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10 ways SIS broke ground

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10 ways SIS broke ground

June 9, 2017, marks the 60th anniversary of the groundbreaking ceremony for the original SIS building, which held its first classes in September of 1958. President Dwight D. Eisenhower attended the groundbreaking ceremony and offered his "good wishes to all students who will enter that school to go into the service of our country in the noblest work that our nation can possibly pursue, and that is the seeking of a peace based on justice and the right."

To kick off a year-long celebration of SIS's 60th anniversary, we gathered 10 groundbreaking moments from the school's history.


American University (AU) answers President Eisenhower's call for universities to incorporate human-focused international affairs into their education by establishing the School of International Service.

Eisenhower with shovel and AU President Hurst Anderson with shovel at SIS groundbreaking
Left: President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the SIS groundbreaking ceremony in 1957. Right: AU President Hurst Anderson breaks ground for the SIS building in 1957.


The International Communication master's program is founded. The oldest program of its kind and now known as Intercultural and International Communication, it continues to innovate in this dynamic and multidisciplinary field.


Former SIS Dean William Olson founds the Sigma Iota Rho honors society for SIS students with "outstanding academic records." Sigma Iota Rho becomes the first merit-based international studies honor society for students across the United States.


SIS is the first school of international affairs to require undergraduates to take a 3-credit course in cross-cultural communication.


SIS and Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan, offer the first dual master's degree program between American and Japanese universities. Graduates receive master's degrees from both universities.


SIS launches the Natural Resources and Sustainable Development joint master's degree program with the United Nations University for Peace in Costa Rica. SIS is the only school in North America that partners with the University for Peace.


The new SIS building opens. Designed by renowned "green" architect William McDonough, it became the first LEED Gold-certified building on AU's campus in 2011.


SIS becomes the first, and remains the only, top-ranked school of international affairs to offer master's degrees entirely online.


SIS begins offering the pioneering Peace Corps Prep Program to undergraduates. In 2017, AU produced the most Peace Corps volunteers among medium-size schools, with 54 alumni volunteering worldwide this year.


SIS students win more Boren Scholarships and Fellowships than any other university or college in the country. Boren awards provide undergraduate and graduate students interested in federal national security careers with funding to learn less commonly taught languages.