Institute of Current World Affairs

The Institute of Current World Affairs (ICWA) identifies and cultivates rare potential by immersing promising young professionals in the study of a country, region or globally important issue, positioning them to become leaders in their fields.

Through a unique two-year immersion program crafted over 90 years, the Institute of Current World Affairs has transformed the lives and careers of emerging writers, academics, attorneys and diplomats, as well as experts from the fields of finance, policy and social activism. A prestigious ICWA fellowship provides recipients with the rare gift of time and freedom to explore a region, research a topic and expand their ideas at a formative time in their lives. ICWA fellowship recipients then join a growing community of distinguished professionals who make vital contributions to their fields.

ICWA fellows are handpicked from a highly competitive applicant pool, with a diverse set of interests. They share the traits of intense curiosity, a passion for knowledge and openness to new perspectives. The intensive immersion experience of an ICWA fellowship, free from deadlines and career pressures, enables fellows to cultivate their talent and engage with their subject—and themselves—in ways that have a profound impact.

While in the field, fellows receive support and mentoring from ICWA staff, former fellows and ICWA members with expertise in fellowship areas. ICWA fellows share their evolving insights and activities through monthly newsletters. Fellows return to the United States after two years ready to impart the lessons their fellowships have inspired.

Purpose and Recent History

The Institute of Current World Affairs awards fellowships to young men and women allowing them to travel outside of the United States and gain an in-depth understanding of chosen topic areas. The institute is credited with launching the careers of notable foreign policy experts, including the former U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Smith Hempstone,[1] and the former assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, Phillips Talbot.[2]

The Institute chooses young individuals that it believes possess the ability to make a substantial contribution to public life in the United States. The institute, which pays living expenses for fellows and their families, has sent more than 170 people abroad on its fellowship program. The work of its fellows has appeared in numerous national publications recently, sometimes with controversy.

In January, 2008, Nicholas Schmidle, working in Pakistan, wrote a Sunday magazine article for The New York Times titled "Next Gen Taliban." [3] He was deported by Pakistan's government the day after the article appeared.[4]

Many former fellows have gone on to notable positions, including some current board members. Author and physician Andrew Weil served as a fellow in the 1970s. Illustrator and author of several books about disease Bryn Barnard was sent to Asia by the institute.[5] And Susan Sterner, a fellow in Brazil for the institute, documented First Lady Laura Bush as a White House photographer.[6] Carol Rose (South and Central Asia, 1990-1993) is now Executive Director of ACLU Massachusetts.[7] Cheng Li (China, 1993-1995) is author of Rediscovering China: Dynamics and Dilemmas of Reform, as well as the Director of the John L. Thornton China Center and Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution.[8] Pramila Jayapal (India, 1994-1996) is a civil-rights activist turned U.S. Representative from Washington's 7th congressional district. Suzy Hansen (Turkey, 2007-2009) is a journalist and editor for The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, GQ, Newsweek, and more, and author of Notes on a Foreign Country, a 2018 Pulitzer Prize finalist.[9]

Current Fellows

Current Fellows
Elizabeth Hawkins (El Salvador, 2019-2021)
Emily Schultheis (Germany, 2019-2021)
David Kenner (Saudi Arabia, 2019-2021)
Karina Piser (France, 2017-2019)
Matthew Chitwood (China, 2017-2019)

Recent Past Fellows

Recent Past Fellows
Onyinye Edeh (Nigeria, 2016-2018)
Jessica Reilly (Seafaring, 2015-2017)
Jonathan Guyer (Egypt, 2015-2017)
Scott Erich (Oman, 2015-2016)
Malia Politzer (India/Spain, 2013-2015)
Robbie Corey-Boulet (Ivory Coast/Cameroon, 2013-2015)
Chi-Chi Zhang (China, 2012-2014)
Shannon Sims (Brazil, 2012-2014, Forest and Society Fellow)
Amelia Frank-Vitale (Mexico, 2012-2014)
Hannah Armstrong (West Africa, 2012-2014)
Neri Zilber (Israel, 2010-2012)
Jori Lewis (West Africa, 2011-2013)
Eve Fairbanks (South Africa, 2009-2011)
Derek Mitchell (India, 2007-2009)
Ezra Fieser (Guatemala, 2008-2010)
Pooja Bhatia (Haiti, 2008-2010)
Elena Agarkova (Russia, 2008-2010)
Raphael Soifer (Brazil, 2007-2009)
Suzy Hansen (Turkey, 2007-2009)
Nicholas Schmidle (Pakistan, 2006-2008)
Andrew Tabler (Syria/Lebanon, 2005-2007)
Kay Dilday (France/Morocco, 2005-2007)
Richard Connerney (India, 2005-2007)
Jill Winder (Germany, 2004-2006)
Cristina Merrill (Romania, 2004-2006)
Alex Brenner (China, 2003-2005)
James Workman (Southern Africa, 2002-2004)
Matthew Wheeler (Mekong River, 2002-2004)
Andrew Rice (Uganda, 2002-2004)
Martha J. Farmelo (Argentina, 2001-2003)
Leena Khan (Pakistan, 2001-2002)
Peter Keller (Argentina, 2000-2002, Forest and Society Fellow)
Curt Gabrielson (East Timor, 2000-2002)
Gregory Feifer (Russia, 2000-2002)
Wendy L. Call (Mesoamerica, 2000-2002)

Current ICWA Board of Trustees

Current ICWA Board of Trustees
Joseph Battat (Vice Chair)
Mary Lynne Bird
Jeffrey Gedmin
Camila Gonzalez
Fabrice Houdart
Peggy Knudson
Robert A. Levinson
Michael Mathison (Treasurer)
Joel Millman
Jeffrey Race
Paul Rahe (Chair)
Mary Rusinow
Pascal Saura
Dirk Vandewalle
Chi-Chi Zhang (Secretary)
Peter Bird Martin (Honorary Trustee)
Edmund Sutton (Honorary Trustee)


  1. New York Times, Nov. 30, 2006 "Smith Hempstone, 77, Journalist Who Became a Prominent Ambassador, Is Dead"
  2. "An American Witness to India's Partition." SAGE Publications, August, 2007.
  7. "Carol Rose". ACLU Massachusetts. 2015-06-12. Retrieved 2018-09-20.
  8. "Cheng Li". Brookings. 2016-06-06. Retrieved 2018-09-20.
  9. Template:Global.authorName. "The Pulitzer Prizes". Retrieved 2018-09-20.
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