Program Activities
Events Calendar
Our Alumni
External Resources

The Strategic Studies Program explores the relationship between politics and the many kinds of military power—from the use of terror by small, non-state groups to the threatened use of nuclear weapons. Building on core concepts taught in the course Strategy and Policy, the program allows students to pursue interests in diverse aspects of security while developing a variety of analytic and practical skills.

The study of national security issues at Johns Hopkins SAIS dates back to the founding of the school in 1943, but gained its greatest impetus under the direction of Professor Robert Osgood, who established a formal program in the field in 1980. The program is directed by Professor Eliot A. Cohen [3], who came to the school in 1990 and founded the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies [4]. He is assisted by Professor Mara Karlin [5] who is also the Associate Director of Strategic Studies, Associate Professor of Practice and Executive Director of Phillip Merrill Center.

For additional information, follow the links:
- Information about a PhD in Strategic Studies [6];
- Some thoughts on writing [7];
- A few good books on reading, writing, and presentation [8];
- The Strategic Studies Core Reading List [9] (which is optional);
- A paper prospectus format [10];
- And guidance for receiving a recommendation from Professor Cohen [11].

Professor McLaughlin discussing his experiences in Washington through the Defense Against the Dark Arts Speaker Series
Professor Keaney explains the different types and uses of Civil War artillery during the Battle of Gettysburg
Show More


  • [12]
    Robert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies, Director of Strategic Studies, Director of the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies
    Washington, D.C.
    Email [14]
  • [15]
    Associate Director, Strategic Studies Program, Executive Director, The Merrill Center for Strategic Studies, Associate Professor of the Practice
    Washington, D.C.
    Email [16]
  • [17]
    Senior Fellow, Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies, Senior Adjunct Professor, Strategic Studies
    Washington, D.C.
    Email [19]
  • [20]
    Professor of History and International Studies
    Bologna, Italy
    Email [22]
  • [23]
    Senior Research Professor, Director of External Programs for the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies
    Washington, D.C.
    Email [25]
  • [26]
    Distinguished Practitioner-in-Residence at the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies
    Washington, D.C.
    Email [28]
  • [29]
    Professor of Strategic Studies
    Washington, D.C.
    Email [31]
  • [32]
    Distinguished Practitioner-in-Residence
    Email [34]

Program Activities



The program’s Seminar in Crisis Simulation explores the literature and concepts surrounding simulated crisis enactments, leading to a voluntary school-wide exercise. The seminar seeks to develop scenarios and use them to uncover the dynamics of national decision-making and policy response. The one-semester-credit course meets across both semesters, and students design and manage the simulation in early March. Non-seminar students from all programs may participate in the spring crisis simulation exercise.


Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities [35] such as film seminars, speaker series, Defense Against the Dark Arts, You Were There Series and field trips to military installations are an important supplement to the program.


Staff Rides

The Strategic Studies program has planned and executed a large number of trips and staff rides since 2000. Our many excursions allow on-site views of military operations, historical events, and museums that offer perspectives a classroom may not deliver.

The staff ride tradition stretches back to the 19th century Prussian General Staff, and concentrates on more than just operational history; rather a staff ride will focus on important issues of leadership and decision-making that have applications well beyond the field of strategic studies. Students, faculty, and distinguished guests examine battles, campaigns, and occasionally entire wars in order to actively engage in a dialogue with history.

Click here [36] for more information on staff rides and to see what campaigns we have studied in the past, and watch this video of Dr. Cohen discussing what a Staff Ride is all about:


Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies

The Phillip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies [37] conducts workshops and seminars for scholars, teachers and practitioners in the security studies field.




Strategic Studies Program Learning Goals and Objectives [38]

Entering Class 2017-2018
Students must take the equivalent of 16 non-language courses (64 credits) in order to graduate. Those students who are approved for dual degree or advanced standing may only need to take 12 courses (48 credits) or 14 courses (56 credits) as approved by Academic Affairs.



Students concentrating in Strategic Studies (STRAT) must take a minimum of 5 courses (20 credits) within this program.  One of these courses must be Strategy and Policy (SA.660.740) and this course must be taken in the first semester. Students must receive a B- or better in Strategy and Policy in order to meet the concentration requirement. Courses in the curriculum cross-listed with Strategic Studies may be counted toward the concentration requirement.

Students concentrating in Strategic Studies may not pursue an additional policy or regional concentration. For further information, please read the department's statement on dual concentrations [39].



Students must complete 16 credits. The four required courses are:

  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics (prerequisite or concurrent: Microeconomics)
  • International Trade Theory (prerequisite: Microeconomics)
  • International Monetary Theory (prerequisite: Macroeconomics)

If a student passes a waiver exam [40] in one of these areas, the student must take a replacement International Economics program course(s) to fulfill the concentration requirement.

Starting with the entering class of Fall 2017, students who pass Microeconomics in Pre-Term [41] will have the concentration reduced to 12 credits, but still must complete Macroeconomics, International Trade Theory, and International Monetary Theory (or a replacement course(s) if waiver exam(s) passed). The Pre-Term Microeconomics course is not for credit and is not factored into the GPA.

Beyond the requirements, many students choose to pursue an International Economics Specialization [42] in one of four areas of economics. Students may also choose to specialize in Emerging Markets [43].

Concentration GPA Requirement
Students must achieve a combined GPA of at least 2.67 in four (or three if Microeconomics is passed in Pre-Term) required International Economics program courses or they must retake the course(s) until a 2.67 concentration GPA is achieved. In the standard case, the concentration GPA will be the average of the grades of Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, International Trade Theory, and International Monetary Theory.

If one or more of the four standard courses is waived, the school will use the highest grade(s) from any eligible replacement International Economics program course(s) to compute the International Economics concentration GPA.



Students must complete one course from the list below.

  • Statistical Methods for Business & Economics 
  • Econometrics (prerequisite Statistical Methods for Business & Economics)
  • Applied Econometrics (prerequisite Econometrics)
  • Macro Econometrics (prerequisite Econometrics)
  • Risk Analysis and Modeling
  • Quantitative Global Economics (prerequisite International Monetary Theory)
  • Credit Markets & Credit Risk (prerequsite Corporate Finance)

Students may not double-count the same course toward the Quantitative Reasoning requirement and as an International Economics concentration course and vice-versa.

If a student passes the statistics waiver exam, the student must take an alternate course from the list above to fulfill the Quantitative Reasoning requirement.

Starting with the entering class of Fall 2017, students who pass Statistical Methods for Business & Economics in Pre-Term [41] will have fulfilled the Quantitative Reasoning requirement. The Pre-Term course is not for credit and is not factored into the GPA.



All students must pass 2 core courses and/or exams from the subjects below. If the core courses/exams are not completed by the start of the final semester, the student no longer has the option of completing the exam and must enroll in the core course(s) for credit.

  • American Foreign Policy Since World War II
  • Comparative Politics
  • Evolution of the International Systems
  • Theories of International Relations


MA candidates must pass exams to demonstrate proficiency in a second language. This language must be offered at Johns Hopkins SAIS. Students whose native language is not English may use English as their proficiency language. All non-native English speakers are required to pass an English placement exam upon entering the school, even if not using English for proficiency.



Strategic Studies concentrators must complete ONE of the following capstones:

  • Successful completion of the course SA.660.751 Strategic Studies Research Seminar 
  • Leading or directing research for the international staff ride, or leading one of the domestic staff rides
  • An oral exam conducted by two Strategic Studies faculty members at the end of the final semester
  • MA Oral Exam (to compete for honors—if eligible)


Entering Class 2016-2017 [44]
Entering Class 2015-2016 [45]
Entering Class 2014-2015 [46]
Entering Class 2013-2014 [47]
Entering Class 2012-2013 [48]
Entering Class 2011-2012 [49]
Entering Class 2010-2011 [50]


Strategic Studies Minor Requirements: 

  • 3 Strategic Studies courses (12 credits) including:
    • SA.660.740 Strategy and Policy (DC students attend the spring offering)*
    • 2 additional Strategic Studies (or cross-listed) courses (8 credits)

*Students must receive a B- or better in Strategy and Policy in order to meet the minor requirement.

General Minor Requirements:

  • MA students may pursue an optional minor in a policy or regional program. A student cannot pursue a minor in General IR or International Economics, but can pursue a Specialization in International Economics [51]
  • A student can have only one minor and can declare a minor at any time prior to graduation.
  • Students do not receive bidding priority for a minor.
  • All minors require three courses. Some minors require a specific course(s) and/or language proficiency.
  • A student may use a maximum of one applicable cross-listed course (4 credits) toward both a minor AND concentration requirements. In the IR or Asia concentrations, the cross-listed course must be from the primary concentration area and not from the 2 additional required courses in the other IR or Asia areas.
  • General IR concentrators can minor in an IR area or policy area (Conflict Management, Global Theory and History, International Law and Organizations, International Political Economy, Energy, Resources, and Environment, or Strategic Studies) by completing 2 additional area/policy courses (8 credits) beyond the 1 used toward the concentration.

To add or change a minor, please click HERE [52].


Our Alumni


Alumni Facebook Group - "Johns Hopkins SAIS Strategic Studies Alumni"

Join the group by visiting the new Strategic Studies Alumni page and "Request to join".  You will need to have a Facebook account to login and join. 
The group is focused on connecting Strategic Studies Alumni - and friends - and updating them on all lectures, programs, and fund raising events hosted by the Strategic Studies Department.


Alumni List Serve and Newsletter

To join the Strategic Studies alumni listserve, please e-mail stratdistro@gmail.com [53] and provide your name and year of graduation.

For bi-annual updates on the Strategic Studies department, please check out our recent newsletters:


Volume 9 Issue 2: July 2017 [54]
Volume 9 Issue 1: January 2017 [55]
Volume 8 Issue 1: January 2016 [56]
Volume 6 Issue 2: July 2014 [57]
Volume 5 Issue 2: December2013 [58]
Volume 5 Issue 1: July 2013 [59]
Volume 4 Issue 1: December 2012 [60]
Volume 3 Issue 2: December 2011 [61]
Volume 3 Issue 1: June 2011 [62]
Volume 2 Issue 2: December 2010 [63]
Volume 2 Issue 1: June 2010 [64]
Volume 1 Issue 2: November 2009 [65]
Volume 1 Issue 1: May 2009 [66]


Alumni Literary Forum

The Strategic Studies Alumni Literary Forum is currently suspended. Future dates will be announced as guest authors are scheduled.
Previous Discussions:

External Resources


Gateways and Portals for Strategic Studies Research

The Federation of American Scientists [104] has good collections on military subjects. It is a good place to start learning about military nuts and bolts. More up to date material can be found at the GlobalSecurity [105] website created by John Pike, who built the FAS site.

Defenselink [106]is the Defense Department’s main website, but it's easier to go directly to other places in the .mil domain. The Foreign Military Studies Office [107] of the United States Army has excellent publications and external links. Note too, the Military Domain Search engine [108] at Fort Leavenworth – a big help in searching the vast American military web. The Defense Technical Information Center [109] (US) has links to lots of useful sites. Library of Congress Country Studies [110] usually have lots of background material on armed forces and politico/military history. But remember that students also have access to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s country surveys from the Johns Hopkins SAIS library.

For bibliographies go to the Air University Library [111], the Marine Corps Research Center [112] (one of the best), the Army Heritage and Education Center [113] is a great way into a variety of Army sources, the Naval War College Library [114], the National Defense University library or the Dudley Knox Library [115] at the Naval Postgraduate School, which has links to other bibliographies. In general, the military library sites can be extremely valuable, as is the Military Education Research Library Network, or MERLN [116], best accessed through the NDU. Start at these locations for most of your research.

The World Wide Web Virtual Library [117] historical section is useful; so, more broadly, is the International Relations and Security Network [118] out of Switzerland. Facts on International Relations and Security Trends [119] is a combined effort of the Stockholm
International Peace Research Institute and the International Relations and Security Network. It is very useful for basic data. The
Social Sciences Information Gateway [120] (SOSIG) project in the UK is a bit quirky, but not a bad place to go.

If you want a directory the Scout Report archives [121] is a great way to roam through a decade of the Scout Report, which is the best review service of Internet sites. Librarians' Index to the Internet [122] is a big help too, though less comprehensive.

You cannot understand wars without maps. Three great resources are the Perry Castaneda library at the University of Texas [123], the Department of History [124] at the US Military Academy (West Point) and the American Memory site at the Library of Congress [125].

Three professors have particularly useful websites to work from: Marc Trachtenberg [126] of UCLA (especially helpful on how to do historical work); Charles Lipson [127] of University of Chicago (see his contemporary international relations material); Richard Jensen [128] of University of Illinois with his Scholars’ Guide to the WWW; see also his Web Sources for Military History [129].

The New York Times’ Cybertimes Navigator [130] has many great resources – it was designed for their correspondents, but it can help you with searching, as well as some very odd but interesting corners of the Net.

Contact Us

Eliot Cohen
twmckell@jhu.edu [131]

Mara Karlin
Associate Director
mkarlin1@jhu.edu [16]

Thayer McKell
Program Administrator
twmckell@jhu.edu [131]

Address & Phone

Strategic Studies
1619 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington DC, 20036