Independent Fellow Laura Li '18 on a trip to Inner Mongolia. 

Current Fellows


Oberlin Shansi’s Independent Fellowship offers a highly motivated Oberlin College & Conservatory senior or recent alumnus the opportunity to create a full-time Shansi Fellowship. Unlike our traditional Fellowships, where Fellows work with pre-established partner institutions, the Independent Fellowship allows applicants to propose a two year professional engagement with an organization of their choosing.


Independent Fellows have used this opportunity to develop academic and professional skills, build networks with peers and counterparts, contribute to a host institution, and pursue knowledge of an issue or field.

Getting Started: Finding a Host Institution


Candidates can apply to work with an organization in Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, South Korea, The Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, or Vietnam.


The applicant is responsible for identifying the host. The Fellowship can be situated in institutions such as non-profit organizations, governmental organizations, and for-profit social enterprises. Fellows may work in various fields including, but not limited to, public health, the environment, law and human rights, community development, the arts, or gender rights and advocacy.


Fellows should expect to make a substantial time commitment to the host institution, should they receive the Fellowship. This is a full-time endeavor; vacations must be negotiated with the host institutions.Time off for events, such as graduate school interviews, must be negotiated with the host organization.


Applicants are responsible for researching visa requirements. Shansi staff is happy to consult with applicants about potential barriers to living or working in a specific region. However, the applicant must confer with their potential host institution to ensure that they can acquire the appropriate visa and/or work permit. 


Shansi offers a generous, comprehensive benefits package. Fellows are not expected to rely on personal funds at any point during their Fellowship - from their language training until the conclusion of their tenure. However, in order to encourage applications to underrepresented and non-metropolitan regions, Shansi will place an $800 cap to the monthly stipend for the Independent Fellowship. Applicants seeking  opportunities in areas with a higher cost of living (e.g. Tokyo, Taipei, Shanghai, etc.) should look for host organizations that can provide housing, subsidize rent, or offer a small living stipend to supplement the Shansi stipend. 


The Fellowship will be awarded as a full-time, two-year Fellowship. After the initial six months in the field, a Shansi representative will visit the Fellow in the field to review progress together. Shansi staff will provide support and assistance from the campus of Oberlin College and also visit the Fellow on-site during the second year.

Application Process


The application will be divided into two stages to ensure adequate time for applicants to identify a host organization and develop an implementation plan. Applicants are strongly encouraged to discuss their projects with Shansi staff before and during the application process.


In November, each applicant will submit an Expression of Interest (EOI). This application asks candidates key questions about their proposed host organization and initial plans for the Fellowships. A Shansi evaluation committee will use the EOI to assess a candidate’s readiness to continue in the application process. Select candidates will be invited for an informational interview, where staff will ask followup questions and offer mentorship for the final stages of the application process. 


In January, the selected applicants will submit a full application. In this, they will strengthen their conceptual frameworks and explain how both they and the host institutions will benefit. The applicants will consult with the proposed host organizations, confirm their mutual interest, and develop goals, work plans, and schedules. The applicant must also present a budget for living expenses for the first year. A review committee will examine the proposals and interview the applicants for a second time. Selected finalists will be asked to provide a letter of support from their proposed host institution.


Application and Fellowship Timeline for 2022 Independent Fellowship

  • November 1, 2021 - Expression of Interest (EOI) due 

  • Late November, 2021 - Informational interviews (via Zoom)

  • January 3, 2022 - Final applications, including proposal and budget, due

  • Late January, 2022 - Final Interviews

  • Early/Mid February, 2022 - Independent Fellowship Awarded 

  • Mid-June/July 2022 - Independent Fellow begins language training

  • September 2022 - Work at the host institution commences

What does a strong candidate for the Independent Fellowship look like?

Applicants need to demonstrate the ability to take ownership of their Fellowships from beginning to end, the resourcefulness and imagination to work through inevitable obstacles, and the integrity and emotional maturity to treat other people with kindness and respect.

The Fellow will receive basic administrative and logistical support from Shansi during their Fellowship, but will be expected to shoulder primary responsibility for finding an appropriate host institution, negotiating the terms of their relationship, securing a valid visa, and finding housing. It will be critical that the applicant demonstrate their understanding of the needs and expectations of the host institution; this will be one of the major factors considered by the selection panel.

Shansi only awards the Independent Fellowship for exceptional proposals. As such, we reserve the right to not award an Independent Fellowship during a given year. For more information please contact Ted Samuel, Deputy Director, at to chat or set up an appointment to meet on Zoom.