Launched in 1967, the International Affairs Fellowship (IAF) is a distinguished program offered by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) to assist mid-career scholars and professionals in advancing their analytic capabilities and broadening their foreign policy experience. The program aims to strengthen career development by helping outstanding individuals acquire and apply foreign policy skills beyond the scope of their professional and scholarly achievements. The distinctive character of the IAF Program lies in the contrasting professional experiences fellows obtain through their twelve-month appointment. Selected fellows from academia and the private sector spend fellowship tenures in public service and policy-oriented settings, while government officials spend their tenures in a scholarly atmosphere free from operational pressure.
CFR awards approximately ten fellowships annually to highly accomplished individuals who have a capacity for independent work and who are eager to undertake serious foreign policy analysis. Approximately half of the selected IAFs each year spend their tenures working full-time in government; the remaining half are placed at academic institutions, think tanks, or nonprofit organizations. CFR’s Fellowship Affairs Office assists all fellows in finding a suitable affiliation for the year. In addition to providing the opportunity to carry out research, the IAF Program integrates all fellows into the intellectual life of CFR. Fellows who are not placed at CFR during their tenure are invited to attend and participate in select CFR meetings and events. Alumni of the program stay connected with CFR and its prestigious network of professionals and leaders, and convene at CFR’s annual IAF Conference in New York City each spring.
Interested candidates who meet the program’s eligibility requirements can apply online between July 1 and October 31 on an annual basis. Candidates who are selected as IAF finalists will be notified between December and January, with finalist interviews scheduled in Washington, DC, and New York City between January and February. Official selections and announcement of IAF awards will be made between February and March.
The IAF Program is only open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents between the ages of twenty-seven and thirty-five who are eligible to work in the United States. CFR does not sponsor for visas. While a PhD is not a requirement, selected fellows generally hold an advanced degree and possess a strong record of work experience as well as a firm grounding in the field of foreign policy. The program does not fund pre- or postdoctoral research, work toward a degree, or the completion of projects for which substantial progress has been made prior to the fellowship period.
Selection as an IAF is based on a combination of the following criteria: scholarly qualifications, achievements and promise, depth and breadth of professional experience, firm grounding in foreign policy and international relations, and an application proposal that focuses on solutions to identified problems in U.S. foreign policy. Applicants are encouraged to plan a systematic approach to assessing the major substantive and process issues of their planned research. The proposal will be judged on the proposed work’s originality, practicality, potential, likelihood of completion during the fellowship period, and the contribution it will make to the applicant’s individual career development.
The selection process is highly competitive. CFR’s Fellowship Affairs Office processes the applications, and the IAF selection committee reviews all applications to identify the most promising candidates. About one-third of the most qualified applicants are selected as finalists to be interviewed by several IAF selection committee members. Based on the overall application and the results of the interviews, the selection committee chooses approximately ten finalists to be fellows.
The duration of the fellowship is twelve months, preferably beginning in September. Though deferment is not an option, requests to do so, for up to one year only, will be considered on a case-by-case basis and under special circumstances. The program awards a stipend of $85,000. Fellows are considered independent contractors rather than employees of CFR, and are not eligible for employment benefits, including health insurance.
David Adesnik, Research Staff Member, Institute for Defense Analyses
Lindsay P. Cohn, Assistant Professor, University of Northern Iowa
Kent E. Davis-Packard, Egypt Desk Officer, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Theodore N. Nemeroff, Associate, Steptoe & Johnson LLP
Alexandra H. Perina, Acting Assistant Legal Adviser, Office of the Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State
Scott Smitson, Assistant Professor, Department of Social Sciences, U.S. Military Academy
Alexander Thurston, PhD Candidate, Department of Religious Studies, Northwestern University
Curtis C. Valentine, Executive Director, MarylandCAN
A list of former fellows can be found online by visiting Historical Roster of CFR’s International Affairs Fellows.
For more information on the David Rockefeller Studies Program, contact: