Matt Kupfer, IGS ’12 is the winner of the Carnegie Junior Fellowship from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
When I graduated from Brandeis last year, the inevitable question was what to do next. I wasn’t sure, but I did know that I wanted to continue studying Russian so that my language skills wouldn’t fade away with disuse. I also wanted to continue doing something I started during the summer: blogging and writing freelance articles about the post-Soviet region. I ultimately decided to go back to St. Petersburg, Russia, where I had studied abroad my junior year, to study Russian and work on getting professionally fluent in the language. This has allowed me to learn more about the political and social changes occurring here and to continue writing.
Not long after I got to Russia, that same question returned: what to do next? Then, I heard about the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Junior Fellows program, a year-long fellowship for graduating seniors and recent college graduates that allows them to serve as research assistants to the Carnegie Endowment’s senior associates. I had enjoyed researching and writing my senior honors thesis on the 2010 outburst of interethnic conflict in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, and I also liked researching and writing blog posts and articles about social and political issues in Central Asia. For that reason, the fellowship immediately appealed to me.
Naturally, I decided to apply to Carnegie’s Russia/Eurasia Program. The application essay was extremely difficult because it asked me to describe ways in which the United States and Russia could cooperate in the Pacific Region. This wasn’t something one could simply research. It required a lot of critical thinking (which I assume will be required on the job, too) and a great deal of attention to the changes in US-Russia relations. Though satisfied with my essay, I never felt certain I had answered the question “correctly.” Still, after an interview over Skype, I was chosen to serve in the Russia/Eurasia Program, so I must have said something right!
I view being selected a Carnegie Junior Fellow as a great oppurtunity for me, because it will allow me to work with regional experts–something I hadn’t expected to happen so soon…and be paid for it, too. I will also be able to put my Russian to good use and continue to learn about the post-Soviet region, which is my passion. I believe the fellowship will put me in contact with significant thinkers in this field and will give me a greater sense of where I want to go next in my professional life.