History and Objectives


Geoffrey Gresh in IraqProfessor Andrew C. Hess and Ph. D. student Geoffrey Gresh in Iraq, 2009

Professor Andrew C. Hess and Ph.D. Alum Dr. Hassan Abbas

The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy is the oldest school of international relations in the United States. When it was established in 1933, the founders outlined a mission which remains the primary aim of The Fletcher School today: to provide a broad, interdisciplinary education in international affairs for students and professionals from around the world; to increase understanding of international problems and concerns through teaching, research, and publication; and to serve local, national and international communities in their search to develop relationships of mutual benefit, security and justice in an increasingly interdependent world.

In fulfilling this mission, The Fletcher School offers a number of programs which focus on internationally vital regions. Due to the increasing importance of Persian Gulf oil and gas reserves and turbulence in relations among Middle Eastern states, The Honorable Theodore Lyman Elliot, Jr., Dean of The Fletcher School (1979-1985) established an academic program which would concentrate on the region's cultural and institutional history as well as its contemporary developments. With generous funding from the Mellon Foundation, the school brought Dr. Andrew C. Hess from the executive ranks of the Arabian American Oil Company to direct the Program on Southwest Asia and Islamic Civilization in 1984-1985. It has since grown considerably, thanks to funding and grants from the governments of the United States, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as from international businesses such as ARAMCO, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Bechtel, Raytheon, Gillette, Boeing Aircraft, and numerous private donors.

The program concentrates on the strategically important area that extends eastward from the Arabian peninsula to include Pakistan, while also concerning itself with those areas of the world that are part of the core regions of civilization. Among subjects receiving special attention are: the emergence of a “New Great Game” in Central Asia, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, military competition and the arms trade, a resurgence in ethnic violence since the end of the Cold War in Central Asia and the Caucasus, the politics and foreign policies of the Persian Gulf states, regional economic development and international trade, illegal markets for the traffic or arms, narcotics and human beings, the rise in Islamic fundamentalism, politics of oil and petrochemicals, and modern technology and social change.

The program endeavors to prepare students for public service and private sector careers in positions related to Southwest Asia and the Middle East. In the past, our program has been able to offer assistance to students working in internships and participating in language studies. Our relationship with the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy has enabled students to pursue internships in Baku.

The program has consistently attracted approximately fifty percent of the Fletcher student population, including many nationals from the Persian Gulf region, to its courses. The achievements of former students attest to the success of the program; graduates have gone on to work for a variety of careers which play a significant role in the Southwest Asian region and in the international life to include:

  • US Government
  • Foreign Governments
  • Non-Governmental Organizations
  • International Business
  • International Think Tanks
  • Global Consulting
  • International Journalism
  • Academia