Carnegie Mellon University

At the Institute for Politics and Strategy, we apply an interdisciplinary and analytical approach to the study of political science

Welcome to the Institute for Politics and Strategy.

Founded in 2015, the Institute for Politics and Strategy (IPS) is a university-wide institute for research and undergraduate and graduate education in the fields of political science, international relations, national security, and grand strategy. IPS is dedicated to the study of politics through the discipline of political science with support from other social sciences. In this way, IPS carries on a respected tradition of interdisciplinary political science at Carnegie Mellon University. IPS also builds upon the university’s rich heritage of applying basic science to issues of common concern, problem solving, and public policy. 

At IPS, analytical social science and interdisciplinary research and teaching are used to better understand, explain, anticipate, and solve public policy problems. We employ scientific methods to expand our comprehension of the organization of human society around the exercise of power, in our own country and around the globe. In this way, we foster in students the ability to think, research, and write about politics systematically. In the opening two decades of the twenty-first century, the years in which our current students were born and have come of age, the world has become more interconnected but not less complex and challenging. More often these days, problems faced by one society are faced by many societies – including economic development, mobility, equality, public health, freedom and security.

Achieving the core objectives of all IPS majors and minors – thinking systematically about politics so that they can contribute to the future prosperity, security and liberty of all citizens – requires analytical and quantitative training in political science and an understanding of culture, history, and language. Courses and research opportunities across this diverse intellectual spectrum provide the foundation for IPS studies and are at the heart of the Institute for Politics and Strategy.  

We achieve this goal through both undergraduate and graduate academic programs, along with research opportunities. The CMU traditions of analytical political science and applied social science – along with the IPS commitment to providing an intellectually diverse yet cooperative and supportive environment -- are reflected in the degree programs and entities that make up the IPS offerings. These include:

IPS also administers the Carnegie Mellon University Washington Semester Program.

Our History of Diversity

IPS strives to create an inclusive and diverse learning environment, keeping the most expansive definition of diversity at the forefront of all of its initiatives. As one of the diverse academic departments at Carnegie Mellon University, IPS has numerous people of color among its faculty, fellows and staff, both in Pittsburgh and Washington, DC. IPS also welcomes with a full heart students, staff, fellows, and faculty with a variety of political views. Our commitment to academic freedom and intellectual diversity is the hallmark of the Academy and a bedrock principle of a free, diverse society. At IPS we employ a variety of scientific methods to understand politics and we apply the same curiosity and respect for different ideas in order to increase our understanding. 

We take seriously our responsibility to prepare students to enter the world with both an understanding of the forces that complicate our world and empathy for all those who inhabit it. Solving public policy questions, both in the foreign and domestic arenas, requires responsible, committed, and educated leaders with the proper tools to work cooperatively and constructively toward a common goal. The best way to accomplish this goal is by providing the opportunity to learn from a multiplicity of perspectives, from a diverse group of faculty, fellows, and staff who are well-equipped to guide our students through those viewpoints. 

Our curriculum and faculty must challenge students’ assumptions to help them clarify their beliefs, and expose them to more than a single side of approach to a conflict or problem. At IPS, students will learn to draw conclusions from facts rather than preconceptions. We will expose them to the historical wrongs to ensure they are never repeated, and tie those errors of the past to issues that still exist in our society today – racism, sexism, persecution due to religious belief, gender, or sexual orientation – so our graduates enter the world prepared to be part of the solution.

IPS is dedicated to consistently exposing our students to experts and scholars in the arenas of foreign policy, international relations, and grand strategy. We also understand that exposure to practitioners in each of these areas is of particular importance. These discourses occur in a variety of settings, in regular courses, and through:

  • The IPS Policy Forum;
  • and the Carnegie Mellon University Washington Semester Program (CMU/WSP) Policy Forum.

The Policy Forum represents one of the means by which IPS integrates international relations and politics into the intellectual conversation at Carnegie Mellon University. The Policy Forum regularly brings political leaders, scholars, policy makers, journalists, and other thought leaders to the university to address major issues facing the United States and the world. 

The CMU/WSP Policy Seminar course takes a critical look at decision making in domestic politics and US foreign policy. It does so through weekly roundtable discussions with a diverse set of thought leaders. Based on intellectually significant essays that students are expected to read in advance of each class, these discussions give students an opportunity to ask probing questions about the three branches of the US government, media, embassies, advocacy groups, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations.

As Carnegie Mellon University President Jahanian has said, “I am grateful to be part of a community that is willing to share its opinions openly, and engage in civil discourse on the themes and values that are foundational to the academy.” IPS is a critical part of that vigorous and free-thinking community. 

IPS Offerings

The International Relations and Politics (IRP) undergraduate and graduate programs delve deeply into international relations and domestic politics from the discipline of political science.  The International Relations and Politics major analyzes the role of politics at the national, regional, international, and transnational levels; examines political and institutional arrangements within and among these levels; and investigates the grand strategy of nation-states.

The IRP major preserves and expands CMU's tradition in political science, while at the same time, taps into and contributes to CMU’s strengths in other social sciences that combine analytical and empirical methods. IRP includes an innovative initiative to incorporate decision science in political science. Thus, students learn to apply the burgeoning science of judgment and decision making to understanding political actors’ strategies and foibles, the strengths and weaknesses of formal methods of policy analysis (i.e., cost, risk, benefit, analysis), and the factors shaping public responses to politics and policies. IRP provides a rich set of courses and programmatic offerings that have made it an attractive course of study for students from all of CMU’s colleges.

The Economics and Politics major is offered jointly between the Undergraduate Economics Program (UEP) and IPS. Students are equal members of both academic units and receive advising from both units. The major will appeal to any student interested in the design, evaluation, and political implementation of policy.

The IRP minor shares core courses with the IRP major. The minor in Politics and Public Policy has a greater focus on domestic politics and public policy than either the IRP major or minor and requires students to participate in the Carnegie Mellon University Washington Semester Program. The minor in Cybersecurity and International Conflict analyzes the role of cyber warfare and cybersecurity in international politics – past, present, and future.

The Master of Science in International Relations and Politics (MS IRP) serves four academic and professional goals:

  • To allow students to specialize in one of four conventional areas of political science: international security, international relations, American politics, and comparative politics.
  • To equip students with strong methodological skills.
  • To guide students in the production of a significant and publishable thesis.
  • To prepare students to enter the job market, whether their interests are in academia or the professional world. Students are guided through the internship and job application process by our faculty and staff on campus and Washington, DC.

IPS offers an accelerated version of the Master of Science in International Relations and Politics (MS IRP - AMP) for current Carnegie Mellon University undergraduate students. Students in the MS IRP-AMP begin graduate coursework in the senior year and complete the master's degree in their fifth year of study.

The Master of Information Technology Strategy (MITS) program provides graduate students with core interdisciplinary competencies in cybersecurity. The master’s program is a joint initiative of the College of Engineering, the Institute for Politics and Strategy, and the School of Computer Science.

The MITS program provides a multidisciplinary education that prepares students to define and conceptualize:

  • the emerging environment of threats caused by cyber operations;
  • opportunities for enhanced information analysis and exploitation;
  • development and management of innovative information technology systems; and
  • decision-making challenges associated with the above.

IPS Initiatives

The IPS Research Lab is a university hub for scholarly and policy-oriented activities on domestic and international issues. The lab supports and promotes student, fellow, and faculty research and hosts national and international thought leaders through its Policy Forum. The Carnegie Mellon University Journal of Politics and Strategy (formerly known as the CIRP Journal) is the only journal on campus offering undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to publish their work in international relations and political science. Students from across campus contribute scholarly analyses of current problems facing the United States and the international system, and perform interviews with the nation’s thought leaders.

The Carnegie Mellon University Washington Semester Program (CMU/WSP) is a semester-long program for undergraduates interested in taking courses and interning in the nation’s capital. The minor in Politics and Public Policy may be earned by completing the CMU/WSP and taking a core course in the Institute for Politics and Strategy. 

The Institute for Politics and Strategy is a growing intellectual community that supports majors, minors, and several initiatives that keep our community constantly engaged with departments and research centers throughout Carnegie Mellon. Visit this site often for updates about opportunities and activities sponsored by IPS and its constituent parts.


Kiron Skinner
Taube Professor of International Relations and Politics
Institute for Politics and Strategy