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Free Expression Leadership Fellows Program – Spring 2023


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. Fellows 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 spring fellowship program will be based out of PEN America’s offices located in New York City and Washington D.C. The option to work onsite in our offices during the program will be determined according to public health and safety guidelines and spatial availability at the time of the fellowship. Applicants outside of New York City and Washington D.C. may still apply to participate in the program virtually, understanding that preference may be given to in-person candidates depending on the program track. The six program tracks operating out of New York City include: Artists at Risk Globally; Digital Safety; Free Expression and Education; Free Expression Research; Free Expression in the United States; and Writers at Risk Globally. The three program tracks operating out of Washington, D.C. include: Digital Freedom; Free Expression in Eurasia; and Free Expression Advocacy in Washington, D.C. Fellows should expect the program to take place during our weekday operating hours of 9am to 6pm ET. Fellows may express interest in one or more tracks in their application, although it is envisioned that they will be assigned to only one area for the duration of their program term. 

Candidates representing diverse backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply.


The Spring 2023 Free Expression Leadership Fellows Program will run for 14 weeks from Monday, January 23, 2023 through Friday, April 28, 2023.


  • Strong research, writing, and analytical skills
  • Keen logistical eye for details and excellent organisational 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


  • 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 Friday, January 20, 2023 orientation and 14 weekly leadership seminars with their cohort every Wednesday from 12pm to 1pm ET
  • Attend seven biweekly professional development workshops held on Thursdays from 5pm to 6pm ET


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 Thursday, December 15, 2022 at 11:59pm ET. Interviews will be conducted on a rolling basis. Decisions will be announced by Monday, January 16th 2023. Please send any questions about the program or how to apply to Leila Markosian at

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.


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.