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Princeton School of Public and International Affairs
Woodrow Wilson School Policy Seminar Papers
Princeton University Archives
Permanent URL:
96 boxes, 1 item, and 662 Volumes
Storage Note:
ReCAP (rcpph): Box 1-96


The undergraduate Policy Seminar is one of the defining elements of the academic curriculum of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. The records consist of the final reports, as well as some syllabi and course materials from the policy seminars and a short-lived graduate-level program from the 1960s.

Collection Description & Creator Information


The undergraduate Policy Seminar is one of the defining elements of the academic curriculum of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Undertaken during the Junior and Senior years, each seminar is an intimate exploration into a specific issue issue of public affairs or international relations, highlighted by guest speakers, original research, and the completion of a final paper by each student.

From academic year 1930-1931 to Spring 1998, the Policy Seminars were known as Policy Conferences. From academic year 1998-1999 through Spring 2007, the courses were known as Task Forces. In Fall 2007-2008, the name was changed to Junior Policy Seminars to reflect that both task forces and conferences are included in the program. The papers produced from the seminars are also often informally called "Woodrow Wilson School Junior Papers."

The Woodrow Wilson School has also sponsored several related but separate seminars that are also represented in this collection. From 1984-1986, undergraduate seminars known as Task Forces were held during the Spring semester; these were distinct from the later courses that were also called Task Forces. Graduate-level seminars were held annually during the summer from 1962-1967.

The collection consists of the final reports, as well as some syllabi and course materials from undergraduate policy conferences of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, as well from a graduate-level summer seminar held in the 1960s. Conference materials from the period 1930 to 1989 are in bound volumes, while conference materials from 1990 to the present are housed in archival boxes. The reports reflect at length on contemporary public policy issues, and represent the work of Princeton students under the guidance of faculty advisors.

Collection Creator Biography:

Princeton School of Public and International Affairs

The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs is a professional school dedicated to the preparation of undergraduate and graduate students for careers in public policy and government. Offering undergraduate bachelor of arts degrees, master's degrees in public policy and public affairs, and doctoral degrees, the school maintains a faculty of approximately 50 professors and admits less than 100 undergraduates on a selective basis every year.

Though it would be nearly 30 years before the institution would open its doors, the idea for such a school was born during the tenure of Woodrow Wilson, the University's 13th president. It was Wilson who in a 1903 letter to Andrew Carnegie wrote of his vision for "a School of Jurisprudence and Government...a school of law, but not in any narrow or technical sense: a school, rather, in which law and institutions would be interpreted as instruments of peace, of freedom, and of the advancement of civilization."

Almost immediately following Woodrow Wilson's departure from the University in 1910, the United States entered into a period of global conflict previously unseen, out of which emerged new perceptions about America's own place in the international sphere. Likewise, unparalleled economic growth in the post-War era raised awareness of the need for more soundly formulated fiscal policy on the state and national level. During this time the idea for a School of International Affairs and Public Policy germinated in the minds of University trustees, alumni and administration, with some becoming convinced that such a program of study was an absolute necessity if Princeton was to maintain its commitment to Wilson's oft-repeated phrase "Princeton in the Nation's Service."

One such individual was trustee William Church Osborn, Class of 1884. In the 1920s, Osborn was a leading member of the Trustees Special Committee on a Law School, which despite strongly recommending such a school, watched as the costly initiative was lost amid a flurry of campus building activity. In 1928, shortly before the disbanding of the Committee, Osborn informally assembled the group to discuss a separate but related proposal, that of a school of public affairs. Osborn, himself a lawyer and president of the Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad, found an ally in fellow trustee and lawyer Albert G. Milbank, Class of 1860. The two men, chairman and vice-chairman respectively of the Princeton Fund Committee, were intimately connected to the University's highest governing body as well as one of its major sources of revenue.

Several months later, Albridge C. Smith, Jr., president of the Class of 1903, approached the Princeton Fund Committee (in January 1929) with an offer of $25,000 from his class for the establishment of a memorial to Woodrow Wilson. Compelled by persuasive arguments from Osborn and Milbank, the Princeton Fund Committee agreed to direct the gift towards a school of public and international affairs, and throughout the remainder of 1929 called upon University faculty and alumni in the public service for advice on a curriculum, as well as to cultivate potential donors and trustees. In October of that year, the Board of Trustees and president John Grier Hibben formally established the Special Committee on the School of Public and International Affairs. One month later the first draft of a plan for such a school was presented to the Trustees, and after a series of revisions it was adopted unanimously on January 9, 1930.

Of the numerous challenges facing the Committee after its inception, none were as daunting as the selection of an able administrator to lead the school and formulate an entirely new curriculum. In preparing for this task, the Committee made a conscious decision to seek an individual from outside the ranks of Princeton's faculty, sending a clear message that the School of Public and International Affairs was going to be an educational institution radically different from any other at the University. A likely candidate emerged in the form of DeWitt Clinton Poole, a United States consul general stationed in Berlin. Along with Princeton alumnus and fellow diplomat, Norman Armour '09, Poole drafted a blueprint for a school of public and international affairs which formed much of the basis for the Committee's eventual submitted plan. With his finger on the pulse of international affairs and diplomacy in post-war Europe as well as an able diplomat and administrator, Poole possessed the qualities that would ostensibly be required of the school's initial chairman. His appointment in late 1929 as chair of the school's advisory board and as its first director three years later came with recommendations from such prominent statesmen as Charles Evans Hughes.

The initial curriculum of the school as outlined by the committee's proposal was conspicuously broad. Rather than focusing upon specific issues and areas of political science and affairs as was the trend at many institutions, undergraduates of the School of Public and International Affairs would embark upon an interdisciplinary course of study that included history, political theory, language, and economics. This manner of instruction was informed by Poole's own experiences as a diplomat, as evidenced in his statement to Hibben that "The need is for a broad culture which will enlarge the individual's mental scope to world dimensions."

Rather than a wholesale abandonment of the four-course departmental major plan then in place for undergraduates, it was decided that the course of study at the School of Public and International Affairs would be integrated into the regular undergraduate curriculum. Students were to enroll in introductory courses in one or more of the three existing social studies departments; history, political science, or economics. Upon completion of the sophomore year, students would then apply to the school, which would select between 80 and 100 of the most qualified students from the pool of applicants. If not admitted as juniors students could reapply in their senior year. The system allowed students to select a major of their choosing and take a wide variety of courses in their freshman and sophomore years, reaching the School of Public and International Affairs in their junior year with a broad interdisciplinary academic foundation already in place.

The second notable feature of the curriculum of the School of Public and International Affairs and one that would become an institutional hallmark was the Conference on Public Affairs. The brainchild of Poole, the Conference on Public Affairs was a uniquely designed undergraduate course that served as the centerpiece of the curriculum. Each Conference was focused on a singular issue or problem, often drawn from current events, and the students enrolled in the conference were charged with discussing, describing, and offering theoretical resolutions to the topic. Often punctuated by guest visits and participation from diplomats and policymakers, the conferences were widely considered to be the school's most valuable training tool, especially as many of the conference topics foreshadowed the issues that could come to dominate the professional lives of the school's graduates.

A final concern to those charged with the establishment of the school, albeit a major one, was the selection and appointment of a capable faculty to instruct the students and carry out the vision of public affairs education prescribed by Poole, Armour, Osborn, and Hibben. The resulting group included individuals from academia as well as diplomats and others involved in the realm of public and international affairs, many of whom received dual appointments to both the school and to one of the social studies departments.

Though the school's primary focus at the time of its founding was undergraduate education, it was also envisioned as an institution that would eventually play a role in public policy research and graduate studies. In the case of the latter, several early research programs contributed greatly to the School's survival. Notable among these were a series of government surveys undertaken by a committee of faculty at the behest of New Jersey governor A. Harry Moore, who in 1932 was seeking ways to relieve the state's financial woes at the height of the Great Depression. Two additional research units, the Office of Population Research and the Radio Research Project, were both established in 1936. Each of these units made valuable contributions to domestic and international affairs, and in 1951 the Center of International Studies was added, an expansion of research interests which was accompanied by a notable growth in the size of the faculty.

Begun in 1931 at the time of the school's founding, the initial graduate program of the School of Public and International Affairs was loosely defined and small in size. In the first three years of the school's existence only 12 Master of Arts degrees were awarded, primarily to undergraduates of Princeton who remained to study at their own expense. In 1933 the graduate program was discontinued and two years later a faculty committee recommended a new program, consisting of a one-year certificate and a two year Master in Public Affairs degree. Despite this recommendation, the graduate program was reinstated by the Board of Trustees in a form very similar to that in which it had previously existed, namely as a two-year Master of Arts degree subject to completion of the general examinations in one of the three social science fields. It was only much later in 1948 when the graduate program was restructured once again according to the recommendations of the faculty that a Master in Public Affairs program was instituted.

Despite the relative success of the fledgling school during its first decade of existence, the leadership of DeWitt Clinton Poole was often questioned by faculty who felt that the former diplomat was ill-suited for such an academic environment and that the School's curriculum was underdeveloped and a distraction. It was primarily the endorsement of University president Harold W. Dodds, a politics professor himself, which prevented outright dissension. Its popularity with undergraduate students also provided a measure of credibility unforeseen. Nonetheless, in late 1938 Dodds convened an administrative subcommittee to investigate possible adjustments to the School's organization. The resulting report called for the establishment of the School of Public and International Affairs as a scholastic entity unto itself, away from the existing social science departments. In practice, this meant that juniors and seniors enrolled in the school would select courses and complete their theses under the auspices of the school and its faculty, rather than precariously balancing the school's academic demands with that of another department. Recognizing that the institution was on the verge of a shift in direction, Poole resigned his post in February 1939. He was replaced by Dana Gardner Munro, chairman of Princeton's Department of History.

With a fresh administration in place, Munro and the growing faculty turned to two issues which had remained unresolved since the school's founding. The first of these was the School's facilities. Since its inception the School of Public and International Affairs had operated out of two locations, Dickinson Hall, and Whig Hall. The former housed the main offices of the school; the latter housed additional offices as well as the Policy Conference course. One of Munro's first actions as director was to purchase the Arbor Inn, a recently closed eating club on Ivy Lane. The organization of the school's administrators under a single roof provided a level of cohesion and accessibility previously unknown.

After the move to a dedicated facility in 1940, the school essentially remained in a state of stasis throughout the remainder of the Second World War, with many faculty and students departing to serve in the armed forces. After 1945 however, the administration turned its thoughts to another lingering concern: that of formally acknowledging the school's existence as a memorial to Woodrow Wilson. Although the school had come to fruition with funds originally designated for a memorial to Wilson, Edith Bolling Wilson, the former president's second wife and widow, expressed concerns about her husband's name being associated with an entity which had not yet proven financially solvent. Efforts by trustees and administrators to raise a substantial endowment had been stymied by depression and mobilization for war, and the school operated under a deficit every year until 1941. In 1935 the trustees adopted a confidential resolution stating that the school should be named for Wilson once a sufficient endowment had been raised and a suitable building constructed. The University's Bicentennial fundraising campaign yielded $2 million for such a purpose and Wilson's widow was convinced that the institution was worthy of her husband's name, largely through the intercession of Dodds. The school was officially renamed the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs by the trustees in 1948, coinciding with the adoption of the faculty's recommendations for a graduate professional program. Two years later in 1951 ground was broken on Woodrow Wilson Hall. Though the aesthetics of the red brick and limestone structure on Washington Road's were frequently contested, when the building opened the next year none could deny its functionality.

A final notable development at the school under Munro's leadership was the 1952 institution of the Rockefeller Public Service Awards, established with a gift from John D. Rockefeller III to "give special recognition to outstanding public service by civilians in the Federal Government and to establish incentives for the continuance and advancement of those in the service." The awards, given annually, provided recipients with funding for a six to twelve month period of study at the institution of their choice.

After nearly a decade of relative stability in Woodrow Wilson Hall, the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 1960 embarked upon its period of greatest expansion yet. The spark which initiated such growth came in the form of an anonymous donation of $35 million to the School in 1961, the largest single gift ever given to any American university. The donor and his wife, simply referred to as the "X Foundation," outlined a set of criteria for the gift, focusing upon the expansion of the school's graduate program. The identity of the donors, known only to President Dodds and Woodrow Wilson School director Gardner Patterson, were Charles and Marie Robertson. Charles, Class of 1926, was a banker. Marie's father had helped to found the A + P chain of grocery stores. Despite anonymity, Robertson was not content to allow the massive gift to be distributed at the whim of the school's administration. He took an active role in arguing the case for new post-graduate educational opportunities including mid-career professional training programs for those already in the public service. In general the curriculum additions brought about by the Robertson Gift emphasized a shift from an academic education to true professional development for those in the graduate program. Unhappy with this shift, Patterson stepped down, much as Poole had done years prior, and was replaced by professor Marver Bernstein, the first administrator to hold the title of Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School.

The most obvious and tangible product of the Robertson donation was the construction of a new building to house the school. Though Woodrow Wilson Hall was a mere ten years old, by 1962 it was apparent that space was becoming scarce. In response to this need, and as a celebration of the School's newfound vivacity, plans for a new structure to be designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki were initiated. The striking building flanked by white columns in a deliberate homage to the Parthenon was completed in 1965, and dedicated in May of 1966 in a ceremony attended by U.S. President Lyndon Johnson. The building's name was changed to Robertson Hall in 1972 when, after Marie Robertson's death, the identity of the donors was revealed. Elements of the structure would later be revisited by Yamasaki in his design for the World Trade Center.

Additional initiatives followed, driven directly or indirectly by funds from the Robertson Foundation's growing endowment. These included joint programs with the School of Architecture and Urban Planning, New York University and Columbia University's respective law schools, the Research Program in Development Studies, and the Sloan Fellows in Economic Journalism program. Much as it had always done in the past, the Woodrow Wilson School in the 1970s found itself again reshaping its course offerings and research interests to reflect current trends, shifting from international relations and diplomacy to the economic and political problems of America's urban centers as the Vietnam War limped to a close.

The arrival of a new dean, former dean of the University of Michigan Graduate School Donald Stokes '54 in 1974 was accompanied by the opening of the new Center for New Jersey Affairs, harkening back to the Local Government Surveys that had brought the school acclaim early in its existence. Building upon its past in another sense, Stokes' deanship, which lasted until 1992, was highlighted time and again by return visits from some of Princeton's and the Woodrow Wilson School's most prominent and successful graduates. More so than any other dean before him, Stokes was able to unite the school's past and future, balance the academic and the professional aspects of public policy education, and maintain open channels of communication between faculty, students, and University administrators. When he announced his retirement from the position of dean in 1992, the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs was a radically different place than it had ever been and the momentum acquired during the nearly two decades of Stokes' leadership carried on into the 21st century. The deanship passed to Center for International Studies director Henry S. Bienen, who served two years in the position before resigning to fill the role of president at Northwestern University.

The individual chosen as Bienen's successor was a relative outsider to Princeton, Michael Rothschild, the dean of University of California, San Diego's Social Sciences Division. The defining moment of Rothschild's tenure, which lasted from 1995-2002, was undoubtedly the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. As an institution dedicated to the study of public and international affairs, the Woodrow Wilson School stood singularly poised on campus as a body which might be able to provide some context for what seemed to many a senseless act of violence. As early as the afternoon of September 11th the school implemented a steady program of roundtable discussions, conferences, speaking engagements, and eventually course offerings designed to make sense of domestic and international policy in the post-9/11 era.

When Rothschild returned to full-time teaching and research in 2002, he was succeeded by Anne-Marie Slaughter '80, who became the first alumna of the Woodrow Wilson School to serve as its dean. Christina Paxson, who had founded the Center for Health and Well-Being at Princeton, served as dean from 2009-2012. In 2012, Cecilia Elena Rouse, professor of economics, became dean, serving until 2021, when she was confirmed Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers for the Biden Administration. In September, 2021, Amaney A. Jamal, professor of politics and former Director of the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice, became dean.

In 2020, the School was renamed the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. Recognizing that Woodrow Wilson enacted racist and segregationist policies, students and some alumni had sought to change the name years earlier, especially during protests late in 2015. However, in 2016, a Trustee Committee on Woodrow Wilson's Legacy at Princeton decided to retain the name "Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs." In the summer of 2020, the Board of Trustees voted to remove Wilson's name from the school.

Collection History


Woodrow Wilson School Policy Seminar Papers are transferred from the school to the University Archives each year following the Spring seminar.


Appraisal information was not recorded at time of processing.

Processing Information

2017 accession of digital files processed by Annalise Berdini. Some intellectual arrangement and description was imposed at the file level to remain consistent with the collection. Information about previous accessions and processing currently unavailable. Finding aid updated in 2018 by Annalise Berdini.

There are gaps in the sequential numbering of volumes in this finding aid; volume numbers 47, 61 and 320 do not exist.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. For quotations that are fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. The Trustees of Princeton University hold copyright to all materials generated by Princeton University employees in the course of their work. If copyright is held by Princeton University, researchers will not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with non-commercial use of materials from the Mudd Library. For materials where the copyright is not held by the University, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold the copyright and obtaining approval from them. If you have a question about who owns the copyright for an item, you may request clarification by contacting us through the Ask Us! form.

Credit this material:

Woodrow Wilson School Policy Seminar Papers; Princeton University Archives, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

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