Jefferson Fellowships


The Jefferson Fellowships offer print and broadcast journalists from the United States, Asia and the Pacific Islands the unique opportunity to gain on-the-ground perspectives and build international networks to enhance their reporting through an intensive one-week education and dialogue seminar at the East-West Center in Honolulu followed by a two week reporting tour in the Asia Pacific-U.S. region.

Program Background

The Jefferson Fellowships is the East-West Center’s most widely-recognized and established seminar program, with an illustrious alumni network of more than 700 Jefferson Fellows across the Asia Pacific region and the United States. The broad goal of the program is to enhance public understanding through the news media of cultures, issues and trends in the Asia Pacific region. Participation in the Jefferson Fellowships provides journalists with an opportunity to learn and report from cities across the Asia Pacific on key issues and developments taking place, sharing with audiences first-hand perspectives and new insights. The program provides a unique combination of study-dialogue at the East-West Center with an educational reporting trip taken with colleagues from countries across the region. This provides journalists with enhanced knowledge of the most important regional issues, reporting imbued with perspectives from journalists from 10 different countries, valuable professional contacts, and life-long friendships with their colleagues in the program. They also gain access to the EWC’s international network of more than 1,000 media professionals and 50,000 alumni. The program is made possible through a generous grant from The Freeman Foundation of Stowe Vermont and supplemented by contributions from news organizations, US Embassies in Asia Pacific, other foundations and the East-West Center.

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Professional Exchange:  One essential element of this professional experience is the journalist-to-journalist exchange. Central to this is a presentation that each Fellow will give to his or her fellow participants. Each Fellow is required to prepare and submit two weeks before arriving at the Center a short paper (1,000–1,500 words). The paper should address a significant issue in the participant’s country that is relevant to the theme of the program and discuss how the country – at the government, private sector and/or socio-cultural level – is responding to the issue. The Jefferson Fellowships coordinator will work with invited Fellows to develop a series of presentations relevant to the theme. Each Fellow also will make an oral presentation (approximately 15 minutes) based on the previously submitted paper and participate in discussion of his or her topic.

The purpose of the presentations is to tap the education and experience of participating journalists in ways that will be professionally useful to fellow participants as they study, assess, and report in their media on the themes of the program and the Asia Pacific region.

Funding:  The Jefferson Fellowships are funded by the Freeman Foundation and the East-West Center. These funds provide for 10-12 full or partial scholarships, including approximately two to four for qualified American journalists and eight for Asia Pacific journalists. A full scholarship for the Jefferson Fellowships is valued at approximately $8500 and includes:

  • Roundtrip airfare to and from participant’s home country and throughout the study tour
  • Lodging in each of the cities
  • Program meals and a modest per diem to cover meals not provided
  • Ground transportation and airport transfers
  • Cultural activities and networking opportunities
  • Interpretation as needed
  • Pro-rated speaker honorariums, cooperating organization costs, and meeting rooms
  • Participant Resource Binder and pre-arrival background readings 
  • Thumb drive of fellowship documents, speaker PowerPoint presentations and photos
  • Experienced escorts and professionally organized program of meetings and visits, often with unique access to speakers and communities.

All participants must pay an $800 program fee to cover costs not provided by the scholarship funds. Participants are also responsible for all applicable visa fees, any additional visa-related expenses, health insurance, and baggage fees. Given that there are very few full scholarships available, we strongly encourage media organizations to cost share program expenses and/or airfare. Cost sharing is seen as an indication of the commitment of media organizations to the value of the program and their willingness to invest in the participating journalist. It is an important consideration of the Selection Committee. The “Employer’s Statement of Support” indicating cost sharing is required for all applicants. Journalists also are welcome to offer cost sharing on their own or identify other sponsors to cost share participation, such as local foundations. Please complete a second copy of the Employer Statement of Support form and indicate who is providing the cost sharing.

Eligibility:  The Jefferson Fellowships are open to working print, broadcast, and online journalists in the United States, the Pacific Islands, and Asia. A minimum five years of professional experience is preferred. Applicants must have the ability to communicate in English in a professional, multi-cultural environment. Preference will be given to journalists who clearly articulate the relevance of the theme to their areas of coverage and how they intend to use the knowledge gained to enhance the perspectives of viewers, readers, and listeners. Journalists are strongly encourage to generate media content during and after the program in the form of formal print and broadcast stories, blogs, tweets, Instagram and other social media communications.

The 2019 Jefferson Fellowships program is tentatively scheduled to take place April 7 -27, 2019 with study tour destinations and theme yet to be determined. Please check back in December 2018.


2018 Jefferson Fellowships

Theme:  Populism, Identity, and the State of Democracy in Southeast Asia

Dates:  June 18 – July 10, 2018

Destinations:  Honolulu, HI; Singapore; Manila, Philippines; Kuala Lumpur/Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

The 2018 Jefferson Fellowships program took place June 18 –July 10, 2018 with study tour travel to Honolulu, Hawaii; Manila, Philippines; Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabula, Malaysia and included eleven journalists from eight countries. Journalists explored how domestic, regional, and global forces precipitated populism and identity-based conflict and how both are influencing democratic progress in Southeast Asia via the program theme of Populism, Identity, and the State of Democracy in Southeast Asia. The 2018 Jefferson Fellowships program began in Honolulu with U.S.-based experts discussing the spread of populism in the United States and the Asia Pacific region. Journalists also shared perspectives from their own countries on the theme through topic paper presentations. Travel to Manila explored the rise of Rodrigo Duterte, including his populist economic policies, criticism of the Philippine-U.S. relationship and the Catholic Church, and the extrajudicial drug war. Travel to Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu explored the nexus between ethnic and religious identity in Malaysia, its impact on electoral politics, and the reelection of Mahathir Mohamad. Meetings with government officials, academics, students, media colleagues, civil society leaders, ethnic and religious representatives in the United States, Philippines, and Malaysia contextualized and compared populist mobilization and identity politics; offered journalists an opportunity to explore whether the experiences of the Philippines and Malaysia are part of a larger trend towards a weakening of democratic norms and institutions; provided first-hand exposure to and more nuanced understanding of the theme; and built the professional networks of participating journalists. The 2018 Jefferson Fellowships additionally included participation in the East-West Center’s 6th International Media Conference in Singapore where journalists gathered to discuss “What is News Now.” The Conference included distinguished keynote speakers and panels of working journalists as well as unique opportunities to network with 350 international media professionals. Finally, efforts by political leaders to undermine media’s legitimacy were explored throughout the program.

The 2018 Jefferson Fellowships provided participating journalists with much needed context and firsthand perspectives on the Asia Pacific region. This was achieved by engaging with over 65 experts, policymakers, business and community leaders, students, journalists, workers, and others during the course of the program, and making eight site visits to see non-profit projects, places of worship, indigenous communities, cultural sites, and other places that illuminated and brought life to the theme. Kumaran Pillai of The Independent wrote, “Prior to this trip, I wasn’t aware of the fault-lines that exist in Malaysian politics and identity. I now have a firsthand understanding of this fracturing and the ‘populism’ of Duterte in the Philippines.” These informational sessions and site visits not only contextualized populist mobilization and identity politics, they also provided the journalists with an opportunity to learn about the region from multiple viewpoints both comparatively across countries and within each country itself. In the Philippines, for example, the journalists examined the intent and popularity of the drug war via meetings with President Duterte’s spokesperson, the independent Human Rights Commission, affected university students, and an oppositional, activist priest. The 2018 Jefferson Fellowships program, furthermore, offered access to individuals that the journalists might not otherwise engage. Traveling with a multinational group of American and Asian colleagues representing print, television, radio, and online news outlets further diversified the views offered and provided an even greater opportunity to deepen the journalists’ knowledge of the Asia Pacific region.
A longterm outcome of the Jefferson Fellowships, furthermore, is the development of professional relationships and the building of reliable information networks, which are both an important aspect in improving Fellows’ capacity to source future stories and serve as a resource within their newsrooms. John Diaz of The San Francisco Chronicle, for example, wrote, “In my position as an editor of a regional newspaper, I won’t be writing much on the topic myself, however, my participation has better equipped me to assess and assign op-eds on the region and recommend potential interviewees.” The 2018 Fellows also highlighted the formal and informal interaction with colleagues as one of the most impactful aspects of the program, including the creation of a WhatsApp group that has continued to be very lively, particularly as a platform for the journalists to exchange thoughts and best practices in covering the theme and the Asia Pacific region more generally.
As of October 2018, the Fellows have produced a total of 35 stories via traditional media and blog posts reaching millions across the United States and the Asia Pacific. They also generated 93 Instagram posts and 215 tweets, which reached a collective following of more than 132,882 direct Twitter followers plus additional viral lift of at least 11.4K from retweets by the Center. 

Funding: The Jefferson Fellowships are supported by a grant from The Freeman Foundation and by the East-West Center. The 2018 program was also supported by: The Mary Morgan Hewett Fund, Asia New Zealand Foundation, South China Morning Post, Bloomberg and the US Embassy in Cambodia.

The 2018 Jefferson Fellows were:

  • Ms. Simrit Kaur AMAR SINGH, Assistant Editor, Star Media Group Berhad, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Mr. Chad BLAIR, Politics and Opinion Editor, Civil Beat, Honolulu, HI, USA
  • Ms. Katie A. BRADFORD, Political Reporter, Television New Zealand, Auckland, New Zealand
  • Ms. Sunetra CHOUDHURY, Political Editor, New Delhi Television, New Delhi, India     
  • Mr. John H. DIAZ, Ediotrial Page Editor, The San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, CA, USA
  • Mr. Titthara MAY, News Editor, Khmer Times, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
  • Mr. Kumaran M. PILLAI, Editor-in-Chief, The Independent, Singapore
  • Ms. Emily R. SCHULTHEIS, Freelancer, The Atlantic and Foreign Policy, Berlin, Germany/USA
  • Ms. Ashley WESTERMAN, Associate Producer, Morning Edition, National Public Radio, Washington, DC
  • Ms. Tsoi Lai Catherine WONG, Reporter, South China Morning Post, Beijing, China
  • Mr. Karl Lester Malcampo YAP, Editor, Asia Economy, Bloomberg News, Manila, Philippines   


For a summary of the 2017 Jefferson Fellowships program, please click here.


Contact Information
Liz A. Dorn
Seminars Program Coordinator
East-West Center
1601 East West Road
Honolulu, HI  96848-1601  USA
Phone: (808) 944-7368
Fax: (808) 944-7600