Bernstein Fellowships

About the Fellowships

The Robert L. Bernstein Fellowships in International Human Rights enable two or three Yale Law School graduating students or recent graduates to devote a year to full-time advocacy human rights work.

The Bernstein Fellowships were established at Yale Law School in 1997 to honor Robert Bernstein, the founder and former chair of Human Rights Watch; former chair, president, and chief executive officer of Random House; and a tireless champion of human rights. The fellowships, supported by the family, friends, and colleagues of Robert Bernstein and administered by the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School, promote innovative and creative approaches to human rights advocacy.

The Bernstein Fellowship provides a one-year stipend of $55,000. The application deadline to be considered for a fellowship beginning in the fall of 2024 is February 1, 2024, at 11:59 pm.

Application Details

The application deadline for the Bernstein Fellowship is February 1, 2024, at 11:59 pm.

The Bernstein Fellowship Selection Committee will review applications and select the fellows. Factors the committee will consider include:

  1. the value of the proposed project, its feasibility, and its potential impact;
  2. the applicant’s ability to achieve the proposed project’s goals;
  3. the applicant’s human rights experience (in law school courses, extracurricular activities, summer jobs, or full-time work);
  4. the applicant’s leadership capabilities and likely future commitment to human rights work; and
  5. the sponsoring organization’s capacity to implement the proposed project (if applicable).

The Selection Committee may ask applicants to participate in a telephone interview.

The Schell Center will notify applicants of the results of the selection process by mid-March.

Read the YLS-Funded International Research Travel Policy

Application Requirements

Applicants should submit the following materials:

  1. a short personal statement (500 words maximum) describing the applicant’s relevant experience, interest in human rights work, and aspirations;
  2. a concise summary (one paragraph) of the proposed Bernstein Fellowship project and its goals;
  3. a project proposal (1,500 words maximum) including:
    1. a discussion of the problem or need that the proposed project will address, why this problem is important, how the project will address it, and other reasons for choosing this project;
    2. a discussion of how the applicant will implement the project and meet the project’s goals within the one-year fellowship period (a proposed timetable for the project should be included);
    3. identification of the sponsoring organization (if applicable) and other organizations or individuals who will assist the applicant with the project and a description of how they will assist and supervise the applicant; and
    4. a discussion of the applicant’s relevant skills, training, experience, or other significant background;
  4. two or three letters of recommendation, including one letter from a current or former professor or other person associated with Yale Law School and one letter from a supervisor or employer familiar with the applicant’s human rights work or recent work experience (letters evaluating the proposed project and the applicant’s capacity to achieve the project’s goal are particularly helpful);
  5. a resume with a list of additional references, both prior employers and professors;
  6. a law school transcript (registrar may forward to Schell Center);
  7. a letter, if applicable, from the sponsoring organization, detailing:
    1. the organization’s purpose and function
    2. its interest in, and commitment to, the proposed project
    3. the resources and supervision it will provide for the project
    4. how the Bernstein Fellowship will contribute to the organization’s efforts to further respect for human rights
    5. confirmation of that the organization understands the nature of the relationship between Yale University, the fellow, and the sponsoring organization, namely that:
      1. the organization’s relevant authority has reviewed the fellowship’s parameters and requirements and that sponsor has authorization to host the fellow;
      2. the organization understands that, as a general matter, by awarding a post-graduate fellowship to the fellow, Yale University does not undertake contractual obligations to the sponsoring organization;
      3. if the organization requires a separate memorandum of understanding or agreement to host fellows, the organization will contact the Schell Center at least 3 months before the fellowship start date to begin the negotiations process.
  8. a note confirming that the sponsoring organization has certified compliance with Yale Law School's non-discrimination policy (read instructions for certifying compliance).

If there is no sponsoring organization, the applicant should submit a short statement (250 words maximum) describing any consultations the applicant has had with human rights professionals or others working in related fields in developing the project proposal.

Application Deadline

The deadline to apply for Fellowships beginning in Fall of 2024 is February 1, 2024 at 11:59 pm. Applicants are encouraged to consult with the Schell Center as they explore project possibilities and prepare their proposals. 

YLS is now using a common application and deadline for YLS-funded fellowships (specifically the Bernstein, Gruber, Heyman, Liman, Robina, YLJ and YPIF fellowships, but excluding the International Court of Justice and Permanent Court of Arbitration Fellowships).  Click here to access the online application. Please be sure to give yourself time to submit by the deadline. If you have any questions, please email