The Woodrow Wilson School was founded at Princeton University in 1930 as the School of Public and International Affairs. In its early days, it was a small interdisciplinary program for undergraduates; 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 New Jersey, and the 13th president of Princeton University. The University’s unofficial motto, “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 President Harold T. Shapiro to “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.
The Woodrow Wilson School seeks to educate Princeton undergraduate students who desire to be public servants and public leaders active in the world of public and international affairs. To that end, the major provides a liberal arts education with a focus on the tools, understanding, and habits of mind required for the careful consideration of public policy issues. The goal of the School’s curriculum is to provide students with the capacity to think analytically and critically, deliberate collectively, balance competing interests, think about public policy issues in a broader ethical frame, and communicate effectively, as well as to cultivate initiative, entrepreneurship and leadership. The curriculum is designed to provide an undergraduate education that is intended to be both broad and deep, combining knowledge and perspective from multiple disciplines while ensuring the mastery of one subject or set of issues sufficient to provide a foundation for future expertise.