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About Diplomacy Lab


Launched in 2013, Diplomacy Lab enables the Department of State to “course-source” research related to foreign policy by harnessing the efforts of students and faculty at universities across the country.

Diplomacy Lab is designed to address two priorities:
1) The Department of State’s determination to engage the American people in the work of diplomacy
2) the imperative to broaden the State Department’s research base in response to a proliferation of complex global challenges.

Students participating in Diplomacy Lab explore real-world challenges identified by the Department and work under the guidance of faculty members who are authorities in their fields. This initiative allows students to contribute directly to the policymaking process while helping the State Department tap into an underutilized reservoir of intellectual capital.

Frequently Asked Questions

A list of projects proposed by State Department officers is shared with partners twice per year. Faculty at partner universities “bid” on the projects they’d like to lead a student team in researching during the following semester. Research can be conducted as part of a course, seminar, or as an independent project.

The State Department is responsible for responding to a wide array of international issues and challenges, including climate change, democracy and human rights, global health, energy security, gender equality, economic policy, trafficking in persons, food security, and conflict and stabilization. Diplomacy Lab projects come from offices across the Department and at posts around the globe.

Each Diplomacy Lab team is supervised by a faculty member with expertise in a field related to the project. The faculty member also serves as the Project Point of Contact for State Department officials who have proposed and are overseeing the project.

Students engage directly with officials throughout the semester in a series of video or teleconferences. Although each project’s trajectory is different, typically the first conference takes place at the beginning of the semester, so that students can meet Department officials, who provide students with additional context and direction not included in the initial project request. The second conference takes place later in the semester, to give students the chance to ask questions and officials a chance to give mid-course guidance on the students’ work. During the final conference, students present their results to their Department colleagues and other relevant officials. State Department officials will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the students’ work.

Universities are encouraged to incorporate Diplomacy Lab within their curricula as best suits their teaching needs and academic goals. Potential models include but are not limited to:

Course-Per-Topic Model: A university might build a course around a chosen Diplomacy Lab topic. Students could be asked to work collectively or in teams. The course instructor would then coordinate and consolidate student work product, the final form of which should be discussed with the relevant State Department officials before the semester begins. Possible models for student work product involve: a compilation of the best portions of various projects; a class-wide revision of a chosen project; or splitting the topic into distinct pieces (i.e. country or thematic focuses) and consolidating the results into one final submission. This model has the benefit of closely approximating the operation of an office at the State Department, where most activities and documents are deeply collective efforts.

Multi-Topic Course Model: A university could offer one or more courses (whether Diplomacy-Lab-specific or pre-existing) in which student teams address different Diplomacy Lab topics. If multiple teams intend to address the same topic, similar methods as described above should be used to consolidate the teams’ efforts prior to submission to Department officials.

Independent Study Model: A university could offer credited, supervised independent study opportunities to small groups of students for one or more of its chosen projects.

Capstone Model: Diplomacy Lab projects can be incorporated into existing capstone or practicum programs.

Institutions can apply here, however we recommend emailing about a consultation before you submit your application. To do so, or if you have any other questions, please contact us here.