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MIT Center for International Studies

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MIT Center for International Studies

MIT Center for International Studies
Established 1951
Director Richard J. Samuels
Location Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

The MIT Center for International Studies (CIS) is an academic research center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It sponsors work focusing on international relations, security studies, international migration, human rights and justice, political economy and technology policy. The Center was founded in 1951.[1]

According to its website, CIS aims "to support and promote international research and education at MIT".[2]


The MIT Center for International Studies was one of several academic research centers founded in the United States after World War II.[3] Its creation was originally funded by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), in order to provide expert analysis on issues pertaining to the Cold War rivalry with the Soviet Union.[4]

Prominent social scientists involved with CIS include Lucian Pye, Eugene Skolnikov, William Kaufman, Walt Whitman Rostow, Ithiel de Sola Pool, Carl Kaysen. Early on, the Center specialized in political and economic development, military strategy, and Asia, and many of its faculty (e.g. Rostow and Kaysen) served in high government posts. Daniel Ellsberg was a research fellow at CIS when he released the Pentagon Papers in 1971.[5]


The Security Studies Program (SSP), a joint program with the department of political science, was established in the 1970s. Many prominent security specialists in government, think tanks, the military and academia, including Geoffrey Kemp, Daniel Byman, Ken Pollack, and William Durch, undertook their doctoral studies in SSP. Since the early 1990s, it has been associated with the Neorealist school of international relations, led by such theorists as Barry Posen and Stephen Van Evera.

The MIT International Science and Technology Initiative (MISTI) is the international education program at MIT.[6] MISTI sends more than 400 MIT students abroad yearly to complete research or internships.[7]

The Center also organizes Seminar XXI, a yearly educational program for senior military officers, government and NGO officials, and other leaders in U.S. national security policy.[8]

The Center also has programs in international political economy, particularly the MIT Program on Emerging Technologies (POET), a National Science Foundation awardee. Other programs include:

  • Bustani Middle East Seminar[9]
  • Environmental Governance & Sustainability [10]
  • Human Rights and Justice [11]
  • International Migration and Humanitarian Studies [12]
  • Jerusalem 2050 [13]
  • Persian Gulf Initiative [14]
  • Political Economy and Technology Policy [15]
  • Puerto Rico Project (PREP) [16]
  • South Asian Politics [17]

Several visiting fellows and scholars join the Center each year, including outstanding women journalists under the Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship, and distinguished public servants under the Robert Wilhelm Fellowship. Other individuals have spent weeks or months at the Center, such as Ranil Wickremasinghe, former prime minister of Sri Lanka; David Miliband, former foreign secretary of the U.K.; and Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, a former reform member of the Majlis of Iran.

Leadership and Faculty

CIS includes 160 members of the MIT faculty and staff, mainly drawn from the departments of political science and urban studies, and visiting scholars from around the world.


Partial list of faculty:

  • Barry Posen, Ford International Professor of Political Science, Director, Security Studies Program
  • Kenneth A. Oye, Associate Professor of Political Science and Engineering Systems Design; former Director, CIS; Director, MIT Program on Emerging Technologies [18]
  • Francis Gavin, Stanton Professor of Political Science
  • Taylor Fravel, Associate Professor of Political Science
  • Vipin Narang, Associate Professor of Political Science
  • Fotini Christia, Associate Professor of Political Science
  • Owen Cote, Senior Research Scientist
  • Jim Walsh, Research Scientist[19]

Notable Current and Past Members

  • Philip S. Khoury, Professor of History and Associate Provost, MIT
  • Robert J. Art, Director of Seminar XXI, Christian Herder Professor of International Relations, Brandeis University
  • Chappell Lawson, Director of MISTI; Associate Professor of Political Science, MIT
  • Elizabeth Wood, Professor of History; Director of Women's Studies
  • Bakyt Beshimov, Research Affiliate and Visiting Scholar[20]
  • Ali Banuazizi, Research Affiliate; Professor of Political Science and Psychology, Boston College; former president, Middle East Studies Association
  • Anna Badkhen, Research Affiliate, author of The World is a Carpet: Four Seasons in an Afghan Village
  • Anat Biletzki, Research Affiliate; Schweitzer Professor of Philosophy, Quinnipiac University
  • Hussein Banai, Research Affiliate; Assistant Professor of Political Science, Occidental College
  • Joost Hiltermann, Research Affiliate; International Crisis Group
  • Diane Emily Davis, Research Affiliate; Professor of Urbanism and Development, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University

Wilhelm Fellows

  • Naomi Chazan, 2004, former Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, Israel
  • Francis Deng, 2005, Under Secretary General of the United Nations, former Foreign Minister, Sudan
  • Barbara Bodine, 2006, former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen
  • William J. Fallon, 2008, former Admiral, U.S. Navy, Commander of Pacific Command and Central Command
  • Hans Georg Eichler, M.D., 2010, Senior Medical Officer at the European Medicines Agency, London
  • Abbas Maleki, 2011, former Deputy Foreign Minister, Iran
  • Yukio Okamoto, 2013- , adviser to the government of Japan
  • Joel Brenner, 2014- , former Inspector General, National Security Agency[21]


  1. ^ Donald L.M. Blackmer, The MIT Center for International Studies: The Founding Years 1951-1969 (MIT, 2002).
  2. ^
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  4. ^ Donald L.M. Blackmer, The MIT Center for International Studies: The Founding Years 1951-1969 (MIT, 2002).
  5. ^ Donald L.M. Blackmer, The MIT Center for International Studies: The Founding Years 1951-1969 (MIT, 2002).
  6. ^
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  20. ^ Aiding scholars at risk, Harvard Gazette, By Corydon Ireland, October 25, 2010
  21. ^ MIT News Office Center for Biomedical Information, Center for International Studies press release,
  • MIT CIS Facebook Page
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