Brief History of the Woodrow Wilson School
The School of Public and International Affairs, as it was originally named, was founded at Princeton in 1930, created in the spirit of Woodrow Wilson's interest in preparing students for leadership in public and international affairs. Beginning in September 2005, the Woodrow Wilson School celebrates 75 years of preparing talented individuals for careers in the service of the nation and the world.
The School's initial venture was an interdisciplinary program for undergraduates in Princeton's liberal arts college, although a graduate professional program was planned from the beginning.
According to the School's first catalog from February 1930, "Throughout its history the sons of Princeton have been prominent in the service of the nation--statesmen, soldiers, judges, diplomats, men of science and men of letters, leaders of religious thought at home and abroad. It was this background which prompted Woodrow Wilson in 1896 to define the University's destiny as: 'Princeton in the Nation's Service'...Upon this foundation Princeton has established the School of Public and International Affairs which will...prepare [its students] for the new movement in national and world affairs."
The graduate professional program was added in 1948. That same year the School was renamed to honor Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president of the United States, who was a member of Princeton's Class of 1879, governor of the State of New Jersey, and the 13th president of Princeton University. The phrase "Princeton in the Nation's Service" was the theme of two speeches Wilson gave at the University, first during its sesquicentennial 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." It is a concept that Princeton and the Woodrow Wilson School regard as an educational mission.
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 that would qualify them for careers in government service, particularly in the areas of international relations and affairs, upon graduation or later in their careers. In doing so, the Robertsons hoped to reach a larger ultimate objective: to strengthen the government of the United States and increase its "ability and determination to defend and extend freedom throughout the world." The gift and the Foundation it funded were initially anonymous: the "X Foundation" provided the means to build Robertson Hall, greatly expand the number of graduate students in the M.P.A., M.P.P., and Ph.D. programs, and build a world-class faculty in multiple disciplines.
Today, the School educates a wide range of students from the U.S. and around the world who seek to apply their knowledge and skills to the solution of vital public problems in both the domestic and international realms. It boasts a faculty of superb scholars and practitioners in disciplines that include politics, economics, sociology, psychology, physics, molecular biology, and geosciences, who, individually and as members of a variety of world-class research centers and programs, react to and influence the international and domestic environment through policy research, which in turn adds depth and vitality to the teaching program.