From its earliest days, CFR realized the important role it could play in fostering the next generation of talent in the field of foreign policy and international relations.

Starting with its Conferences for University Men in the 1930s, which sought to increase the number of young academics studying international affairs, to the Blavatnik Internship Program launched in 2019, which helps bring the current generation of college students to the Council, CFR has continuously created opportunities for students and early- and mid-career professionals to gain knowledge on current developments in international relations, gain additional experience in foreign policy, and make connections within the policy community. A significant number of members and staff have gone on to serve in the federal government, the armed forces, Congress, and international organizations.

Here are some examples of areas where the Council has played a role in building a pipeline for future leaders in foreign policy.

Term Membership

Attendees at the Twenty-Fourth Annual Term Member Conference in 2019

Launched in 1970, the Term Member Program was established to cultivate the next generation of foreign policy leaders, and encourages promising young women and men from diverse backgrounds to engage in a sustained conversation on international affairs and U.S. foreign policy.

Each year, a new class of term members between the ages of thirty and thirty-six is elected to Council membership for a fixed five-year term. The program began small, with fewer than a dozen term members a year, but increased over time. The program was reinvigorated in the 1990s, adding many new elements designed to expand opportunities for career development.

In 2001, it was named the Stephen M. Kellen Term Member Program to honor one of its leading supporters. Starting in 2015, up to 18 percent of Council members could be term members, averaging over 700 in any given year. Since its inception, there have been nearly 4,000 term members.

Facebook’s Mira Patel, Goldman Sachs’s Abby Deift, and Reddit Inc.’s Jessica Ashooh at the 2019 Term Member Conference in New York
Participants in the 2019 Term Member Conference in New York
Term members at Fort Bliss, Texas
Term members visit the U.S.-Mexico border in Sunland Park, New Mexico


U.S. Air Force Fellow Jeffrey Kendall hosts the head of Air Force Cyber Command, General William Lord

In 1962, CFR and the U.S. Air Force began a program in which each year an Air Force officer would come to the Council on a one-year fellowship. The program was expanded to include the U.S. Army in 1966, the U.S. Navy in 1968, the Marine Corps in 1982, and the U.S. Coast Guard in 2011.

The program enables the selected officers to broaden their understanding of international relations by spending a year in residence at CFR’s headquarters in New York. Fellows expand their knowledge of international relations through a program of individual study, research and reflection, extensive participation in CFR’s active program of meetings and events, and interaction with CFR’s diverse membership. Since 1962, over 150 members of the U.S. Armed Forces have participated in the program; of those, over half have gone on to be promoted to general or admiral.

U.S. Coast Guard Fellow Pat DeQuattro in a promotion ceremony taking place at CFR in 2015
CFR delegation in Afghanistan on 2011 military fellow–led trip to CENTCOM
CFR delegation in Kabul during 2011 trip to CENTCOM
Military fellows at CFR’s 75th Anniversary Gala in 1996
CFR members at a U.S. Coast Guard ship in Seattle, Washington


Former IAFs Erica Borghard and Benjamin Gedan with former CFR Intelligence Fellow Guillermo Christensen at the 2019 IAF Conference

In 1967, with the support of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Council launched the International Affairs Fellowship (IAF) program.

The goal of the fellowship was to give younger scholars an opportunity to test their thinking in a policy-oriented environment, such as a government or international agency, while also providing younger government officials with the possibility of thinking through some of their problems in a scholarly environment free from the pressure of day-to-day decisions.

Today the goal of the International Affairs Fellowship is to give to its fellows a transformative experience: those coming from academia or the private sector spend a year in government, while those coming from government work in a scholarly atmosphere (think tank or university). The mission is to support the development of scholar practitioners.

Since its inception, over six hundred fellowships have been awarded. Government officials have spent time at institutions such as CFR, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Brookings Institution, and Harvard University, while academics and other scholars have had stints at government agencies including the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the Department of the Treasury. The fellowship’s goal in 1967 and today remains that “this program will make a continuing contribution to the small reservoir of leaders of diverse experience and multiple talents who will play a critical part in directing the nation’s energies in the future.”

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who held her first government position through the IAF program, described it as being “one of the best experiences of my life,” adding that the fellowship is

An extraordinary idea, when you think about it, that people should be able to go back and forth and go both ways. It is indeed something that is not uniquely, but almost uniquely American, that we have such a great back-and-forth between our academic institutions and our institutions of government.”

Condoleezza RiceU.S. Secretary of State (IAF, 1985–86)

In 1997, the Council expanded the IAF program with a fellowship in Japan, sponsored by Hitachi. Over eighty people have participated in the program, which gives Americans without previous experience in Japan a chance to live and work in the country. IAFs in other countries were established; first Canada in 2016 and then India in 2018.

Other fellowships that provide specialized training and opportunities for the next generation of foreign policy leaders and scholars include the IAF in International Economics, the IAF for Tenured Professors, and the Stanton Nuclear Security Fellowship.

Former IAFs Kimberly McClure (2010-2011) and Dalton Conley (2005–2006) speak on a panel for the 2012 IAF Conference
Former IAFs at CFR, 2019


Council interns, 2018

Since 1988, CFR has given college and university students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels the opportunity to gain valuable experience in the field of international relations through its internship program.

In 1990, the Franklin Williams Internship Fund was established to promote diversity in the field of foreign policy and supports internships for graduate and undergraduate students, as well as recent graduates, who have a serious interest in international relations; the program was expanded in 2017 with a gift from the Robina Foundation.

In 2019, a generous gift from the Blavatnik Family Foundation allowed CFR to enhance and expand its paid internship program, helping ensure more students from diverse backgrounds and institutions can take part in the opportunities provided by the Council. Since the inception of the internship program, over two thousand students and recent graduates have interned at the Council.

Expanding the Pool

Panelists at the 2019 Conference on Diversity in International Affairs

The Council additionally works in a number of ways to create a pool of talented individuals with an interest in international relations and foreign policy that is also reflective of the population of the United States. Some of these ways include:

Conference on Diversity in International Affairs

CFR has hosted the Conference on Diversity in International Affairs in collaboration with the International Career Advancement Program (ICAP) and the Global Access Pipeline (GAP) since 2013. The goal of the conference is to increase the access to and preparedness for a career in foreign policy by minority groups from diverse backgrounds that are historically underrepresented in the field.

CFR Board Member and keynote speaker Jeh Johnson with students at the 2018 Conference on Diversity in International Affairs
CFR member and keynote speaker Stacey Abrams at the 2019 Conference on Diversity in International Affairs
Participants in the 2019 Conference on Diversity in International Affairs
Global Access Pipeline

CFR is one of the founding organizations of GAP, a consortium of organizations that seeks to enhance the quality and diversity of U.S. participation in international affairs. Focused on equipping underrepresented students with opportunities for global engagement and leadership development, GAP facilitates collaboration between educational institutions and foreign policy organizations.

GAP community participants in the 2017 Conference on Diversity in International Affairs
International Career Advancement Program

ICAP seeks to bring greater diversity to staffing of senior management and policymaking positions in international public service and the global private sector. Since 2014, CFR has had members of its staff participate in an annual week-long ICAP retreat in Aspen, Colorado.

ICAP 2017 fellows in Aspen, Colorado
Global Kids

Global Kids is an educational program for youth attending low-performing schools and living in neighborhoods populated by racial and ethnic groups that are often academically, politically, and professionally underrepresented. Since 1997, CFR has contributed to Global Kids’ mission of ensuring that youth from underserved areas have the knowledge, skills, experiences, and values they need to succeed in school, participate effectively in the democratic process, and become leaders in their communities. Since 2006, CFR has hosted the annual Global Kids Summer Institute and a Global Kids roundtable series.

Students participating in the 2019 Global Kids Summer Institute
  • Term Membership

  • Military

  • Fellowships

  • Internships

  • Expanding the Pool