Elliott School Celebrates 125 Years of International Affairs Education

The celebration reflected on the evolution of the school and the diverse careers it has prepared students for over the years.

April 28, 2024

Elliott School Celebrates 125 Years

Rose Gottemoeller (l), M.A. ’81, the first woman and second American to serve as deputy secretary general of NATO, and Elliott School Dean Alyssa Ayres.

Alumni and students of the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University gathered on Thursday evening to celebrate the school’s 125th anniversary and its commitment to teaching and researching international affairs while preparing countless students for impactful careers in diplomacy and related global fields. 

Celebrators gathered Thursday in the City View Room on the top floor of the school with its panoramic view of the city’s monuments. The room was decorated with buff and blue balloons and poster boards that told the history of the school. 

GW President Ellen M. Granberg kicked off the event, thanking attendees for gathering to commemorate the milestone in the school’s history. 

“As the world has changed over the last 125 years, the study of international affairs at GW has kept pace, evolving into an expansive, multidisciplinary organization that draws from a wide range of disciplines,” Granberg said. “Today, we are adapting to new challenges in the international arena, pushing boundaries in emerging disciplines and preparing the next generation of leaders and change-makers for an increasingly complex global stage.” 

Alyssa Ayres, dean of the Elliott School, said the school has continued to be a strong force in teaching global issues firmly rooted in engaging with policy and striving for impact.

“For 125 years we have continuously adapted to new challenges, all while preparing our students for an increasingly diverse set of careers,” Ayres said. “The majority of our students, undergraduate as well as graduate, now go on to careers in the private sector and nongovernmental organizations, even as the call of public service remains an important pathway for many. As the world becomes more complex, the emphasis we place on practice, fostering international dialogue and shaping policy solutions, prepares our graduates for whatever they will encounter.”

The Elliott School was established in 1898 as the School of Comparative Jurisprudence with an enrollment number of 90 students. The school’s focus on international law attracted prominent faculty such as Associate Supreme Court Justices John M. Harlan and David J. Brewer. After enrollment began to drop, in 1905, the institution was renamed the School of Politics and Diplomacy (SPD) for two years. In 1907, SPD was replaced by the College of the Political Sciences which held its last commencement in June of 1913. For the next 15 years, international affairs programs were transferred to the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, where a focus was still placed on preparing students for foreign and public service.

Through the years, the school underwent several more name changes, then in 1987, the institution was renamed to School of International Affairs and worked to become a prominent leader in international affairs education. In 1988, the school was named the Elliott School to honor former GW President Lloyd H. Elliott and his wife Evelyn E. Elliott. Over the past 125 years, the school has served as a hub for discussions on significant international developments and continues its commitment to teaching and researching international affairs. 

Marshall Parke, B.A. ’76, and Jenna Segal, B.A. ’98, the co-chairs of the Elliott School Board of Advisors, took to the podium to share how being alumni of the school prepared them for fulfilling careers. 

“I came to GW in 1974,” Parke said. That was 50 years ago. And I came because I wanted a life involved in world affairs.” 

He shared some of his favorite memories from his time at GW, including interning on Capitol Hill and experiencing historic moments including President Richard Nixon’s impeachment just steps from the White House. Parke said even after leaving GW, being an alumnus of the school continued to open many doors for him well into his career. 

“It’s been a great road for an amazing 50 years of being a GW alumnus,” Parke said. 

Segal said she credits the Elliott School for exposing her to the interconnectedness of international relations and the art world and equipping her with the skills to become a global cultural ambassador and advocate for positive change through art.

“I'm proud to call myself an Elliott School alumna and on behalf of the Elliott School Board of Advisors, cheers to 125 years of international affairs education at GW, may our legacy continue for many generations to come,” Segal said.  

Rose Gottemoeller, M.A. ’81, the first woman and second American to serve as deputy secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), spoke about why she’s proud to be a graduate of GW. 

Gottemoeller said she’s dedicated her career to working in policy, primarily focused on arms control and nuclear nonproliferation. 

“I am grateful for the way that GW prepared me for life as a practitioner,” Gottemoeller said. “If it hadn't been for the education that I received in my master's program at George Washington University, I would not have the skill sets that I needed to succeed in the way I've been able to succeed. So I've been very grateful to the university over the years and very happy to have these relationships in latter years and the opportunity to meet so many talented young students.”