Fellowship Application Guidelines
Before you apply, please make sure you are eligible using the guidelines below.
COVID-19 Update for Prospective Fellows
As the situation around COVID-19 develops, the Woodrow Wilson Center will continue to process fellowship applications. As deadlines approach, we will assess whether extensions are appropriate. Please watch this space and the Wilson Center homepage for updates.
Through an international competition, the Center offers 9-month residential fellowships. The Wilson Center invites scholars, practitioners, journalists and public intellectuals to take part in its flagship international Fellowship Program. Fellows conduct research and write in their areas of interest, while interacting with policymakers in Washington and Wilson Center staff and other scholars in residence. The Center accepts policy-relevant, non-advocacy fellowship proposals that address key challenges confronting the United States and the world.
- About the Center
- Application Process
- J-1 Visa Requirement
- Notes on Eligibility
- Selection Process
- Alignment with Programs and Cross-Regional Initiatives
- Facilities and Services
- Length of Appointment
- Conditions of Award
- Deadline for Applications
- Instructions for Applicants
- The Project Proposal
- Letters of Recommendation
- Application Checklist
- Other Program-Specific Grant Opportunities at the Center
About the Center
The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars aims to unite the world of ideas to the world of policy by supporting pre-eminent scholarship and linking that scholarship to issues of concern to officials in Washington.
Congress established the Center in 1968 as the official, national memorial to President Wilson. Unlike the physical monuments in the nation's capital, it is a living memorial whose work and scholarship commemorates "the ideals and concerns of Woodrow Wilson." As both a distinguished scholar and national leader, President Wilson felt strongly that the scholar and the policymaker were "engaged in a common enterprise." Today the Center takes seriously his views on the need to bridge the gap between the world of ideas and public policy, bringing them into creative contact, enriching the work of both, and enabling each to learn from the other. This continuing dialogue between public policy and scholarship makes the Center unique.
In addition to its residential program, the Center conducts research through its programs, organizes conferences and seminars, and disseminates the content of its work and fellows’ research through its website and email marketing. The Center invites Fellows to take part in the Center’s conferences, meetings and seminars and to benefit from the wide range of dialogue that takes place at the Center.
The Wilson Center invites scholars, practitioners, journalists and public intellectuals to take part in its flagship international Fellowship Program and to take advantage of the opportunity to engage actively in the Center’s national mission. The Center awards approximately 15-20 residential fellowships each year. Fellows will be affiliated with one or more of the Wilson Center programs/projects and are encouraged to interact with policy makers in Washington, D.C., with Wilson Center staff, and other scholars who are working on similar research and topics.
- Citizens or permanent residents from any country (applicants from countries outside the United States must hold a valid passport and be able to obtain a J-1 visa even if they are currently in the United States). (Read more information on visas.) Please contact the Center if you have any questions about your eligibility to obtain a J1 visa.
- Citizens or permanent residents from any country (applicants from countries outside the United States must hold a valid passport and be able to obtain a J-1 visa even if they are currently in the United States).
- Academic candidates must be at the post-doctoral level and have published a book or monograph beyond the Ph.D. dissertation.
- Practitioners or policymakers with an equivalent level of professional achievement
- English proficiency as the Center is designed to encourage the exchange of ideas among its fellows
- Applicants working on a degree (even if the degree is to be awarded prior to the proposed fellowship year)
- Proposals of a partisan or advocacy nature
- Primary research in the natural sciences
- Projects that create musical composition or dance
- Projects in the visual arts
- Projects that are the rewriting of doctoral dissertations
- The editing of texts, papers, or documents
- The preparation of textbooks, anthologies, translations, and memoirs
Notes on Eligibility
You do not need an institutional affiliation to apply. For most academic candidates, a book or monograph is required. Scholars and practitioners who previously held research awards or fellowships at the Wilson Center are not precluded from applying for a fellowship. However, the nature and recency of the prior award may be among the factors considered during the selection process, and by the Fellowship Committee of the Board of Trustees.
If you have questions regarding your eligibility or the suitability of your project, please e-mail the Scholars and Academic Relations Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Applications that satisfy the eligibility requirements are subsequently subjected to a multi-stage review process involving both internal evaluations by Wilson Center experts and external evaluations by specialists with relevant expertise. Final decisions about all grant awards are contingent on the approval of the Center’s Fellowship Committee of the Board of Trustees and subject to available funding.
The basic criteria for selection are:
a) significance of the proposed research, including the importance and originality of the project;
b) the relevance of the project to contemporary policy issues; try to convince the reader that there is some urgency or importance in your work that can resolve a larger problem.
c) the relevance of the project to the programmatic work of the Center;
d) quality of the proposal in definition, organization, clarity, and scope; describe what the reviewers will learn from your project, why it is important, and how the reviewer will know your conclusions are valid. A clear hypothesis or step-by-step argument of a central problem helps capture the essence of your work for the reviewer. Also describe your methodology, i.e. how and why your approach is the best way to deal with such a problem. Since each field has different methodologies that the reviewer may not know, tell the reader what archives, sources, and techniques you plan to employ.
e) capabilities and achievements of the applicant and the likelihood that the applicant will accomplish the proposed project; not only should your proposal demonstrate how you have the technical know-how and ability to reach some conclusion, but that the conclusion is not preconceived. The proposal should convince the reviewer that there is something genuinely at stake with your inquiry and that your project will yield interesting results.
f) potential of a candidate to actively contribute to the life, priorities, and mission of the Center by making expert research accessible to a broader audience; remember that one of the Center's main goals is to help inform policymakers to make well-informed decisions.
The Center welcomes in particular those projects that transcend narrow specialties and methodological issues of interest only within a specific academic discipline. Projects should involve fresh research-—in terms of both the overall field and the author’s previous work. It is essential that projects have relevance to public policy, and fellows should want, and be prepared, to interact with policymakers in Washington, Wilson Center staff, and other scholars who are working on similar issues.
Some final tips--start your proposal early, and have friends or colleagues review it. Debate over your proposal will help you answer questions reviewers may have. Sharpen your language and style, especially your opening paragraph. Be to the point so that the reviewer knows exactly what you mean--the Center does not conduct interviews, so make sure that your proposal is clear and concise.
Alignment with Programs and Cross-Regional Initiatives
The Center accepts policy-relevant, non-advocacy fellowship proposals that address key challenges confronting the United States and the world. Priority will be given to proposals which align with the programmatic work of the Center and can result in work that reaches a broad audience. Within this framework, the Wilson Center supports projects that intersect with contemporary policy issues and provide the historical and/or cultural context for some of today’s significant public policy debates.
While in residence, Fellows will be affiliated with regional and/or topical programs working on issues that complement the Fellows’ projects. Program and project directors often collaborate with scholars in producing policy reports, op-eds, and other short written products and in designing seminars, conferences, and/or meetings related to scholars’ research.
The Center applies our recognized excellence in regional studies and institutional collaboration to bring special focus to four critical topics that are shaping the future. The Center will also give priority to proposals in these topic areas:
- Great Powers Game On: Competition and Cooperation
- World Disorder: Challenges to Democratic Values and the Rule of Law
- Brave New Digital World: Governance, Commerce, and Security
- Emerging Polar Landscapes: Security and Commerce in a Changing Environment
Facilities and Services
Each Fellow is assigned a furnished office available to him or her every day, including evenings and weekends. The Center is located in the heart of Washington, D.C., and includes conference rooms, a reference library, and a dining room. The building is a smoke-free environment. The Wilson Center Library provides loan privileges with the Library of Congress and access to digital resources, its book and journal collections, and to university and special libraries in the area, and other research facilities. Windows-based personal computers are provided. Additionally, each Fellow is offered a part-time research assistant intern. Although Fellows are responsible for locating their own housing in the Washington, D.C. area, the Center provides written materials to help facilitate the search process.
The Center offers a stipend of $90,000 for a nine-month fellowship. Fellows are responsible for their own health insurance and travel expenses.
Length of Appointment
Fellows are expected to be in residence for the entire U.S. academic year (early September through May). Occasionally, fellowships are awarded for shorter periods, with a minimum of four months.
Conditions of Award
Fellows must devote full time to the fellowship study and may not accept a teaching assignment, another residential fellowship, or undertake any other major activities that require an extended absence from the Center during the tenure of their fellowship. Fellows are required to give a Work-in-Progress presentation, internal meeting where fellows can speak about their work, share ideas, and receive feedback from their peers, and to attend the Work-in-Progress presentations given by their colleagues. In addition, Fellows are encouraged to offer a presentation of their work publicly, where possible, and/or participate in other Center programming. The Center expects all Fellows to seek ways to share their expertise with the Washington policy community. The form of such interaction could range from a deep background briefing for an executive branch agency to an informal roundtable discussion with members of Congress and their staffs.
Deadline for Applications
The Center holds one round of competitive selection per year. Fellowship applications must be postmarked or submitted online by October 5. Applicants are notified of the results of the selection process in March of the following year.
Instructions for Applicants
Applicants may submit their applications online here.
A complete application must include the following:
- the Fellowship Application Form;
- a current CV (not to exceed three pages); The Center will only accept the first three pages; please list your publications separately.
- a list of your publications that includes exact titles, names of publishers, dates of publication and status of forthcoming publications (not to exceed three pages);
- a Project Proposal (not to exceed five single-spaced typed pages, using 12-point type); The Center reserves the right to omit from review applications that are longer than the requested page length;
- a bibliography for the project that includes primary sources and relevant secondary sources (not to exceed three pages);
- two letters of reference.
All application materials must be submitted in English.
The Project Proposal
It is essential to make your project clear to individuals outside your own field and to explain its broader implications. The following elements should be addressed in the proposal:
- a detailed description of the topic and its importance;
- the originality of the proposed study (explain what makes the project distinctive);
- the basic ideas and hypotheses;
- the methodology to be used (including the activities you will undertake to gather the data you need for your project and the techniques that you will use to analyze the data in order to prove your thesis);
- the present status of your research, including how much has already been done in relevant collections and archives, and what you would hope to accomplish at the Center;
- the materials that will be used and the importance of Washington-area resources;
- explain why you chose the Wilson Center for your project;
- the relevance of the project to contemporary policy issues; and
- the relevance of the project to the programmatic goals of the Center.
Letters of Recommendation
Two letters of reference must be submitted online by October 16 or postmarked by October 1. If you are submitting online, please ensure that you submit the correct email address for your referees. It is your responsibility to ensure that we receive your references letters. Applications missing reference letters will be considered incomplete. Your referees should be familiar with you and your work, and you should send them a copy of your project description so that they can comment specifically upon your proposed study, your qualifications for undertaking it, and how you and/or your work would contribute to the Center’s goal of bridging the gap between the world of learning and the world of public affairs. The letters should follow the guidelines for referees outlined in the Reference Letter Form. Reference letters must be written in English. Do not send letters written for another purpose, such as those for a job application. Applicants are strongly encouraged to follow up with their referees to confirm that they have sent their letters to the Center.
- the Fellowship Application Form
- a current cv (not to exceed three pages)
- a list of your publications (not to exceed three pages)
- a Project Proposal (not to exceed five single-spaced pages, using 12-point type)
- a bibliography for the project that includes primary sources and relevant secondary sources (not to exceed three pages)
two reference letters, to be submitted directly to the Center by the referees
Apart from the Wilson Center Fellowships competition, a number of the Center's regional programs offer grants to eligible scholars. Read about those programs.
Scholars and Academic Relations Office Woodrow Wilson Center One Woodrow Wilson Plaza 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Washington, DC 20004-3027 Fellowships@wilsoncenter.org 202-691-4000