Graduating college seniors and recent graduates are invited to apply for the First Things junior fellows program. The junior fellows work closely with the editors to produce the magazine and its website. The one-year, full-time fellowship (which can be extended to a second year) includes housing and a modest stipend.
Please send a resume, a 250-word description of what you want to learn from the fellowship, a writing sample of no more than 2,000 words, and contact information for three references (one should know your writing or editorial experience) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Applications are due Monday, March 11, 2019.
Since 2004, the highly competitive, two-year First Things Junior Fellows Program has provided recent college graduates the opportunity to gain valuable experience in the worlds of publishing and public policy—and unparalleled exposure to the best of contemporary artistic and intellectual life. The First Things Junior Fellows live in a community of daily prayer, in accommodations provided by the organization. They are involved in, and learn about, every aspect of the magazine’s production, from editorial meetings to copy editing to layout to advertising. They are actively mentored by the First Things editorial staff in the arts of editing and writing for a broad readership.
The program’s goal is to shape the next generation of Christian and Jewish artists, writers, and intellectuals. To that end, the Institute mentors Fellows in the philosophical and theological underpinnings of religious freedom, preparing them to think and write about this and related issues both now and as their careers develop. A partial list of current and former Jr. Fellows is found below.
David Nolan, Williams College
During four years of studying philosophy at Williams College, I became more schooled in the complexities of conversation. So First Things seemed a natural fit. I wanted to be able to continue to read and think and write about how ideas and beliefs shape our experience. Public moral engagement is a tenuous business. But for a long time I’ve been attracted to these public discussions of first principles. Friends would ask difficult questions, I had to think of answers, and vice versa. Christianity was both a challenge and a comfort, and it was my prerogative and duty to understand it and to make it more comprehensible to those around me.
As a Junior Fellow, I’ve received much instruction through observation on both how to write for a public audience and on the immense breadth of subjects worth engaging publicly. And, under the guidance of editors more experienced than myself, I’ve received explicit instruction on how to make the importance of these conversations obvious by asking the right questions: How should religious belief sway individual lives, public policy, literature, and (an area of particular interest to me) our relationship with the natural world? How can I use the language of belief without isolating others? How do I grow in my understanding of eternal truths and more ably apply them to temporal circumstances?
But perhaps more than any particular article I’ve read, edited, or written, it’s the people around me living an explicit public commitment to sound reasoning and religious faith that have made my work here rewarding. In New York City especially, this example of active peace, of knowledge of self and God, shines luminously. It’s an example from which I will continue to learn, and to which I hope I can in some small way contribute. David is currently Assistant Editor at First Things.
Bianca Czaderna, Williams College, University of Notre Dame
First Things was integral in my coming to intellectually accept the faith of my upbringing. Beginning in the tail-end of high school and then throughout college, often surrounded with what I felt were unconvincing ideas, I came to the magazine’s pages looking for something more substantive. The substance I found here—even if it was often over my teenage head—drove me to look for more substance, which compelled me to go study Theology during my junior year abroad in England. Then, after graduating from Williams, and after dabbling in the New England boarding school circuit, I happily returned to the comforting library stacks of academia. I spent two years studying theology—the history of Christianity, in particular—at the University of Notre Dame.
I then applied for the Junior Fellowship as a bit of a “mature” candidate because, first, I had always had this latent dream of working for the magazine which I felt it was about time to realize, and second, I wanted to apply the theological knowledge I had gleaned in a more direct, practical way. I was also seeking some experience in the world of editing so that I could compare it to what I knew of academia, in an attempt to sort out My Life Plan.
Well, I have been here since the end of July—so it’s been about five months—and I am very grateful for this time. Because the staff is so small, I have been able to assume quite a bit of responsibility, and feel that I am able to contribute concretely to the meetings and to the daily work of managing the website and producing the monthly print editions. Thinking about theology from the halls of the academy has, unsurprisingly (and refreshingly) proven to be very different from thinking about theology from our editorial office here in Manhattan, and I’ve had learn to think about the whole endeavor differently, as the goals are obviously different, but I am confident that this shift has jostled me in a way that has been good and growth-inducing. Not to mention all of the other perks of the job—the scholars I’ve gotten to meet, the lectures I’ve gotten to attend. Finally, I cannot emphasize enough how grateful I have been for the community that we live in: for the stability of it amidst this sleepless city, for the Saturday meals, the daily prayer, and for the unfailing loyalty and charm of Fr. Bailey (and his cats).
I very much look forward to the coming year.
Tristyn K. Bloom, Yale University
No one does what we do, plain and simple. Controversy without hysteria, erudition without self-importance, theology without treacle—it has been my honor and pleasure to work here for the past fourteen months, and I couldn’t be prouder of our commitment to scholarship, witness, and earnest, honest debate about everything from whether Christendom’s collapse was inevitable to the myriad evils of cats.
I became both a conservative and a Christian (Eastern Orthodox, no less) while living among Yale’s small but fierce conservative subculture, and First Things always stood as an assurance that intellectually serious, religiously informed writing and thinking hadn’t gone the way of the ad orientem in the wider world. I can’t stress enough what succor and inspiration the magazine gives to the young faithful, or the great role it plays in broadening the horizons of their atheist friends.
First Things has ruined me, in a way, because it’s the only job I’ve had since graduating in 2012, and finding anything that measures up seems impossible. I read, think, and talk about fascinating things with fascinating people, and figure out how to expose those things to as many new people as possible. Connecting with our fans and readers while managing our social media presence has been a joy; when we’re at our best, we bring out the best in everyone else. How many publications get to say that?
Barbara D. McClay, St. John’s College
Among the magazines that littered my house as a small child—and there were many—First Things always seemed like the kind of magazine it would be a good challenge to try to read. So I would, sometimes, attempt to read it. Though I was always impressed, I was just as often defeated. Once I got older, First Things seemed like a magazine it would be a challenge to work for—but a challenge I was prepared to meet this time around.
I came to First Things with a strong interest in magazine work—my editorial experience already stretched back about three years, and I hoped to improve—but also with an interest in being a member of a religious community. As a person with a lively but varied intellectual background, I thought my eclectic body of knowledge might fit in well with the overall project of First Things, which also tries to bring varied things together. I also hoped to learn more about things I don’t know that much about, because despite my editorial experience and religious upbringing, I remained pretty woefully ignorant of theology.
So how did that work out? Well, I did deepen the skills and experience I possessed. I had the opportunity to work alongside and learn from some very gifted people, editors and authors alike. I learned more about theology. I got to work on some very interesting projects. So I leave First Things this summer grateful for the opportunity to have done these things.
Sandra Laguerta, University of Notre Dame
When I received my invitation to join the Junior Fellows program as the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s Collegiate Network Journalism Fellow, I was also sent a history of First Things, which was mainly a compilation of the Public Squares of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus and R. R. Reno, focusing on what “first things” meant as first principles and as the mission of the magazine.
Neuhaus stated: “Religion and public life. The trick is in making the right connections between the two. And making the right connections requires a measure of clarity about what we mean by ‘religion’ and what we mean by ‘public life.’”
My time as a Junior Fellow at First Things has been a journey not just about “making the right connections” between religion and public life, but also about articulating and defending those connections. The editors and my fellow Junior Fellows have been especially helpful in this regard as we fact-check, edit, proofread. The interreligious character of the magazine has given me an opportunity to see sides of debates between religion and public life that I did not see as a student, and for this I am very grateful.
Neuhaus founded the magazine on the principle that “first things” must always mean giving religion priority; public life is not the first thing. I learned this quite well while a theology student at the University of Notre Dame and through the examples of my parents and the Little Sisters of the Poor. The people I have worked with and learned from at First Things have only ingrained this in me even more.