Fall 2023 Free Expression Advocacy Institute Lockup


*FREE* Online Certificate Program

Wednesdays, September 20 – November 8, 2023

4:30 pm – 6:30pm ET


PEN America’s fall 2023 Free Expression Advocacy Institute is an intensive, online, eight-week, educational and training program where high school and college students can learn the theories, laws, histories, and methodologies behind free expression advocacy. Our program includes presentations led by expert legal and policy practitioners from PEN America, interactive workshops designed to teach tangible skills, and TA-facilitated discussion sessions and activities to dive deeper into the issues with their peers. Participants cap their experiences by simulating advocacy campaign projects over the course of the Institute to present in the final closing session of the program. Students who successfully complete the program and attend all sessions will be granted a certificate of professional achievement in free expression advocacy from PEN America. Full attendance is required to receive a certificate. 


Featuring Special Guests:


Mary Beth


photo of Mary Beth Tinker

American Free Speech Activist, known for the 1969 Tinker v. Des Moines Supreme Court case



Eliot Schrefer headshot

New York Times-Bestselling Author



Justice Singleton Headshot

Screenwriter, Director, Poet and Stand-up Comedian



Perla Joe Headshot

Filmmaker, Singer, and Photographer from Beirut, Lebanon


This program is FREE and available to all high school and college students.

Full attendance and project completion are required to receive a certificate.

Admissions are decided on a rolling basis through Friday, September 15.

If you have any questions, please email [email protected].




Niko Perez teaching a seminar at UTK


Topics Covered in Our Program: 

The First Amendment and its Limitations, Counter-Speech and Combating Hate, Freedom of the Press and the Local News Crisis, Media Literacy and Free Speech Online, Protest Rights and the Freedom of Assembly, Academic Freedom and Free Speech in Schools, Artistic Freedom Around the World, Pro Tips for Advocacy Campaigning, Free Speech and Mass Incarceration, Prisoners of Conscience Around the World, and more!


Advocacy Campaign Projects

Over the course of the Institute, students will be working in small groups to develop an advocacy campaign for a free expression issue of their choice. The issue can either be focused domestically in the United States or internationally. At the end of the program, students will present their advocacy campaigns to be assessed by a panel of PEN America staff. Students set a project work schedule with their teams outside of our Institute hours, however, students will have time during class sessions to ask questions about their projects.


Lead Instructors


Nicholas Perez

Nicholas Perez headshotProgram Manager for Free Expression and Education at PEN America, Perez is a former United Nations consultant and instructor of international affairs, human rights, and Model U.N.


Peris Tushabe

Peris Tushabe headshotProgram Coordinator for Free Expression and Education at PEN America, Tushabe is a graduate of Skidmore College in political science, born and raised in Uganda, interested in the roles of youth movements in democracy.



Guest Instructors from PEN America


Karin Deutsch


Karin Deutsch Karlekar headshot

Director, Free Expression at Risk Programs




Jonathan Friedman headshot

Director, Free Expression and Education




Leila Markosian headshot

Program Coordinator, Free Expression and Education




Jeje Mohamed headshot

Senior Manager, Digital Safety & Free Expression

Clarisse rosaz


Chief Program Officer, Literary Programming



headshot of Kristen Shahverdian

Senior Manager, Free Expression and Education



Julie Trébault headshot

Director, Artists at Risk Connection (ARC)



Malcolm Tariq headshot

Senior Manager, Editorial Projects, Prison and Justice Writing



Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to register?
The program is open to students in any year of high school or college.

Who should consider applying?
The Institute is ideal for students interested in pursuing academic and professional careers in the humanities, human rights, journalism, international affairs, law, political science, and the social sciences.

Do I have to be American to participate?
No. The Institute will be accessible to students anywhere in the world, via Zoom, and taught in English. Students must be available to attend all meeting sessions, which are listed in Eastern Time.

How will I know if I’ve been admitted?
Once you submit your application for admission, you will receive an email confirmation with a copy of your form responses.

How much does the program cost?
There is no cost to attend this program, however full attendance is required to receive a certificate at the end of the course.

Will I receive any school credit for the Institute?
Neither high school nor college credit will be granted for completing the Institute unless otherwise determined by a sponsoring institution. PEN America does, however, award each student a Certificate of Professional Achievement in Free Expression Advocacy upon completion of the course and the program offers excellent preparation and a relevant credential for future internships and work opportunities in the policy and advocacy realm. 

Will there be any homework assigned?
Background readings will be assigned that students are expected to complete before the start of each session. These readings will serve as the basis for each day’s discussion session. Throughout the program, students will be expected to collaborate outside of instructional hours on their advocacy campaign projects.

What supplies do I need to attend the Institute?
To participate in the Institute, students must have a working computer, a reliable internet connection, an email address for communication, and a Zoom account, which can be set up for free online. A notebook to write in as well as some writing utensils are also recommended for note-taking, and a printer is optional for printing out the reading materials for annotating.

Who are the instructors?
The Institute is managed by Nicholas “Niko” Perez and Peris Tushabe from PEN America’s Free Expression and Education program. The weekly schedule includes presentations and workshops from a wide range of experts and professionals across PEN America, including well-known researchers, advocates, attorneys, and campaigners.


If you have any other questions, please email us at [email protected].