Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: James C. Gaither Junior Fellows Program

Fellows provide research assistance to Carnegie's senior scholars.

Carnegie Endowment Junior Fellows Program: At a Glance


  • Fourth-year students and recent graduates
  • Minimum GPA: 3.7
  • Eligible to work in the U.S. for one year after graduation

Selection Criteria:  

  • Research experience
  • Strong interest in international affairs
  • Related academic study and/or work experience
  • Quality of the essays

Candidates for the Carnegie Junior Fellows Program can affirm the following: 

  • I have a serious career interest in international affairs.
  • I have conducted substantive academic, applied and/or legal research.
  • I have completed coursework and have langue skills pertaining to the program to which I am applying.
  • I have strong analytical, writing and editing abilities.

What is the James C. Gaither Junior Fellows Program? Through the James C. Gaither Junior Fellows program, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace offers approximately 11-13 one-year fellowships to uniquely qualified graduating seniors and individuals who have graduated during the past academic year. They work as research assistants to Carnegie’s senior scholars in Washington, DC on a full-time basis, and receive an annual salary with a benefits package. All fellowships begin on August 1.

Assignments: The Program is designed to provide a substantive work experience for Junior Fellows who have a serious career interest in international affairs. Fellows perform the following tasks: 

  • Provide research assistance to Senior Carnegie Associates who work on a variety of international affairs issues. 
  • Conduct research, contribute to op-eds, papers, reports, and books, edit documents. 
  • Participate in meetings with high-level officials, contribute to congressional testimony and organize briefings attended by scholars, activists, journalists and government officials.

Selection Process: Approximately 5 percent of applicants are selected for positions through a rigorous national competition. Applications are judged on the quality of the essays, related academic study and/or work experience, grades, recommendations, and personal interviews. Approximately 3-4 applicants per position are chosen for interview in February and early March.

Deadline Information

UChicago Endorsement Deadline: Monday, November 25, 2019

Final Deadline for UChicago Nominees: Friday, January 10, 2020

Eligibility Requirements

  • Graduating seniors or students who have not started graduate work (except in cases where the student has completed a joint bachelor’s/master’s degree program)
  • 3.7 average GPA, higher preferred
  • Strong interest in international affairs
  • Eligible to work in the U.S. for twelve months from August 1 through July 31 following graduation

Application Process

The University of Chicago can nominate two candidates. You are strongly encouraged to attend Information Session (October 14 or October 17) and required to participate in Writing Workshop (October 24), followed by individual advising. Please schedule a meeting with Sandra Zupan, ideally between November 11 and November 15.

In order to be nominated by the University, students must submit a complete James C. Gaither Junior Fellows Program Campus Application by 11:59 PM on November 25. The complete Campus Application includes:

  • An essay of one double-spaced page on why you would like to be a junior fellow
  • Academic CV (1-2 pages, written according to the guidelines posted here)
  • Two letters of recommendation (written by faculty or professionals who know you well and write about your abilities to succeed as a potential junior fellow)
  • Unofficial transcript
  • An essay of no more than three double-spaced pages on one of the topics listed below. These topics are intended to test skills in analysis, logic, and written expression. The essays should be analytical thought pieces, not research papers. Students should submit an essay related to their primary research program interests, although the James C. Gaither Junior Fellows Program may ultimately select an applicant for a program outside of his/her designated primary interest or make an assignment to more than one program.

2020 – 2021 Topics

Applicants must respond to the question pertaining to the program to which they are applying: 

A. Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program. As democracy in the United States and Europe is experiencing more serious problems, the question of the relationship between those problems and the issues facing democracy in the rest of the world is gaining attention. Are the problems that democracy is facing in the United States and Europe largely similar to or fundamentally different from those plaguing democracy in other regions such as Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East?

B. U.S. Foreign Policy and Diplomacy. The Obama Administration looked to re-set relations with Russia, recast America’s role in the Middle East, and rebalance its posture toward the Asia-Pacific. The Trump Administration has pursued its own policy pivots in each area. Compare and contrast the Obama Administration’s aims and policy record with Trump Administration’s aims and policy record in one of these policy areas, and draw out lessons from the experience of both administrations that ought to inform American diplomacy in the years ahead.

C. Nuclear Policy Program. Which state without nuclear weapons do you believe is at most risk of acquiring them?

D. Technology and International Affairs Program and Cyber Policy Initiative. (Please respond to just ONE of the two following questions). What technology issue will have the greatest impact on international stability in the coming decade, and why? OR What factors explain why the cybersecurity environment has continued to deteriorate in recent years?

E. Middle East Program. The Middle East region is going through a huge, agonizing and protracted transformation characterized by dwindling oil revenues, rising populations, failing governance structures and government services, rising extremism and sectarianism, and high youth unemployment. The current situation has enabled regional powers to intervene in each other’s affairs as well as non-state actors such as the self-proclaimed Islamic State to emerge and spread new toxic ideologies. What do you see as one of the most difficult threats facing the region today and the underlying drivers of turmoil? Discuss the impact this has had on two countries in the region and strategies that will help move these countries toward a better future.

F. South Asia Program. (Please respond to just ONE of the two following questions). What factors explain why, in many democracies, poor people continue to receive poor public services, despite accounting for a large share of the population? OR Under what conditions is a military response an effective solution to transnational terrorism?

G. Asia Program (China). Many experts and general observers now believe that the long-standing US policy of constructive engagement and hedging toward China has largely failed. As proof, they point to Beijing’s failure to significantly liberalize politically, to open up its economic markets sufficiently, and to adopt the norms and beliefs of the liberal international order. Instead, the argument goes, China is becoming more oppressive domestically, pursuing predatory economic policies overseas, failing to move on needed economic reforms at home, threatening its neighbors, and trying to undermine the U.S. and push it out of Asia. Do you agree and has U.S. policy failed? 

H. Asia Program (Japan). The past year has been a tumultuous year for diplomacy in Northeast Asia (especially involving the Korean Peninsula), even as security conditions remain largely unchanged for many countries in the region amid questions about the durability of the U.S. alliance system. Japan in particular has been put into a difficult position by the Trump administration when it comes to North Korea policy, trade friction, and general demands by allies to pay more for U.S. defense commitments. At the same time, Trump’s tougher China polices (e.g., trade, Taiwan, strategic rivalry) are something of a benefit for Tokyo, in that it helps to limit China’s regional power and opens up some diplomatic opportunities for Japan as it tries to improve Japan-China relations. How is the Abe administration adjusting to Trump’s foreign policy and alliance management, as it relates to key Japanese strategic interests of China, the Korean Peninsula, and a healthy rules-based international order?

 I. Asia Program (Economics). China’s economic rise has created tensions with the US. America is accusing China of unfair trade and foreign investment practices. But China sees its actions as necessary to become more technologically advanced to escape the middle income trap. What are merits of the respective arguments?

J. Russia and Eurasia Program. The U.S.-Russia relationship has plummeted to unprecedented post-Cold War lows. Can this downward trajectory be arrested? What are the key dangers in the current situation and how might the Trump Administration seek to prevent things from getting out of hand?

K. Geoeconomics and Strategy Program. How could a prominent economic trend (e.g., workforce transformations, international competition, income inequality, or other) alter the course of U.S. foreign policy? Describe the trend and the concrete ways in which it could force a significant change in U.S. diplomatic relations with a specific country or region or in U.S. foreign policy priorities more generally.

2020 – 2021 Projects and Requirements

Democracy, Conflict, and Governance

U.S. Foreign Policy and Diplomacy – The Junior Fellow will support Carnegie Endowment President Ambassador William J. Burns on research and writing that seeks to shape American diplomacy. Applicants should have coursework in U.S. foreign policy, broad-gauged regional lens, an interest in policy analysis and formulation, and superb writing skills.

Nuclear Policy

Technology and International Affairs/Cyber Policy

Middle East – Strong reading fluency and the ability to perform academic as well as on-line research in Arabic essential. Strong background in Middle East politics and/or history is a huge plus.

South Asia – A strong academic background in international relations theory, political theory, or international political economy is essential, along with an interest in military issues. The ability to perform quantitative data manipulation is required and a strong mathematical background is a plus.

China (Asia Program) – Mandarin Chinese reading skills a huge plus.

Japan (Asia Program) – Japanese reading skills required.

Economics (Asia Program) – Mandarin Chinese reading skills a huge plus. Strong background in economics essential.

Please note: Applicants for the Asia program with skills in two or more of the above areas (Chinese language skills, Japanese language skills, strong economics background) will be at an advantage when applying, regardless of their essay selection.

Russia and Eurasia – Excellent Russian reading skills required.

Geoeconomics and Strategy - The Junior Fellow will support research on how the future of U.S. foreign policy is shaped by economic challenges, as well as direct program coordination, including budgets, travel and events. Applicants should have coursework related to U.S. foreign policy and international economic policy, and interest and skills in research, data collection and analysis, and program administration. 

For more information on this opportunity, please contact: 
Sandra Zupan