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Fellowship Program FAQ

A fantastic starting place to get a great feel for the fellowship program is the new report on 15 Lessons from the Berkman Fellows Program, written by David Weinberger.

Will the Center put out a call for fellowship applications for the 2021-2022 academic year?

The Berkman Klein Center will not put out an open call for applications for fellowships for the 2021-2022 academic year. As we look forward and prepare to adjust to 2021-2022 realities, we plan to use the year to experiment with some newer community program formats. We will also be refining our fellowship program, and what it may return as in future years when there is more clarity about the status of campus life. To stay informed about future programs and opportunities at BKC, please sign up for our weekly newsletter.

On what basis are fellows selected through the open call?

Each year, we get far more excellent applicants than we have the capacity for, which is both a testament to the amazing work being conducted around the world and a challenging problem from a review and selection perspective.

The fellowship selection is a mixture of art and science, based on a number of factors considered in the calculus that are specific to the applicant and based on broader context - in particular, the Center’s needs and composition of the fellowship class. Applicants are reviewed for achievements that are relevant to them (eg: we don’t expect practitioners developing a new idea to have numerous publications, although we would expect that of an academic). In addition to this, we look for perhaps less tangible, but equally important traits including intellectual rigor, vision, research skills, curiosity, openness, kindness, commitment to the public interest, and much more.

What can I do to increase the chances of success for my fellowship application?

There is no formula, and if we asked each of the reviewers, we might well get a different answer from them all. There are no shortcuts or guarantees. The straightforward if unsatisfying answer is to develop a strong application, which means reflection on your part as to why you are interested in the fellows program, what you will do given the opportunity, and how it fits with your work and the Berkman Klein Center’s direction. Many applicants have found that making the effort to engage members of the Berkman Klein community, whether formally or otherwise, is often helpful in this process -- not so much for hints, but to get a sense of where and how they might fit in.

What do you look for in recommendation letters?

There are a range of things your references may write about in a letter in support of your fellowship application.  A few sample prompts you may share with the people you’ve asked to write letters on your behalf: “What are you excited about in this next phase of the candidate’s work and personal growth?”   “What will be the impact of the candidate’s work over the course of the coming year? Over the course of their career?” “The Berkman Klein Center is a diverse, global, interdisciplinary, and intersectoral community.  In what manner will this candidate work in this kind of environment? How do they work as a collaborator?” Help your references help you: Berkman Klein Faculty Associate Tressie McMillian Cottom has a wonderful writeup for students who are asking her to write letters on their behalf, with lots of information about how to help make it as easy as possible for someone who has agreed to serve as a reference. 

I plan on working on __________. Is the Berkman Klein Center also working on this issue and looking for fellows in this sphere of research?

Most people in the community are interested in a range of issues and are working on them with varying degrees of formality, whether as a primary activity or a sidelight.  Fortunately, the technologies we study and the manner in which they are used in ongoing basis give insight into current research interests. We recommend you explore the various Berkman Klein communications platforms to develop your own sense of what the Berkman Klein Center is doing, what people are thinking about, and what isn’t yet happening -- but would be a great fit. Whether through books and papers, Radio Berkman and archived talk videos, the weekly Buzz, the many individual or project blogs, our twitter list, the Tuesday luncheon series, or any of the other reflections of work and focus, we hope you are able to get a sense of our interests, approach, and aims.  

Are applicants through the open call for fellows ever selected to work specifically for a Berkman Klein project?

In some instances, a new or existing project’s needs may fit particularly well with the capacities and interests of a fellowship applicant. When we review applications we may identify opportunities that would not have been advertised as a specific fellowship position. Some amount of financial compensation may be involved with these opportunities, and if we identify such opportunities to explore such an arrangement, we will eagerly discuss it directly with the fitting applicant, including any possibility for financial support from the project.

Are Berkman Klein fellows appointed through the open call allowed to be employed elsewhere during the course of their fellowships? What about other types of appointments elsewhere?

Many fellows have appointments and employment in addition to their Berkman Klein Center fellowship, though maintain flexibility and have support from those positions to spend their time and energies with us as well. We’ve found that fellows typically get more out of their time here when the issues they are thinking about through and with the Berkman Klein community relate to their outer-Berkman Klein work.

Who reviews applications during the open call review?

Berkman Klein Center senior staff and faculty directors review applications, and our board of directors make final decisions about Berkman Klein Center fellowship appointments. Other members of the Berkman Klein community are often consulted in the course of the review process based on their knowledge or expertise related to the specific applications.

When are chosen fellows notified?

The review and selection of Berkman Klein fellows applying through our yearly open call for fellows typically runs through early spring.  The review of applications for other fellowship calls happens as applications are received, and decisions are typically, but not always, made in the 2-3 months following the fellowship announcement (and sometimes sooner).  Finalists may be contacted for interviews before the final fellows selection.

Will I receive updates on the status of my application before final decisions are made?

Due to the large number of applications we receive and the dynamic nature of the review process, we are unable to give updates or answer questions about the status of specific applications during the course of our review.

How many fellows are selected each year through the open call?

We determine the size of the class in any given year based on a combination of applicant characteristics, our capacity to support fellows, and the Berkman Klein Center’s needs. Of course, the composition will change over the course of time, as opportunities for project fellowships arise based on new research activities.

My research proposal comprises a multi-year effort. If selected as a fellow through the open call, would my fellowship term span the full length of my proposal?

Application proposals should be based on one-year efforts, or parts or phases of efforts that would be addressed during the time span of one academic year. While some fellowships span longer than one year, continuation beyond one academic year cannot and will not be offered at the outset of a fellowship offer.

What if I do not live in the Cambridge area? Are remote fellowships offered?

There are no Berkman Klein fellowships that are exclusively remote, and we expect fellows to either live in the Cambridge area or spend a significant portion of their time here over the course of the year. It is the responsibility of each fellow to plan for and arrange their visits to Cambridge.

I can not come for a full year but would like to have a fellowship for a 3-4 month period.  Am I still eligible?

Unfortunately, we do not typically select fellows who will spend just a short period of time here in Cambridge.  We do not currently have a formal program or application process for hosting visitors for short periods.

I see you have people who are called faculty associates and affiliates.  If I can’t do a fellowship, may I be considered for one of these roles?

Faculty associates and affiliates are appointed by invitation from senior staff and faculty directors, though there are no independent application processes for these categories of affiliation. These roles include a range of wonderful people, from long-time collaborators to new friends, and are based around common agendas and aspirations. Like fellowships, each relationship is unique, and the modes of engagement with the Berkman Klein community vary. There are times we will consider a fellowship applicant for one of these roles instead of a fellowship based on ideas, goals, constraints, and opportunities that are communicated through the application process.

Does the Berkman Klein Center sponsor visas for international fellows?

For fellowships through our open call for applications, we work with the Harvard International Office (HIO) to sponsor visa paperwork for our eligible international fellows. An outline of the visa application process and requirements may be found on the HIO website at:

Will the Berkman Klein Center write a letter of support for my Fulbright/grant/etc. application before I am selected as a Berkman Klein fellow?

Unfortunately, we are not able to accommodate requests to write preliminary letters of support for grant or other scholarship applications.

Are Berkman Klein fellows considered to be employees of Harvard University?

Berkman Klein fellows selected through the open call for applications are not considered Harvard University employees.  Project fellowships with application procedures run through the Harvard HR office are employee roles.

This FAQ is so dry. Where’s the whimsy?

The Berkman Klein Center is in fact a special place, and we’re saving the whimsy for your arrival!