Our History

WWS History

In 1930, Princeton established the School of Public and International Affairs, as it was originally named, in the spirit of Woodrow Wilson's interest in preparing students for leadership in public and international affairs.

Old School Building

The School's initial venture was an interdisciplinary program for undergraduates in Princeton's liberal arts college. In 1948, a graduate professional program was added, and the School was renamed to honor Woodrow Wilson, who served as the 13th president of Princeton University, governor of New Jersey and 28th president of the United States. 

The phrase “Princeton in the nation's service” was the theme of two speeches Wilson gave at the University, first during its 150th anniversary celebration in 1896 and again at his inauguration as the University’s president in 1902. In the 1990s, the motto was expanded by then-President Harold T. Shapiro to read “Princeton in the nation's service and in the service of all nations,” and in 2016 it was further amended to read "Princeton in the nation's service and the service of humanity." It is a concept that Princeton and the Woodrow Wilson School regard as an educational mission.

Marie Robertson

In 1961, Charles ’26 and Marie Robertson provided a historic gift to expand and strengthen the graduate school as a place where men and women dedicated to public service could obtain the knowledge and skills needed to qualify them for careers in government service, particularly in the areas of international relations and affairs. The endowment and its proceeds provided the means to build Robertson Hall, greatly expand the number of graduate students in the MPA, MPP and Ph.D. programs, and build a world-class faculty in multiple disciplines.

Woodrow Wilson School Building

Today, the School educates a wide range of students from all parts of the globe in its undergraduate liberal arts major and its three graduate programs. It boasts a faculty of respected scholars and practitioners in disciplines that include politics, economics, sociology, psychology, physics, molecular biology and geosciences, who — individually and as members of world-class research centers and programs — influence the international and domestic environment through policy research and teaching. 

The School has also grown physically over the years. The central building, Robertson Hall, and adjacent Scudder Plaza were designed by renowned architect Minoru Yamasaki in 1965 and first occupied in 1966. Also housing WWS faculty, centers and programs are Wallace, Bendheim and Corwin Halls, and the Julis Romo Rabinowitz and Louis A. Simpson International Buildings. Additional faculty, as well as centers and programs, are scattered in other University buildings. 

In 2018, the School's auditorium was renamed to the Arthur Lewis Auditorium to honor the legacy of economist Sir W. Arthur Lewis. The space in Robertson Hall was previously named for University President Emeritus Harold Dodds, whose name now graces the building’s atrium. 

As the School has grown in size and scope, Woodrow Wilson School graduates now pursue careers in all areas of service. Each generation that enters strives to meet President Wilson’s call to improve the world and remember that “errand.”


Double Sights” is an art installation about Woodrow Wilson’s complicated legacy designed by acclaimed artist Walter Hood. It is located on Scudder Plaza beside Robertson Hall, home of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

The installation is a vertical sculpture of two columnar elements, one leaning on the other, wrapped with surfaces of black and white stone. The exterior columns are etched with quotations by Wilson, representing all aspects of his beliefs and actions. At the sculpture’s center, the two vertical planes face each other; one is reflective stainless steel with quotations by Wilson’s contemporaneous critics and the other is a glass lenticular surface with images of the critics.

The piece is intended to contribute to an ongoing conversation, not only about Wilson, but also about how we as a community grapple with history and how we move forward on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Background information about Woodrow Wilson can be found through an exhibit created at Princeton in 2016: "In the Nation’s Service? Woodrow Wilson Revisited."