Fellowship Program

The ICWA fellowship program aims to nurture deep expertise in foreign countries and cultures by supporting a Fellow who carries out a program of self-designed, independent study abroad for a minimum of two years. We do not support degree programs at universities. Candidates are encouraged to browse the ICWA archives on this website to see the kind of projects that the Institute had previously supported.

The fellowships amount to a generous investment in the future of the Fellow. A primary selection criterion is whether a candidate is ready for the rapid personal growth that the fellowship makes possible. We look for candidates who are sufficiently prepared to take advantage of the opportunity we offer, but extensive professional experience in the proposed area is not always an advantage. Fellowships are aimed at developing knowledge and professional skills, not awarding research or reporting opportunities to those who already have them.

We are primarily focused on the potential of the candidate and secondarily on the project. That said, strong candidates will naturally propose and passionately pursue a project that’s topical and important. We’re a small organization with few hard-and-fast rules, but generally we will postpone consideration of a project in a country where we currently or very recently have had a fellow. Over time, we try to achieve a good geographic distribution of fellowships and are naturally drawn to areas of the world and topics that are less well understood and have strategic or other importance to the United States. These could include thematic fellowships, for example examining questions related to economic development or the environment that could be effectively pursued using the method of our fellowships.

We expect candidates to have the necessary language skills to allow to them to carry out their proposed project. Candidates proposing to go to China, Russia, Indonesia, India, or Brazil, for example, should have proficiency in Chinese, Russian, Bahasa, Hindi (or another relevant language) or Portuguese. It is too costly and time consuming to start from scratch, so we expect enough language proficiency so that candidates are able to function in the local language within a few months of arriving in the country. Exceptions have been made for unusual languages or situations, but these are rare.

Candidates must be under 36 years of age at the time of the due date for the initial letter of interest.

U.S. citizenship is not a requirement, but candidates must show strong and credible ties to U.S. society. A proposed fellowship must hold the promise of enriching public life in the United States by enhancing the understanding of foreign countries, cultures, and trends. Public service in the United States is our ultimate purpose, out of a belief that the United States needs the knowledge and wisdom that our Fellows acquire.

While we expect candidates to design projects of topical interest, the fellowships are not aimed at covering news events. We do not send fellows into war zones, or places where security concerns prevent fellows from interacting with the local populace.

Fellows are required to write monthly newsletters, which are distributed to Institute members and other interested parties, including family, friends and professional associates of the fellows. While the Institute has funded and will continue to fund artists, performers, and others who find various ways to participate in the societies they study, the immediate fruits of the fellows’ learning are communicated principally through writing. Fellows should be prepared to share their experience with a general, well-educated audience, and not only with specialists in their field. Fellows work closely with the Executive Director, who serves as writing coach, editor, and mentor.

Fellowships are not scholarships and are not awarded to support work toward academic degrees or the writing of books or for research projects, meaning focused projects aimed at answering specific questions, usually in a particular academic discipline. Applicants must have a good command of written and spoken English and must have completed the current phase of their formal education. We do not accept applications from currently enrolled undergraduate students.

While many fellows go on to pursue political or social causes at home and abroad, the purpose of a fellowship is to learn about other societies, not to change them. Fellows are not permitted to engage in overtly political activities during their fellowship. The Institute does not accept any government funds. Fellows must preserve that independence, in letter and in spirit.

Financial Support

The Institute provides full financial support for its fellows and their immediate families. “Full financial support” does not mean unlimited financial support, and fellows are expected to live and spend modestly. The Institute provides fellows with sufficient funding to allow them and their families to live in good health and reasonable comfort and to fulfill the purposes of the fellowship.

Fellowships 2015

Candidates who meet the eligibility requirements are encouraged to propose fellowships in areas that interest them. They must present a strong rationale for the topic of their proposed fellowship. Areas of particular interest to the Institute include the Arab Middle East, Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, but candidates may seek fellowships in any country.

Most fellows are supported from the Institute’s endowment. Fellows with appropriate topics may receive support from specially endowed funds, including:

John O. Crane Memorial Fellowship
For fellows in Central and Eastern Europe or the Middle East.

John Miller Musser Memorial Forest & Society Fellowships
For fellows with graduate degrees in forestry or forest-related specialties. To broaden their understanding of the relationship of forest resource problems to humans, including policy makers, environmentalists, farmers, scientists, and forest-product industrialists.

Donors’ Fellowship
In addition, the generosity of our contributors enables the Institute to appoint Donors’ Fellows every two years. Topics and areas of study are unrestricted.

Applications and Deadlines

Those interested in applying for an Institute of Current World Affairs fellowship should send an initial letter of interest and a resume to the Institute, briefly outlining the proposed project and explaining the personal background and professional experience that would qualify them for the fellowship they have in mind. They should describe the activities they would like to carry out during two years overseas and enclose a resume or curriculum vitae.

This is a competitive process. The strongest applicants will be invited to submit a more detailed application.

December  2015 - Open


For initial letter of interest and resume. These are preferred by email, however, regular mail is also accepted. Please indicate your age in application materials, as applicants must be under the age of 36 at the time that the letter of interest is due. All applicants should be prepared to begin their fellowship within a few months of their fellowship selection date. Fellows are expected to depart for their fellowship within 6 months of their selection at the very latest.

September 1, 2015

Email: email

Mail inquiries to:
Institute of Current World Affairs
1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Suite 615
Washington, DC 20036

NOTE: We are unable to respond to all inquiries, but will certainly answer inquiries that fit our fellowship requirements.


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