods and tools that facilitate participation. The course will cover the principles of participatory learning and action (PLA), provide helpful "Do's" and "Don'ts" of carrying out participatory activities and processes and touch on the caveats of participatory methods in the development industry. The tools and methods covered in the course are drawn from community development planning, participatory rural/urban appraisal (PRA/PUA), participatory monitoring and evaluation (PME), and participatory learning and action (PLA).

Students will examine the role and importance of protocol in the conduct of diplomacy, international business dealings, and other transactions involving international and multicultural participants. The goal of the course is to provide students with an understanding of protocol principles and their applicability to diplomatic and international business relationships, to enhance their personal development, and to equip them to function effectively in a multicultural environment. Students will increase the depth of their knowledge of basic principles of international protocol, gain functional knowledge and confidence performing in representational positions, enhance their leadership skills, and be able to deal successfully with their foreign counterparts and with persons from different backgrounds and cultures.

Specialized Professional Knowledge 

This course will cover the way the federal budget process is supposed to work and the way it actually does work, with a specific focus on the U.S. foreign assistance budget implemented by the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development. The course will also explain how the federal budget process today has been complicated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and sequestration. Students will learn the budget process definitions, concepts, procedures, and schedules, including the appropriations process and interpreting legislation specifically related to foreign assistance. As a course project, students will simulate the budget formulation process for State/USAID, preparing a budget recommendation/briefing for the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources.

An introductory skills course on tools to strengthen the resilience of communities in war zones. In fragile and conflict-affected countries, civil strife pins communities against each other as spoilers manipulate existing tensions, deepening fault lines and fracturing relationships. This course is designed to introduce future policy-makers, strategic planners, and program implementers to concepts surrounding resilience; the impact of violent conflict on social cohesion; and interventions that rebuild patterns of trust networks and communication.

Policymakers working in situations of ongoing, incipient or recently terminated conflict need to, but often fail to, make a careful study of the nature of the conflict. This course will consider different drivers of conflict and will help students to make rough assessments of actual conflictive situations in a way that will be useful for future policy work. This is a skills course, not an effort to cover the comprehensive scholarship on environmental security issues.

The class will examine the relationship between Congress and the Executive branch and the shaping of U.S. foreign and national security policy. The class will consider more practical details like how Congress works, and how the Executive branch tries to build Congressional support for its policies, as well as how Congress tries to shape the Administration policies.

This course would introduce students to the basics of designing development projects in response to USAID's request for proposals (RFP). Students would learn how to interpret the needs of an RFP, how to organize a response to an RFP, and to develop the technical portion of the response. Although the course would be based on RFPs from USAID, the skills learned would also be relevant to development project design for other donor organizations.

This course will cover the possible roles for the position of Gender Advisor in multilateral, bilateral, and other organizations as well as an overview of required skills. Focusing on the latest tools, resources and practices, the course will answer the 'how-tos' for mainstreaming gender in a variety of contexts from post-conflict and humanitarian situations to the Pentagon. The course will translate the new and evolving set of policies on gender integration/mainstreaming into meaningful practice to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of institutions and organizations seeking to promote peace, security and development through gender mainstreaming of policies, programs, and projects in developing countries as well as leading organizations to improve their internal gender equality.

Third-parties are increasingly being used, both domestically and internationally, by people in conflict to help them resolve their differences. Whether providing a space for belligerents to reach a peace agreement, facilitating a contentious public policy debate on the Hill, or helping departments work more effectively together, this interactive skills-building course will teach you how to harness conflictual energy and transform it into collaboration. Upon completion of this skills course, students will be introduced to a structured third-party problem-solving process for resolving interpersonal and community conflicts, both at home and abroad.

The purpose of this bottom-up, client-focused class is to give the student an overview of the key issues involved in the design, management and evaluation of microfinance programs that target low-income clients.

The mobile phone is rapidly bringing communication to the most remote areas of the world. NGOs, governments and companies alike are beginning to realize the potential of this ubiquitous tool to address social challenges. This course will explore successful applications that facilitate economic transactions, support public health campaigns and connect learners to educational content. It will also critically engage with issues of equity, privacy and access. Participants can expect a dynamic and practical learning environment with a number of real-world examples and case studies.

This course focuses on how various U.S. government programs operate in practice and the skills required for international trade specialists to operate within this environment. For example, participants will develop skills about:
1) how U.S. businesses can take advantage of government trade programs that increase exports;
2) how U.S. business can help facilitate exports of developing countries into the U.S. market; and
3) how to navigate U.S. customs rules and regulations.

How a society responds to wrongdoing is critical to people’s perceived sense of security, belonging and justice. The state’s legal system plays an important role in establishing the rule of law and maintaining popular confidence in its ability to manage transgressions. However, in many parts of the world, as is the case in the U.S., the justice system is not always designed to adequately contribute to healing or peace but instead deepens societal divides and conflict. Restorative justice is an attempt to address some of these gaps and restore wholeness to broken relationships. This course will help students gain an introductory knowledge of advanced communication skills to facilitate restorative justice circles between victims and offenders.

This course is designed to familiarize students with the structure of the embassy, its authorities both formal and informal, and its activities in support of U.S. interests. Ambassadors manage their embassies through a Country Team, a team that includes the heads of sections and the heads of other U.S. Government agencies represented in the embassy. The Country Team serves as the corporate management of the mission. During the course, each student will assume the role of one member of the country team. The professor will act as ambassador. In this role-playing model students will deal with hypothetical issues (based on real events) thereby developing an appreciation and understanding of how an embassy operates.

The advent of new technologies has fundamentally changed the capacity for processing and exchanging information in the 21st century. NGOs and governments, and companies alike are just beginning to understand the potential that these tools and systems can have in analyzing and addressing a range of social problems. This professional development course will explore how technology is being used to respond to crises, create early warning mechanisms, monitor elections, provide banking services, ensure effective governance, and much more. It will also consider some of the key challenges related to access, implementation, scale, and evaluation that working with technology presents.

This course will examine global perspectives and strategies to address sex trafficking. During the course, students will learn to critically analyze the nongovernmental and governmental efforts taken in Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and the United States to combat sex trafficking. These efforts will include: direct social services, legislation, safe housing, prevention, and legal protection. There will be a special emphasis placed on the Balkans, Russia, Southeast Asia, and one special class presentation on victim identification and services in the United States.

In the world of public policy, communication is vital. Once the policy has been formed, it must be communicated, including orally. Today's professionals in public policy, whether they work in Congress, other areas of government or for a non-governmental organization, can often find themselves assigned to write a speech (or given speechwriting duties). This class concentrates on the preparation of speeches for other people to deliver, emphasizing the need to adapt to another person's ideas and style.

Language Skills

IAFF 6504

  • Chinese

  • French

  • Russian

  • Spanish

Students with intermediate-level proficiency may take these courses to improve their language ability and to prepare for the language proficiency examination. In order to enroll in these courses, students must first take the online diagnostic test in the corresponding language and achieve a score in at least the intermediate-level range. For non-regional studies M.A. programs, students may fulfill their language requirement by demonstrating the required level of language proficiency in the context of this one-credit course through an evaluation administered by the instructor. Students in the M.A. regional studies program may use this one-credit course to improve their language skills, but they must still take the Elliott School language proficiency test.