M.A. in Global & International Studies


Red and yellow tulips with Bailey in background

A degree in GIST will give you the tools to understand the rapid and profound changes that are occurring internationally and transnationally throughout the world. GIST at KU offers an interdisciplinary program in which faculty and students think critically about some of the most fundamental global and regional issues facing societies today such as:

  • population growth,
  • politics and governance,
  • migration,
  • the global economy,
  • poverty and inequality,
  • religion, race and ethnicity,
  • gender and sexuality,
  • peace and conflict, and
  • climate change.

Through an investigation of these topics, students acquire an enriched understanding of the world today, which is not only a desirable end in itself but also a useful background for professionals whose careers may involve different geographical and cultural areas. A degree in GIST is helpful for careers in journalism, Foreign Service, business and industry, education, law, politics and government, and social service agencies.

Why Pursue an M.A. in GIST at KU?

According to the website, Committee for Economic Development,"U.S. businesses are concerned with developing the workforce they need for the United States economy to retain its position as the global leader. Foreign language skills, knowledge of other world regions and cultures, and overseas experience all contribute to creating the employee who has the cross-cultural competence needed by American businesses in the twenty-first century."

KU's Master of Arts in Global and International Studies is designed for those who seek a better understanding of international issues that shape public policy and the global economy and who want to have an impact in these areas.Students in GIST have access to courses by top-notch research faculty across a wide variety of relevant disciplines at KU’s campus in Lawrence. Besides access to quality instruction and content, our students have access to the amazing international resources that put KU on the top shelf for international education--a nationally-ranked Study Abroad Program, instruction in 40 foreign languages, and local, national, and international internship opportunities. KU is situated in Lawrence, Kansas, and is a vibrant college town. The state's flagship university has many resources for academic and financial support. Lawrence has an active arts community, and there are many opportunities for cultural engagement, health & wellness activities, and professional development.

What Do Our Students Do?

Over the last few years, we have seen our graduates plugged in to many different occupations, for example:

Non-profit NGOs
  • Executive Director, International Relations Council
  • Regional Project Manager, Unbound
  • Director of Global Project Chapters, People to People International
Business professionals
  • Global Business Manager, John Deere
  • Director of Business Development and Marketing, Building Control Solutions,
Higher Education
  • Academic Advisor and Degree in 3 Coordinator, KU Edwards
  • Program Manager, Applied English Center, KU
  • Coordinator of Accelerating Opportunity, Kansas City Kansas Community College
Security and Military Research
  • Associate Editor of PRISM, a journal for the Center for Complex Operations
  • Instructor, United States Military Academy, West Point
Graduate School
  • Many continue their higher education by seeking PhDs in a variety of fields, including Political Science, Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, American Studies, and Educational Technology

The specific requirements of the GIST MA depend upon the concentration chosen by the student. The traditional MA which is global & international in nature, has been offered since 2009. Beginning in Fall 2022, GIST will offer two additional programs that were previously housed in other area studies centers. These programs were created and managed by the centers for years. Because the programs are specific to world regions and crafted by faculty of different departments, the requirements vary. These programs are being offered as concentrations within the Global & International Studies MA, along with the original GIST plan of study. Below are summaries of the concentration requirements. Specific classes and more details can be found by clicking on each link.

Global & International Concentration

  • Core Knowledge and Skills (9 Hours)
  • Regional Specialization Cluster (9 Hours): These deepen knowledge of a world region.
  • Topic Specialization Cluster (9 Hours): These enable students to specialize in a current global and international theme.
  • Language (Equivalent of 5 academic semesters)
  • Thesis (or non-thesis options)
  • See MA Global & International Concentration for details.

Contemporary East Asian Concentration

  • Core Knowledge and Skills (12 Hours)
  • Regional Specialization Cluster (9 Hours): These deepen knowledge of contemporary East Asia.
  • Topic Specialization Cluster (9 Hours): These enable students to specialize in an issue related to contemporary East Asia.
  • Language (proficiency at the second or "intermediate" level)
  • Research paper and oral defense
  • See MA Contemporary East Asian Concentration for details.

Latin American & Caribbean Concentration

  • Core Knowledge and Skills (9 Hours)
  • Topic Specialization Cluster (9 Hours): These enable students to specialize in an issue related to Latin America or the Caribbean.
  • Other electives Cluster (6-9 Hours): These deepen knowledge of Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Language (proficiency of Spanish OR Portuguese plus 2 semesters in another language)
  • Research paper and oral defense
  • See MA Latin American & Caribbean Concentration for details.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why choose Global & International Studies for my graduate degree?
What can I do with an M.A. in GIST?
What kind of students enroll in the GIST Program?
How long does it take to complete the degree?
I also work. Are there evening classes available?
What background do I need to be admitted to the M.A. GIST Program?

Why choose Global & International Studies for my graduate degree?

In a 2006 report, the Committee for Economic Development concluded that “U.S. businesses are concerned with developing the workforce that they need for the United States economy to retain its position as the global leader. Foreign language skills, knowledge of other world regions and cultures, and overseas experience all contribute to creating the employee who has the cross-cultural competence needed by American businesses in the twenty-first century.” Whether you see yourself in a for-profit, non-profit, or government service career, the master’s in international studies will provide a solid yet flexible foundation that can enhance your employability in any of these settings while giving you a more complex understanding of issues that increasingly affect all of us.

What can I do with an M.A. in GIST?

The degree allows students to gain a deep understanding of a world region of interest and to explore the history and context of issues that cross national borders and affect the work of governments, corporations, and service organizations. Our students develop a significant awareness of the opportunities and challenges faced by any entity connected to the international arena. As a result, a master's degree in international studies, together with relevant work experience and language training, can be a valuable asset for a career in public service, private enterprise or with non-governmental organizations worldwide.

Beyond the particular regions and topics covered in the coursework, students in Global and International Studies further develop their abilities in research, critical analysis, reasoning, and writing–skills that are integral to success in any field. While many of our graduates are pursuing internationally-oriented careers in government agencies, business, and service organizations, others have been interested in career opportunities that required a master's level education, whatever the field. Thus, they chose this program because it was of personal interest, allowing them to earn the master's-level credential and move up, even in positions that have little international orientation. Those considering this program should think about their goals and investigate the types of degrees and training that are held by people working in that area to make sure that the Master of Arts in Global and International Studies will help move them toward those goals.

What kind of students enroll in the GIST Program?

Our students are about 50/50 men and women and they come from a wide range of backgrounds. Some are recent college graduates, many from foreign universities; others work in the private sector or for non-profit agencies in the greater Kansas City area; still others are members of the armed services. We view the diversity of our student body as a particular strength of our program. Our students bring a wealth of personal experiences and diverse academic backgrounds to the program, which makes for lively and thought-provoking seminars.

How long does it take to complete the degree?

The normal enrollment is 9 credit hours (3 courses) in the fall and spring semesters. A full-time student should be able to complete the program in two years.

I also work. Are there evening classes available?

All of the core courses required in the MA are offered in the late afternoon or evening or are taught online. Many graduate-level elective courses meet once a week and often in the late afternoon or evening. However, the program is designed for full-time students, and some electives are only offered during the day. 

What background do I need to be admitted to the M.A. GIST Program?

To be considered for admission, applicants must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with at least a 3.0 grade-point average (on a scale in which A = 4). However, students admitted to the program typically have a higher GPA than this, more often in the 3.5 or higher range. Undergraduate degrees in the social sciences (or significant coursework in social science fields) are regarded by the admissions committee as important indicators of an applicant's likelihood for success in Global & International Studies. All applications must include a well-written statement of interest that describes relevant aspects of your background and identifies a potential thesis or research project topic and a potential thesis or research project advisor from the list of Global & International Studies Core Instructional Faculty or Affiliated Faculty.

 

Rami Zeedan
Director, GIST Graduate Studies
rzeedan@ku.edu
785-864-5895
Wescoe Hall, 4027

Alec Graham
Graduate Program Coordinator, GIST Graduate Program
College Office of Graduate Affairs (COGA)
alec.graham@ku.edu
785-864-2318
Bailey Hall, 310

Timeline & General Info

We admit a select group of students to our Master of Arts Global & International Studies (GIST) program each year. Students may apply for spring, summer, or fall entry. If you'd like to learn more about the Master in GIST and the admissions requirements, please contact our Graduate Program Coordinator listed under Center Faculty & Staff. Applying to KU is a resource for application-related logistical questions. Below are the deadlines for 2023 by entry term: 

  • Spring 2023: December 23, 2022
  • Summer 2023: February 1, 2023
  • Fall 2023: December 1, 2022 (priority); March 1, 2023 (final)

Admission Criteria

To be considered for admission, applicants must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with undergraduate degree requirements similar to those of KU. In general, applicants must have a 3.0 grade-point average (on a scale in which A = 4.0) in their bachelor's degree. However, admitted students generally have grade-point averages well above 3.0.

Application Materials

All application materials must be received before your application for admission can be evaluated. A complete application consists of the following:

  1. A KU Graduate Application submitted online along with KU's graduate application fee ($65 for domestic applicants and $85 for international applicants).
  2. Official transcript sent directly from your degree-granting undergraduate institution. (If you transferred significant coursework from another institution toward your undergraduate degree, you might consider submitting a transcript from that institution as well). If you have earned any graduate degrees, you will also need to submit a transcript for your prior graduate coursework. Per KU's transcript policy, copies of official transcripts may be evaluated for admission decisions, but official transcripts will be required if admitted. Digital copies of transcripts may be emailed directly from the degree-granting institution to graduateadm@ku.edu. Official transcripts can also be mailed to: Graduate Admissions, University of Kansas, KU Visitor Center, 1502 Iowa St., Lawrence, KS 66045
  3. A copy of your current résumé.
  4. Three letters of recommendation submitted by your references. In the online application, you will be asked to provide contact information for 3 references. These individuals will then be contacted directly by KU to provide a letter of recommendation. At least one academic reference is preferred, especially for students entering directly from their undergraduate program, and all references should speak to your potential to be successful as a graduate student. Specific information about your past performance in academics or related activities offers the best support for your application.
  5. A 500-1000 word Statement of Interest describing relevant aspects of your background and addressing how this program will help you meet your academic and professional goals. We encourage you to be as clear as possible about the relationship between this program and your interests and goals; simply noting a long-standing interest in international issues is not a compelling reason for admission. In addition, applicants must indicate a potential thesis or​ research project topic and select a potential thesis or research project advisor from the list of Global and International Studies Core Instructional Faculty. To ensure that our graduate students receive effective mentorship, applicants will not be admitted into the program without the consent of a faculty advisor who is willing to work with them. Applicants are encouraged to contact their prospective advisors in advance.   
  6. English Proficiency: If an applicant is not a native speaker of English, they must verify their English proficiency. Please see Graduate Admissions' English Proficiency Requirements for Official TOEFL or IELTS scores. Please note that because the Global and International Studies courses are reading and writing intensive, applicants scoring below the levels required for regular admission are unlikely to be accepted.​

Please note: Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general test results are not required. Applicants may submit their application, application fee, statement of interest, and resume through the application link above. GRE scores and TOEFL scores (if needed) should be sent directly to KU using institution code 6871.

Choose a Concentration within the GIST MA

Numerous flags of countries flying in the wind

Global & International

-offers the greatest flexibility regarding coursework and language learning.
People walking on street with neon signs, Tokyo, Japan

Contemporary East Asia

-allows students to focus on issues and languages pertaining to modern day East Asia. See also KU's Center for East Asian Studies.
City of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil

Latin America & Caribbean

-enables students to focus on issues and languages of the region. See also KU's Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies.