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International Policy Scholars Consortium and Network

Person giving a speech at the International Policy Scholars Consortium and Network

The Kissinger Center is pleased to host the International Policy Scholars Consortium and Network (IPSCON), a multi-year initiative funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

At the core of the many “bridging the gap” efforts over the past several years is the conviction that foreign policymaking in the United States and elsewhere is seriously compromised by the disconnect between the academy and the world of practice. The challenge is especially acute in doctoral programs in history, political science, and related disciplines. Many students begin their studies with a strong interest in policy and a significant number look to have a policy dimension to their subsequent careers. Yet few schools are able to give those students the coursework and mentoring they need to perform at a high-level in senior policy roles, or to address their research to the real-world problems policymakers confront.
IPSCON users speaking together

IPSCON aims to create a cohort of scholar-practitioners who understand the problems and perspectives of each world and can successfully pursue careers in both. Now in its fifth year, the network includes more than 60 graduate students at seven top universities for the study of international affairs: Duke, Johns Hopkins SAIS, Syracuse, MIT, Stanford, the University of Indiana, and the University of Virginia. In parallel, IPSCON supports innovative research and curriculum development to help reshape the way we teach and learn about international affairs

I have met many excellent scholars outside of my own field, which has expanded the way I think about history and its function. I have also learned of new employment opportunities beyond academia and the federal government that interest me. Finally, and most importantly, I have a better understanding of how to frame my own research questions to make them more appealing to an audience outside of the Academy.

Alexandra Lauren Sukalo, PhD Candidate, Stanford University

Building a Network of Scholar-Practitioners 

IPSCON connects graduate students interested in conducting scholarly research on key policy questions, working directly in policymaking roles, or both. These aims are rarely celebrated in traditional programs, which tend to bifurcate into two distinct tracks – a professional masters degree program and an academic PhD program. IPSCON junior scholars are typically PhD students nominated by one of the consortium institutions. By linking junior scholars to senior faculty from across the network, IPSCON’s unique consortium model draws on the diverse strengths of its constituent institutions, while cultivating a robust network of scholars with a shared interest in international affairs and policy. Key activities for junior scholars include the Minnowbrook retreat, virtual seminars, and the DC Policy Workshop.

The unofficial kick-off to each academic year is a three-day retreat in June to Syracuse University’s Minnowbrook Conference Center in upstate New York. The retreat focuses on strategies to make academic research policy-relevant, the use of case studies and other methods to better understand problems in history and international relations, and a dissertation workshop for junior scholars to solicit feedback from senior scholars and practitioners. These sessions challenge participants to sharpen their scholarship and consider how their work might be applied to particular policy debates. Minnowbrook also offers a host of social activities and an informal salon designed to cultivate and deepen relationships across the network.

During the academic year, IPSCON organizes a monthly video teleconference that considers a timely foreign policy issue through the lens of the latest academic research. Recent topics have included, “the Future of U.S.-Middle East Policy,” “Evaluating Trends in Nationalism,” and “Engagement vs. Restraint.” Each 90-minute meeting is co-facilitated by senior and junior scholars.

Anchoring the fall semester is a two-day workshop hosted by Johns Hopkins SAIS in Washington, DC. The workshop is focused on expanding junior scholars’ exposure to how foreign policy is crafted and implemented inside the Beltway. Current and former senior policymakers have offered sessions on topics ranging from U.S. grand strategy vis a vis China to the challenges of working on the foreign policy team for a presidential campaign. Typically, the workshop also includes a simulation or other participatory exercise that provides insight into the structure of the national security bureaucracy. In 2016, for example, junior scholars played the role of staffers on the National Security Council responsible for evaluating and presenting to the National Security Advisor alternative strategies to counter the Islamic State.In 2017, a highlight of the workshop was an exchange between Professor Peter Feaver of Duke University and Brian Hook, Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State, and Director of the Secretary's Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State. In 2018, students participated in a historical exercise with Dr. Philip Zelikow playing the roles of key decision makers during President McKinley's decision to seize the Philippines. Our 2020 workshop gave students the opportunity to discuss strategies for governing distruptive technologies with experts in the field and to design a mock policy for US involvement in Syria. 

Two students talking to each other

Research and Curriculum Development

IPSCON also supports research and curriculum development focused on historically-informed statecraft and policy design. In contrast to models that focus on disciplinary or technical training, IPSCON is developing rigorous, policy-relevant curricula designed to prepare current and future practitioners for high quality work that blends cutting edge research with an understanding of the needs and exigencies of practice. The courses will be made available in formats that are flexible to accommodate a range of consumers – from graduate students in international relations who plan careers in the academy but will be teachers of future generations, to graduate students in other fields (law, business and applied sciences like engineering and health), advanced undergraduates, and current government officials and staff at multilateral or nongovernmental organizations.

Looking Forward

In the initial grant, IPSCON focused on generating content, increasing exposure, and building networks – both vertical (mentors with students) and horizontal (among young scholars and practitioners), to provide support and synergy in navigating this challenging career track. With the second grant, IPSCON aims to broaden and deepen the reach of this work by generating innovative curricula and content that can be emulated by other programs in international affairs and by bringing more young scholars into the network. Despite its growth, the focus of IPSCON remains the cultivation of a strong and enduring network of scholar-practitioners. Its success can be measured by the success of its alumni, who have secured prestigious positions in the academic and policy worlds, collaborated on publications, and utilized the network to develop joint research projects or confer on pressing policy challenges. Ultimately, the project aims to produce students who will become leaders both in and outside the academy, able to improve the quality of statecraft and better equipped to face the international challenges that lie ahead.

Students in a classroom

Getting Involved

If you're intersted in learning more about our program, activities, and upcoming opportunities, email

Program Leaders:
Francis J. Gavin: Giovanni Agnelli Distinguished Professor, Director of the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs, Johns Hopkins SAIS
James Steinberg: Professor, Social Science, International Affairs and Law, Syracuse University
Current and Former Senior Scholars:

Alexander Bick: Research Scholar, Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs, Johns Hopkins SAIS

Hal Brands: Henry A. Kissinger Distinguished Professor, Johns Hopkins SAIS
Peter Feaver: Professor, Duke University
Lee Feinstein: Dean of the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, Indiana University Bloomington
Margaret Hermann: Professor, Syracuse University
Kathleen Hicks: Senior Vice President, Henry A. Kissinger Chair, Director, International Security Program, Center for Strategic & International Studies
Bruce Jentleson: William Preston Few Distinguished Professor of Public Policy, Duke University
Rachel Myrick: Assistant Professor, Duke University
Vipin Narang: Associate Professor, MIT
Rebecca Lissner: Assistant Professor, U.S. Naval War College
Lainie Rutkow: Senior Advisor to Johns Hopkins University President for National Capital Academic Strategy, Professor, Johns Hopkins University
Jeremy Weinstein: Professor, Stanford University
Philip Zelikow: White Burkett Miller Professor of History and J. Wilson Newman Professor of Governance, UVA