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Josef Korbel School of International Studies

Josef Korbel School building

About our School

History

The Josef Korbel School of International Studies has offered degree programs in international affairs since its founding in 1964 as the Graduate School of International Studies. The school was renamed May 28, 2008. The name honors the school's founder and first dean, Josef Korbel.

Ben M. Cherrington

Ben CherringtonBen Mark Cherrington is credited with laying the foundation for the Josef Korbel School's hallmark strengths: a global perspective, academic integrity, emphasis on the relevance of theory to skills and support of initiatives and activities that support a peaceful and prosperous world.

Cherrington was the chair of the Department of International Relations at the University of Denver (the precursor to the Josef Korbel School). Under his leadership the department gained a national reputation. Thanks to Cherrington's drive and enthusiasm for organizing conferences, seminars and lectures on international affairs, Denver became a temporary home to politicians, diplomats, academics and business leaders from around the world—a tradition that lives on today.

While professor and chair of the Department of International Relations, Cherrington was also at the forefront of efforts to create a formal institution for U.S. public diplomacy, implementing President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Good Neighbor Policy," which was designed to reverse decades of U.S. paternalism toward Latin America. In 1938, Cherrington was handpicked by the State Department to lead its new Division of Cultural Relations and tasked with carrying out "the exchange of professors, teachers, and students . . . cooperation in the field of music, art, literature . . . international radio broadcasts . . . generally, the dissemination abroad of the representative intellectual and cultural work of the U.S." Cherrington served as chancellor of the University of Denver from 1943 to 1946 and was later an author of the United Nations Charter.

Josef Korbel

Josef KorbelJosef Korbel was the founder and first dean of the Graduate School of International Studies in 1964 that was renamed in his honor the Josef Korbel School of International Studies in 2008.

Korbel's diplomatic career began in 1937 as a press attaché in the Czechoslovak legation in Belgrade. In 1939, he fled Czechoslovakia to London after the Nazi invasion and joined the Czech government in exile under Edvard Benes. During the war years he also worked with the BBC on their daily broadcasts to Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. Upon returning to Czechoslovakia in 1945, Korbel became the youngest serving Czech ambassador and was assigned to Yugoslavia where he remained until the Communist coup in 1948. Korbel was subsequently named a delegate to the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan and served as its chair. In 1949, he was granted political asylum in the United States. He then moved with his young family to Colorado and joined the University of Denver Social Science Foundation for one year as a visiting professor and to write his first of several scholarly books. His one-year professorship turned into a lifelong passion and Korbel remained at the university until his death in 1977. 

In 1964, with enthusiastic support of Ben Cherrington, and with Korbel's distinguished academic and scholarly career and administrative acumen, the Graduate School of International Studies was founded. Josef Korbel became its first dean. To house the new school, Korbel was responsible for raising the much needed funding to build Ben M. Cherrington Hall that opened in 1965.

In the post-Cold War world, Korbel helped pioneer the field of international studies and was a recognized scholar on Central Europe and Soviet foreign policy. He was passionate about teaching and watching his students' successes, and was serious about academic scholarship. He was rigorous and demanding in his research and expected the same from the school's faculty and students. His books on Yugoslavia, Poland and Czechoslovakia established him as a leading authority on post-World War II Central Europe; his 1954 Danger in Kashmir is still considered a classic for its penetrating diplomatic analysis of a territorial dispute and armed conflict with implications for international security.

Though Josef Korbel died in 1977, his legacy lives on in the establishment of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, named in his honor, and in the Korbel School's many distinguished graduates. But what is also quite remarkable, not only for the University, but for the nation as a whole, is that Josef Korbel mentored two U.S. Secretaries of State -- his daughter, Madeleine K. Albright, the 64th and first woman Secretary of State, and his star student at the University of Denver, Condoleezza Rice.  

Legacy of Excellence

Josef Korbel School RenamingThe Graduate School of International Studies was renamed Josef Korbel School of International Studies on May 28, 2008, thanks to the family of Josef Korbel. The new name recognizes that Korbel's life and work serves as the intellectual pillars of the school and that his spirit continues to inspire students and faculty.

"Josef Korbel opened a world to me that I would never have known," former Secretary of State Rice said in a speech in 2007. Indeed, today, the Josef Korbel School continues the work of its namesake and founder: offering a broad intellectual approach to the study of international affairs to practical idealists committed to the common good of an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world.

Ascending Reputation

The strategic initiatives implemented over the past five decades have helped establish the Josef Korbel School globally as a premier educational institution. A 2012 survey conducted by the Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) Project, a part of The Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations at the College of William and Mary, ranked our master degrees #11 in the world for graduate programs in international affairs. The survey results confirm that the school has faculty and innovative programs that are recognized by leading U.S. academics as excellent.

The recent prominence of graduates on the world stage has also contributed to the school's ascending reputation. Those graduates include former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; retired U.S. Army General George Casey the 38th chief of staff of the U.S. Army and former commander of the Multi-National Force-Iraq; Heraldo Munoz, Chile's ambassador to the United Nations; and former Iranian ambassador to the U.N., Javad Zarif.