History of the Congressional Fellowship Program

Until the reforms of the mid-1970s, the inner workings of Congress were essentially a closed book to the public and to the press. APSA foresaw that early- to mid-career political scientists and journalists, serving fellowship placements on congressional staffs, would be in a unique position to transmit their experiences to a broader audience. When they returned to their jobs, their research and reporting would benefit from new insights, and the American public would be better informed.

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The American Political Science Association inaugurated its first class of Congressional Fellows in 1953. Over the following decades, the idea of teaching the political process through practical experience became increasingly attractive to other professional groups as well. In response to this interest, the program expanded to include domestic and foreign policy specialists from the federal government, health policy professionals, various academics, and other professionals from the United States and abroad.

Now in its seventh decade, the Congressional Fellowship Program has achieved a reputation for excellence among those concerned with the quality of government and the ways in which democracies function. It has served as a model for fellowship programs in all three branches of the federal government and has been adapted for use in parliamentary settings abroad.

Among the ranks of the Program's more than 2,200 alumni are professors, reporters, editors, executives, lawyers, politicians, congressional staffers, parliamentarians, lobbyists, doctors, nurses, sociologists, anthropologists, Native American leaders, federal domestic and foreign policy specialists, international scholars, ambassadors, and even a United States vice president.

For more information on the history of the Congressional Fellowship Program, see A Congress of Fellows: Fifty Years of the APSA Congressional Fellowship Program, 1953-2003, written by Dr. Jeffrey R. Biggs, a member of the 1984-1985 Congressional Fellowship Class and director of the Congressional Fellowship Program from 1997 to 2014.