Politics Major Tapped for Fellows Program at the Carnegie Endowment

Austin Owen headshot

Austin Owen, a government and foreign affairs major, has received a fellowship to work at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

University of Virginia fourth-year student Austin Owen of Vestavia Hills, Alabama, has been named a James C. Gaither Junior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Owen is a government and foreign affairs major in the politics honors program, and is also minoring in Russian and East European studies. He will work directly with former ambassador to Russia and Jordan William Burns, the current president of the Carnegie Endowment.

Each year, the Carnegie Endowment offers approximately 12 to 14 one-year fellowships to qualified graduating seniors and individuals who have graduated during the past academic year, selected from a pool nominated by several hundred participating universities and colleges. Gaither Fellows work as research assistants to Carnegie’s senior scholars.

Owen, who previously worked as an intern with Booz Allen Hamilton supporting the U.S. Department of Defense’s international counter-proliferation efforts, said the fellowship will help him achieve his career goals.

“This offers a unique blend of work relevant to both academia and public policy,” Owen said. “Given my studies in the University’s politics honors program and my professional experience with Booz Allen Hamilton, I felt that this program offered me the best opportunity to continue developing both strands of my passion for international affairs.”

During his time on Grounds, Owen has pursued independent research on the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, culminating in his honors thesis focusing on Serbia’s relations with NATO.

“The James C. Gaither Junior Fellows Program has an outstanding record of producing leaders in the field of U.S. foreign policy, and I am extremely excited to be spending the next year in a program that will allow me to work directly with former Ambassador William Burns,” Owen wrote in an email. “My year in the program will allow me to further hone my research skills while gaining invaluable experience working at one of the world’s premier think tanks.”

Stephen K. White, James Hart Professor in UVA’s Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics, said Owen was already part of a select group by being in the politics honors program and that “he has continually loaded his plate with significant challenges.”

“Austin is a young man of wonderful character,” White wrote in an email. “He is always conscientious, thoughtful of his colleagues and modest in his bearing and speech. There is never any bluster or attempt to puff up what he has to say. This makes the clarity and sheer power of his intelligence shine all the more brightly.”


Sidney M. Milkis, White Burkett Miller Professor of Politics and the director of the politics honors program, said Owen is a valuable member of this year’s honors class.

“Austin is an intrepid researcher, writes very well, and makes an important contribution to class discussion, which is the core of the honors tutorials,” Milkis wrote. “What I especially admire is his careful reading of texts and the well-argued papers that he turns in each week for the ‘American Politics’ tutorial. Like all the best honors students, he displays the rare combination of intellectual ambition and careful attention to detail.”

Beyond his studies, Owen has served as president of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society; managing editor of Seriatim, the University’s undergraduate journal of American politics; and as a member of the Student Council’s Legislative Affairs Committee. A Jefferson Scholar and an Echols Scholar, he has been on the Dean’s List, received Intermediate Honors, and was presented the Honor 150 Award by the University Honor Committee. 

A graduate of Vestavia Hills High School, he plans to pursue a career in government with a focus on international security. Andrus G. Ashoo, associate director of the Center for Undergraduate Excellence, thinks this fellowship will help propel him on this path.

“The Gaither Fellows program is an opportunity for Austin to further advance his research abilities by engaging with some of the most pressing questions in U.S. foreign policy and diplomacy,” Ashoo said. “While there are positions at other think tanks, Carnegie’s program is known for developing its junior fellows and entrusting them to contribute heavily from the start. To have been selected is a great testament to Austin’s research involvements while at the University of Virginia.”

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Matt Kelly

Office of University Communications