About the Black Sea Program

Throughout history, the Greater Middle East has served as a strategic springboard to Europe and Central Asia. Today, the Black Sea region, in particular, finds itself at the heart of Iranian, Russian, and Chinese attempts to shape a new order in this part of the world, comprising cultural, political, commercial, and strategic elements. In the context of today's strategic competition, MEI's Black Sea Program explores interactions among countries in the extended Black Sea area—Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine—with the Middle East, Russia, and China. This MEI program examines security, political, economic, and energy relationships, as well as trends that are likely to grow in strategic importance.

About the Black Sea Research Title VIII Fellowship

US Department of State Seal

The Black Sea Research fellowship is made possible through a grant by the U.S. Department of State’s Program for Research and Training on Eastern Europe and the Independent States of the Former Soviet Union (Title VIII). Black Sea Research fellows will be affiliated with the MEI Black Sea Program for five months in 2024 (May-September 2023). The specific start and end dates of the fellowship will be determined in coordination with the fellowship director. Four fellows of U.S. nationality will be selected. Throughout this fellowship program selected fellows will receive training and mentorship, conduct research, travel to the region, and participate in policy dialogue. Part of the fellowship will take place in hybrid/online mode. Fellows will spend at least one week of their fellowship in Washington, DC. Three to eight weeks fellows will undertake field research in one country of their choice (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, or Ukraine).

The Black Sea fellowship program aims to strengthen U.S. expertise and understanding of Black Sea countries while facilitating mutual connections between Americans and their regional counterparts. The fellowship will provide a unique opportunity for fellows to understand the nuances of the Black Sea region. It will ultimately produce alumni capable of developing rigorous expertise that can meaningfully contribute to U.S. foreign policy. Fellows will complete research projects, including field research, that provide new insights into their chosen topic and tangibly contribute to advancing American understanding of the region. At the end of the program, fellows will be integrated into the Black Sea Program’s alumni group and MEI will offer fellows the opportunity to become Black Sea Program contributors and/or non-resident fellows.


Title VIII Black Sea Research Fellows will be selected through an open, merit-based competition process. Candidates must be at the graduate- or post-doctoral level in international affairs, political science, economics, European/East European studies, or a related discipline, and must be U.S. citizens. The ideal candidate should have substantial research or study experience relating to the Black Sea region, as well as demonstrated interest in one or more of the research areas covered by the MEI Black Sea Program: political, economic, security, democratic, and/or governance challenges in the Black Sea with direct relevance to U.S. foreign policy. Fellows may be based in-house at MEI’s offices in Washington, D.C., or with the approval of the Program Director, may work remotely/virtually from a location of their choosing.

Central to the program will be addressing core U.S. foreign policy objectives, including improving national security by protecting U.S. troops and developing U.S. capabilities; promoting democracy by strengthening democratic values and institutions as well as civil society; engaging with allies to strengthen their resilience against Russian aggression, Chinese strategic presence, and Iranian influence; promoting American and partners’ prosperity by securing commercial opportunities and fostering investment; advancing free-market transition; and aiding in the fight against corruption by promoting market-oriented economic and governance reforms.

We expect fellows to have excellent research and writing skills and to be able to work independently.

Regional language skills, while not a requirement, are a plus.

Research Proposal

As part of their application, interested candidates should write and submit a formal research proposal of 1,500 to 2,000 words outlining their proposed research agenda with clear relevance to U.S. foreign policy in the Black Sea region and preference for in-country placement. This proposal will serve as a baseline reference of what the Research Fellow plans to produce, which may (and likely will) continue to evolve throughout the fellowship.


To be considered, applications should be submitted no later than February 9, 2024. Interested candidates should complete the web form below and upload a .zip file including the following additional materials:

  • Cover letter

  • 1,000 to a 2,000-word research proposal, including a timeline with milestones

  • Up-to-date Resume/CV

  • Official academic certificate(s) and transcripts

  • Two references that can speak to the candidate’s qualifications, including proficiency in the host country language (if applicable) and feasibility of their research

Application Form

Mailing Address
Note: This call is open to U.S. citizens only
Current professional affiliation
Note: Because you selected "other" above, please describe your current professional affiliation here.
Note: The total duration of the fellowship is 16 weeks. Fellows are expected to spend their first 5 weeks in Washington, DC, 8 weeks in the field, and return to DC for the last 3 weeks.
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Country/countries of interest