Free Expression Leadership Fellows Program – Spring 2024

PEN America, a nonprofit organization working at the intersection of literature and human rights, is offering a 12-week professional Free Expression Leadership Fellows Program for undergraduate and graduate students passionate about human rights, the written word, and free expression in the United States and worldwide. This opportunity will allow students to work closely with a professional from PEN America’s Free Expression Programs team on a particular issue track, including Artists at Risk Globally; Digital Safety; Free Expression Advocacy in Washington, D.C.; Freedom to Read; Next Gen PEN America; Campus Free Speech; Free Expression Research; Free Expression in Eurasia; Free Expression in the United States; and Writers at Risk Globally. Each of these tracks will provide a unique and rich learning experience with opportunities to conduct research; draft advocacy materials, press releases, memos, and briefing papers; and support major advocacy campaigns and events for PEN America.

In addition to their track-related tasks and mentoring, the cohort of fellows will also attend weekly meetings to discuss brewing free speech issues in their fields of interest and analyse how a non-profit advocacy organisation can mobilise against contemporary threats to free expression. Biweekly professional development and skills-training workshops with PEN America staff members will be offered to enhance fellows’ career preparedness. Fellows will also be required to publish an original research project in the Free Expression Leadership Fellows Program Anthology. Fellows will receive a $3,150 stipend, distributed in three payments over the course of the program contingent upon successful participation. This program may be eligible for college credit, depending on the participant’s institution.

Our spring semester  fellowship program will be based out of PEN America’s offices located in New York City and Washington D.C. The option to work onsite in our offices during the program will be determined according to public health and safety guidelines and spatial availability at the time of the fellowship. Applicants outside of New York City and Washington D.C. may still apply to participate in the program virtually. Fellows will work alongside their mentors to set their weekly hours, which must occur within PEN America’s weekday operating hours of 9am to 6pm ET.  Applicants with only weekend and evening availability should not apply to the fellowship. Fellows may express interest in one or more tracks in their application, although it is envisioned that they will be assigned to only one area for the duration of their program term. 

Candidates representing diverse backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply.

Program dates:

The Spring 2024 Free Expression Leadership Fellows Program will run for 12 weeks from Monday, January 29, 2024 through Friday, April 26, 2024, with a mandatory virtual orientation on Friday, January 26, 2024. Built into the schedule is an unpaid week of vacation to be taken during the fellow’s college designated spring break.

Fellowship Requirements:

  • Proof of authorization to work in the United States
  • 15 hours/week commitment, with specific work schedule to be determined between fellows and their mentors
  • Attend a Friday, January 26, 2024 orientation from 12pm to 1pm ET and 12 weekly leadership seminars with their cohort every Wednesday from 12pm to 1pm ET
  • Attend five biweekly professional development workshops held on Wednesdays from 3pm to 4pm ET
  • Participate in the creation of a final project

Desired Attributes:

  • Strong research and analytical skills
  • Keen logistical eye for details and excellent organisational skills
  • Superb writing skills, including the ability to craft clear, user-friendly language
  • Strong familiarity with social media platforms
  • Knowledge of U.S. or global human rights and free expression issues
  • Interest or experience in law, journalism, or tech industry is valuable
  • Fluency in G Suite, particularly with Google Drive document management; familiarity with Google Sheets is valuable
  • Regional/country expertise in Eurasia (especially Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Central Asia), Southeast Asia , Middle East & North Africa, Latin America or China valuable for regional work
  • Language skills especially Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, Arabic, and Farsi are a plus
  • High energy and efficiency
  • Strong work ethic
  • Strong interpersonal skills and an aptitude for collaboration, creativity, and initiative
  • Commitment to the principles of free expression
  • Video, audio, and/or web production experience is a plus
  • Knowledge of contemporary debates over free speech on college campuses is a plus

To Apply:

Please submit your application through our online application portal on Submittable. You will be prompted to create a free Submittable account in order to access the application form and upload your materials. All applications must be received on or before Friday, December 15, 2023 at 11:59pm ET. Interviews will be conducted on a rolling basis. Decisions will be announced by the week of Monday, January 8 2024. Please send any questions about the program or how to apply to Leila Markosian at [email protected].

PEN America does not discriminate in its selection practices, and in order to build the strongest possible team, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool.

No phone calls, please.

About PEN America:

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.