Free Expression Leadership Fellows Program

Free Expression Leadership Fellows Program logo

PEN America, a nonprofit organization working at the intersection of literature and human rights, is offering a 14-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 Freedom; Digital Safety; Free Expression Advocacy in Washington, D.C.; Free Expression and Education; 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 of interest in their fields, help plan youth-facing events, and suggest opportunities to activate our student network to speak out on ongoing free expression issues. Biweekly professional development and skills-training workshops will be offered to enhance fellows’ career preparedness, and each fellow will also be required to compose an original research presentation to present to the Free Expression Program department by the end of their term. Upon successful completion of the program, fellows each will receive an individualized letter of recommendation from their supervising mentor. Fellows also 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 winter/spring semester program will operate virtually from PEN America’s New York City headquarters. Applicants may be based anywhere but should be prepared to follow New York working hours, ideally from 9am to 6pm ET. They may express interest in one or more tracks in their application, although it is envisioned that fellows 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 Winter/Spring 2022 Free Expression Leadership Fellows Program is a 14-week program that will run from January 14 through April 15, 2022.

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 January 14 orientation and 13 weekly leadership seminars with their cohort every Friday from 12pm to 1pm ET
  • Attend six biweekly professional development workshops held on Thursdays from 5pm to 6pm ET (asynchronous flexibility available on a case-by-case basis)
  • Compose a research presentation on a topic agreed upon between fellows and their supervisors to be presented to the Free Expression Program department by the final day of the fellowship

Desired Attributes:

  • Strong research, writing, and analytical skills
  • Keen logistical eye for details and excellent organizational 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 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 (especially Myanmar), or China valuable for regional work
  • Language skills, especially Russian, Mandarin, Arabic, and Farsi are a plus
  • High energy and efficiency
  • Strong work ethic
  • Meticulous attention to detail and deadlines
  • 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 for free expression and education work

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 December 5, 2021 at 11:59pm ET. Interviews will be conducted on a rolling basis. Decisions will be announced starting in the first week of December. Please send any questions about the program or how to apply to Veronica Tien 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.