History

At the crossroads of journalism, media and politics in Washington D.C., the School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA) has a deep-rooted tradition in the craft and study of communication.

The George Washington University began teaching journalism courses in 1938. Pioneering the field, GW became the first university in the world to offer a degree in Political Communication in 1982.

The Documentary Center was formed in 1990, which has since become part of the Center for Innovative Media at SMPA and continues to win major awards and recognition for both student and faculty films. 

On March 22, 1991, the National Center for Communication Studies was founded to group together programs that focused on written and broadcast journalism and political communication. To more accurately describe the department's modern curriculum and vision for the future, on February 8, 1996, the Board of Trustees voted to rename it the School of Media and Public Affairs. 

After years of planning and research, SMPA launched the innovative Master's in Media and Public Affairs program in 1998. The next year, construction began on the building designed to house SMPA's programs, faculty, classes and facilities under one roof, now located in the heart of GW’s Foggy Bottom campus. The completion of the Media and Public Affairs building displays GW’s commitment to the field of journalism and communications while also marking a significant accomplishment for SMPA at the beginning of the new millennium.

In 2000, the School of Media and Public Affairs joined forces with GW's Elliott School of International Affairs to form the Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication (IPDGC). Together, the two schools developed the Master's degree program for Global Communication. 

The sustainable media project, Planet Forward, was founded in 2009 and joined the Center for Innovative Media. The project has since hosted many summits and salons with influential players in the realm of climate change and adaptation, and continues to feature exemplary work from GW students. 

Over the years, SMPA has hosted hundreds of distinguished speakers, grown in size, conducted numerous programs internationally, established scholarship foundations, and produced thousands of students who are prepared to become successful professionals in the media industry. Our graduates leave GW equipped with the skills to become future leaders in the fields of politics, government, business, and journalism.

SMPA Timeline

1938 - GW begins offering Journalism courses.

1982 - GW becomes the first university in the world to offer a degree in Political Communication.

1991 - The National Center for Communication Studies is founded to organize programs that focused on journalism and political communication.

1996 - The Center is renamed to The School of Media and Public Affairs to describe the department's modern curriculum and vision for the future.

1998 - SMPA launches the Master's in Media and Public Affairs program

1999 - Construction begins on the building designed to house SMPA's programs, faculty, classes and facilities in the heart of GW’s Foggy Bottom.

2000 - SMPA and the Elliott School of International Affairs launch the Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication, and the MA in Global Communication.

2009 - Planet Forward joins the Documentary Center as part of the Center for Innovative Media.