Diplomacy Lab

St. Lawrence University is an official partner in the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomacy Lab program to give students, faculty, and staff opportunities to solve real world problems and inform policymakers.

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Diplomacy Lab is a  partnership between the U.S. Department of State and St. Lawrence University (among several other U.S. academic institutions).


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.

For more information about this unique learning and networking experience, please contact Dr. Mert Kartal, Diplomacy Lab Coordinator, at mkartal@stlawu.edu

Diplomacy Lab FAQ

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.

Diplomacy Lab is run through classes, and only SLU faculty can apply to take on a project. They may decide to incorporate a project into their existing courses or create a new course/independent study based on a Diplomacy Lab project. Therefore, a project may involve only a few or more than a dozen students. The exact number is determined by the faculty member undertaking the project. 

Students are central to this entire process as they are the ones carrying out the actual project. Consequently, students are more than welcome to encourage faculty to apply for a specific project (and encourage their peers to enroll in the classes that will take on the project).

Not at all! Projects distributed by the State Department every semester cover a wide range of issues (including but not limited to climate change, corruption, cybersecurity, data analytics, economic crises, migration, human rights, and terrorism). Hence, Diplomacy Lab is, by definition, interdisciplinary and open to all SLU students with an interest in global issues.

Any SLU faculty can apply to take on a Diplomacy Lab project, but students play a central role here. They can talk to their friends to see if they would be interested in working on a specific project together. They could then, as a group, pitch the project to their professor. We strongly encourage students to be proactive and get involved in Diplomacy Lab.

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.

In addition, students participating in a Diplomacy Lab project are invited to attend the Diplomacy Lab Fair in Washington D.C. This serves as a great opportunity to meet in person with your project officer(s) and other State Department personnel. 

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.

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.

The format of the final product varies across projects and is determined by the requesting State Department agency. It can be in the form of an oral presentation, a policy brief, and/or a longer research paper. Please see the project menu for specific information. 

Upon completion of individual research projects, universities and faculty reserve intellectual property of all work and reserve the right to submit for publication following submission to their State Department liaison/director.

In accordance with St. Lawrence University policies, St. Lawrence University and/or its participating students and faculty will own the Diplomacy Lab Products that they create and will have unrestricted rights to publish the Diplomacy Lab Products or derivatives thereof. The State Department has a non-exclusive right to use the Diplomacy Lab Products for governmental purposes.

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Dr. Mert Kartal

Associate Professor Government Department