PISA was established in 1984 as the Committee on International Relations Studies with the People's Republic of China (CIRSPRC). Its initial purpose was to reduce China's isolation from international scholarship in the field of international relations by offering a program of research and study abroad for faculty and policy analysts in Chinese universities, social science academies, and research institutions. Since its founding, CIRSPRC provided fellowships to 120 Chinese scholars and analysts for advanced training or research in the U.S. and other countries. In subsequent years, CIRSPRC launched several in-country training programs in China, helped develop specialized libraries on international affairs in major Chinese institutions, and organized programs on curricular and organizational development in international studies.
In 1993, CIRSPRC was asked to offer an in-country training program for scholars and officials in Vietnam, under the auspices of the Institute for International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It therefore changed its name to the Program for International Studies in Asia (PISA), to reflect its broader activities in Asia. Since then, PISA has offered seventeen training programs in Vietnam, organized study tours and workshops in the United States for Vietnamese scholars and officials, and arranged workshops to assist Vietnamese institutions develop research and training programs in international affairs.
In 1995, PISA expanded its activities to Mongolia with a series of seminars on topics in international relations at the School of Foreign Service at the Mongolia National University. PISA moved its executive offices to the Elliott School of International Affairs in June 1996. In 1997, PISA organized a Workshop for the Advancement of Asian Women in International Affairs in Hong Kong. The meeting led to the launch of the Women's Initiative in International Affairs in Asia (WIIAA). The year 1997 also saw the establishment of a relationship with the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (IICMAS) at the National University of Malaysia in Bangi. PISA and IKMAS joined the Carnegie Council on Ethics in International Affairs to sponsor a workshop on "International Studies in the Era of Globalization: States, Markets, Values."
In 2003, PISA began a series of workshops for government officials in Laos in cooperation with the Institute of Foreign Affairs (IFA) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs thanks to generous funding from the United States Embassy in Laos. PISA offered three training courses at IFA and subsequently, thanks to the support of the Henry R. Luce Foundation, partnered with the National University of Laos to offer a course for teaching staff and government officials on International Law and Covenants.
Building on its reputation for fostering an environment allowing for critical examination of emerging issues and cooperative problem solving, in 2006 and 2007, PISA partnered with China Foreign Affairs University to offer Summer Workshops on Active Learning in International Affairs attended by junior faculty members at universities all across China.
In response to a request from past participants of its programs in Vietnam, PISA’s responded to the need for closer attention to the looming global concern of climate change. Accordingly, in collaboration with the Institute of World Economics and Politics of the Vietnamese Academy of Social Sciences, in 2008 PISA inaugurated the PISA Climate Initiative with the Leadership Institute on Creative Responses to Global Climate Change in Hanoi. It was followed in 2009 by the PISA Summer Institute on Climate Change in Washington, DC and the Regional Leadership Institute on Climate Change for delegates from six of the ASEAN member states in Bangkok in 2011. In 2013, at the invitation of the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Forestry of Myanmar, and in collaboration with Myanmar’s leading environmental organization, ECO-DEV, PISA offered the Myanmar Leadership Institute on Climate Change in Naypyitaw for 45 government officials from 12 different ministries. Most recently for 2 weeks in November 2014, PISA hosted the Myanmar Advanced Leadership Institute on Climate Change which brought 7 government officials and 7 civil society leaders to Washington for an intensive workshop on Climate Change and the environment. Thanks to generous support from the Chino Cienega Foundation, PISA has convened five sessions of the PISA-ASEAN Climatewise Development Series, public talks featuring expert discussion.
Whereas most of PISA’s activities take place in Asia, PISA also offers on-campus executive education programs that have included a program on policy making for senior officials from Taiwan, a public management course for senior diplomats from Indonesia and a course on the Global City in World Affairs for Administrative Officers from Hong Kong.
PISA has received generous funding over the years from private foundations, including the Ford Foundation, the Henry R. Luce Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the W. Alton Jones Foundation, the Asia Foundation, and the Chino Cienega Foundation. Building on past partnerships while addressing emerging concerns, PISA looks forward to new challenges in the years to come.