Prefrosh Preview: A guide to the School of Foreign Service

This week, Vox wanted to give the Class of 2014 a sneak peek into each of Georgetown University’s four schools. Today we examine the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.

A strong core builds a strong degree, so they say

With a heavy load of core requirements, a hefty portion of the first two years of your SFS education will be dedicated to courses you have to take, meaning you’ll still be stuck in Comparative Political Systems while your friends in the College are taking drawing classes.

One of those classes is the proseminar.  Freshmen SFS students takes this class—usually taught by a top professor—in the fall of their freshman years to help improve their writing and analytical skills.

Overall, the core consists of two classes in the government department (international relations and comparative political systems), three in the history department (one introductory course and two regional histories), and proficiency in a modern foreign language. And Vox gives our sincerest apologies to those of you who have spent countless years studying Latin—it counts for nothing in the SFS.

Perhaps to weed out those who don’t have strong enough constitutions for a degree from the SFS, all SFS students also are required to take four—yes, four—economics courses, including microeconomic principles and international finance.

“I’m sorry, I have to go participate in (insert major world event)

This might not make up for those four econ classes, but the School of Foreign Service faculty does boast a number of professors who are very well known in the domestic and international policy realms. What follows is a partial list of professors you can brag about taking classes with, or theoretically having access to, to friends and family.

The current dean, Carol Lancaster, has served as deputy administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, and her predecessor, Robert Gallucci, currently runs the MacArthur Foundation. Other notable professors include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former National Security Council member Victor Cha, and former Special Envoy to Sudan Andrew Natsios. Tony Lake recently left his position at the SFS to become the UNICEF Executive Director, and former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski is a former faculty member as well—one who still frequently visits campus.

“You mean you don’t know where Tuvalu is?”

Even though you’ll all take pretty much the same prerequisites, you may not all have the same tyrannical CPS professor. But, Map of the Modern World is the one class that unites all SFS students.

A one-credit course taken in the spring, Map has only one professor—currently James Reardon-Anderson, dean of the undergraduate program—and is typically offers only two sections, both large group lectures.

Although it is a requirement for graduation, some students are able to skip out of Map by passing an exemption test offered in the fall. Typically only a few students pass this test, but due to changes in the Map curriculum, a large number of the Class of 2013 gained exemption.

Bottom line: SFSers come out of Map knowing more about geography than most people reasonably need to know, but it might give you a slight edge when playing trivia.

How to be President 101

The SFS is the school to be in if your plan is to rule the world—or at least have an impact on politics.

The most notable alumnus of the SFS (and arguably of the entire University) is Bill Clinton (Class of ’68), the 42nd President of the United States. But he’s far from Georgetown’s only executive-level graduate. Others include the President of the European Commission José Durão Barroso (Class of ’87), former President of the Philippines and Clinton classmate Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (Class of ’68), and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (Class of ’69).

Other famous alums include U.S. Army Chief of Staff George Casey (Class of ’70), former CIA Director George Tenet (Class of ’76), and former Secretary of State Alexander Haig (Class of ’61).

26 Comments on “Prefrosh Preview: A guide to the School of Foreign Service

  1. “Bottom line: SFSers come out of Map knowing more about geography than most people reasonably need to know, but it might give you a slight edge when playing trivia.”

    aka, senior year

  2. Everyone complains about econ and what it does to your GPA, but it really is incredibly useful and a subject most of us should take but won’t. For example, if my former CPS professor had taken macro principles, maybe he would know that “Keynes” is pronounced “Kanes” and therefore wouldn’t have made himself look like an idiot when he tried to talk about Keynesian economics. Also, if the global financial market collapses, it means you have someone who is incredibly eager to explain to you exactly what happened and why. So that’s handy. It’s also fairly easy to bring your core classes down to a manageable load – a 5 on either English AP test gets you out of your humanities requirement, and a 4 or 5 on AP Euro or World gets you out of your general history. At this point, you’re not much worse off than the College students, especially if you studied a foreign language in high school (and considering about half of the College are government majors, CPS is far from an SFS-only or even SFS-primarily excursion). Map is a horrible experience, but something you’ll be glad you went through. Also: advising in the SFS is excellent. My dean knows me by face, name, major, and extracurricular interests and has really helped me a lot over the past few years in ways that she couldn’t have if she didn’t, well, know me as a person and not just a GOCard number.

  3. correction, the dean of the SFS is Carol Lancaster, James Reardon-Anderson is an associate dean

  4. @vox,
    The post states, “The current dean, Carol Lancaster, […],” and later, “…currently James Reardon-Anderson, dean of the undergraduate program…”
    Reardon-Anderson is the dean in charge of the BSFS program, while Lancaster is dean of the entire SFS (both BSFS and MSFS). It’s not really necessary to use the term associate dean when specifying that they are in charge of a certain program because it is implied that they are not the dean of the school.

  5. SFSers are weird as hell. Advice: Stay away at all costs.

  6. Jim R-A is no longer in charge of BSFS:

    From: SFS Dean
    Subject: Message from the Dean

    Dear SFS Faculty and Staff:

    I am pleased to announce two new appointments in the Dean’s Office:

    Effective July 1, Associate Dean Mitch Kaneda will serve as Director of
    the BSFS Program. Mitch is well known to and appreciated by all of us
    as an outstanding teacher, student adviser, academic administrator and
    colleague. I am delighted that Mitch has agreed to take on these new
    responsibilities and look forward to his leadership of the School’s
    flagship undergraduate program.

    Effective August 23, Jennifer Windsor will join the SFS as Associate
    Dean for Programs. Since 2001, Jennifer has been Executive Director of
    Freedom House. Before then, she served as Deputy Assistant
    Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
    and as foreign policy adviser to the late Senator Daniel Patrick
    Moynihan. Jennifer is a graduate of Harvard (B.A.) and Princeton (M.A.)
    Universities, and has taught as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown
    University, and written and spoken widely on the development of
    democracy around the world. For further information, attached find
    Jennifer’s resume.

    When we reconvene in the fall, I will take the opportunity to introduce
    Mitch and Jennifer to you in their new roles. Until then, I want to say
    how pleased I am to welcome Jennifer to Georgetown and recognize Mitch
    for all he has done and will do for the School.

    Have a nice summer,


  7. lol@Ron Mexico. I think Vox also missed out on something about the SFS: it’s students are extremely passionate about their areas of interest. It’s amazing how much outside reading/research people do on their own time. I’m continually amazed by the level of passion within the SFS student body. That’s its strongest asset.

  8. What common sense is trying to say is that SFS students are easily the nerdiest.

  9. To correct any misimpressions in the above comments, Prof. James Reardon-Anderson is now the Senior Associate Dean in SFS, overseeing all curricular programs, academic appointments and finance. He will be the acting dean when I am out of the office.

    We are all glad he is here.

    Carol Lancaster
    Dean, SFS

  10. To be fair to the SFS it gets its bad rap (or its perception as super nerdy) from a few people. I for one know that a decent percentage of SFS kids are really chill and not freaks who choose to do tons of research that is unnecessary. I am in the SFS but i wouldn’t say im ridiculously passionate about international affairs and the kids who are overly so get REALLY annoying.

  11. Common sense almost got it right: most SFS students are incredibly passionate–about themselves. About how they know the capital of Eritrea (or used to freshman year), about how the former president of Poland just dropped by their class, about their incredible ability to sound smart (read: blather on) in class when they didn’t even do the readings, etc. etc.

    The truth: map is not that impressive when you forget everything days later and just because you got a C in econ doesn’t mean that there’s a problem with econ, it probably means you have a problem with econ. And most people don’t care about how much you know about South American electoral systems, however much you want to talk about it.

    As a small disclaimer: some of my best friends at Georgetown are in the SFS and they don’t fit the description above. Unforunately, they’re the exception, not the rule.

  12. Pingback: Vox Populi » SFS shakeup: Kaneda replaced Reardon-Anderson as head of undergrad program

  13. it is commonly mistaken that the SFS students are the most nerdy students on campus. needless to say, they’re not. in fact the nerdiest ones and the ones who aspire to be the evil lords of the world (muhahaha) are most often found in the college – government and/or history (latin and phylosophy to lesser extend) majors. P.S. they’re also the most annoying ones. SFS students are just interested in international issues and if anything aspire to work in the State department or the foreign ministries of their respective countries.

  14. Carol Lancaster is generous in victory, like any member of her house, the Caesari.

  15. The “bad reputation” of the SFS extends only to “chiller” (i.e. less motivated) and “less nerdy” (i.e. less intellectually curious) Hoyas, many of whom are the kind of nebbishes that would give Georgetown a bad name (e.g. by spelling “philosophy” with a “y” instead of an “i”), were it not for the hard work, successful example, and integrity of their classmates who advisably left concerns about being considered “nerdy” behind in middle school. The SFS is widely regarded as the foremost undergraduate international relations program in the United States and arguably the world. On balance and with exceptions, it also recruits and graduates the brightest students at Georgetown. This is not to say that the SFS and its students are beyond reproach or in all ways superior to the other divisions of Georgetown. For instance, it is possible in the SFS to get distracted by big names and end up taking a bunch of classes in which you basically study the international section of The New York Times and accomplish little of academic value. The unfortunate reality is that without the SFS, Georgetown is a second-tier regional school that has abandoned its religious identity to engage in the Sisyphean task of becoming the next Harvard and whose only saving graces are a reasonably strong liberal arts college and a great location in DC.

  16. If you’re genuinely interested in something, and studying/practicing it makes you happy, then it doesn’t matter what the rest of the world thinks. If you’re pretending to be interested in something just because you think it makes you sound “smart,” or if you’re too afraid of looking “nerdy” to pursue your interests, then you need to lighten up a little. I don’t think that there’s a real personality “type” to the different schools; most of the time I can’t tell the difference between a government major and an i-pol major, and though I’m actually an i-his major, I get mistaken for a “regular” history major pretty regularly. There is a personality stereotype associated with the SFS, of course, but I wonder how many of the people who fit it are SFS students and how many are government majors in the College, or international business students in the MSB, or international health students in the NHS. The one thing I will concede is that genuinely international students tend to be SFS-ers, but that should hardly come as a surprise to anyone.

  17. yoooou are a douche and dipshits like you are the reason why endless efforts have been wasted on trying to convince the rest of the university community that sfs isn’t full of sociopaths like you. thank you

  18. @@perception vs. reality: enjoy your business degree sir.

  19. Ughhh

    I was SFS, and it was people like you that give it a bad name among college and MSB students. SFS has a good group of people, but it also has a bunch of pseudo-intellectuals who think they can compensate for social shortcomings by acting pompous and feigning intelligence that they don’t actually have (see above)

  20. @@Perception vs. Reality

    What I don’t understand is why people at Georgetown find the need to act “chill”. If people find something their passionate about, then who are you to tell them that they have to hide it? Sure there are some obnoxious people in the SFS, but I think it’s ridiculous to condemn the SFS body as a whole.

  21. I don’t think anyone condemned the student body as the whole- in fact, you will see that I explicitly did NOT do that

    Acting ‘chill’ is something that ends up being good for our society so that we’re not a bunch of overly serious sociopathic one-uppers (like those who end up back in DC in politics…)
    It’s one thing to be passionate, and another to be smug, pompous, and a braggart. Too many people fail to go about pursuing their passion in a civil way, or even in a healthy way. Enjoy life my friend

  22. if this were facebook i would like your post

  23. This is silly. Georgetown offers excellent programs in all of its schools. SFS is no exception. Being a pompous jerk is not the same thing as being a sociopath. Message boards like this are not really conducive to fruitful discussions. Let’s all take a deep breath and go do something that’s worth our time.

  24. Working hard doesnt mean you nerd, the less talented normally dont get admitted.

    Firstly, Economics is not hard. Unproductive chill people will become a problem in our society. Hence we need those who will become leaders of tomorrow to self-select from empty vessels by acquiring more knowledge. Read read read. A lot of SFSers (& everyone else) study and are focused on a world that is both very selective and discerning, their competition is not only at Georgetown but from many other equally reputable Colleges around the world. Whether its business, Law, Medicine, Arts & Sciences etc or whatever you want to do, its important that first and foremost, you work hard. Other people aren’t working very hard consequently that best opportunity cant be given to you because you will be less qualified. There is more to life rather than just emphasizing on partying and other things that pass without adding value to your future. You will meet so many people in life and forget about so many too, in the end you will only have just a few around you. So hang on to something that you will always have, and that’s your future.

    Secondly, its good to be balanced – and I mean socially, athletically, academically etc but make sure you do that without ruining your future.

    Lastly, the admission office need to make sure that chill people don’t get here. They make this institution lag behind and significantly lower our academic standards. So freshmen, concentrate on something that will give you a great future, your life didn’t begin at Georgetown, so please don’t let it end here. But instead use this awesome opportunity to move on to the next greatest level.

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