Alumni Spotlight: Erik Brown ’23

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace selected Fulbright Scholar Erik Brown, an International and Public Affairs alumnus, for the prestigious Gaither Junior Fellowship program.

Erik Brown, a 2023 alumnus of the Watson Institute's International and Public Affairs (IAPA) program, was recently named a Gaither Junior Fellow by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The yearlong fellowship, which accepts only five percent of the hundreds of nominees recommended by participating universities and colleges annually, engages 15 individuals to work as research assistants to Carnegie's senior fellows. 

"As an institution, Carnegie has a historic reputation as one of the nation's largest and most influential think tanks," said Brown, who eagerly anticipates collaborating with and learning from Carnegie experts, most notably Dan Baer, director of the Europe Program and senior vice president for policy research at Carnegie and Sophia Besch, a fellow in Carnegie's Europe Program. 

"As excited as I am to work with more senior colleagues," said Brown, "I am equally thrilled to begin building a network of peers who in all likelihood will be shaping U.S. foreign policy in the years and decades to come." Brown said he is also excited by the opportunity to immerse himself in the political culture of Washington, D.C. — where he's spent very little time to date — during the pivotal 2024 presidential election cycle.  

Brown's interest in international affairs began before he arrived at Brown. During a post-high school gap year, Brown lived with a host family in Ludwigshafen, Germany for nine months through the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX), a State Department-sponsored exchange program. "Once I was enrolled at Brown, I wanted to work, study, and learn more about U.S. foreign policy, transatlantic relations, and German and European politics," said Brown. "I was deeply moved by the outsized impact that U.S. domestic politics had, and still has, in Germany, both in casual conversation and German national media." He said those experiences inspired him to pursue an international and public affairs concentration. 

Eagerness to retain and enhance his German language skills and learn more about German culture, literature and politics led Brown to a second concentration in German studies. Although there was little overlap in the coursework between his two concentrations, Brown still found exciting aspects of both programs that complemented one another. "I wrote my IAPA honors thesis on the German Green Party's evolving position during the late '90s toward NATO," he said. "Although the German Studies curriculum didn't include courses focusing exclusively on German politics, I was amazed at how relevant certain elements from courses on, for example, German critical theory in the mid-to-late 20th century were for my thesis."

According to Brown, his undergraduate academic experiences were primarily shaped by Professor of International and Public Affairs (Research) J. Nicholas Ziegler and The William R. Rhodes '57 Professor of International Economics and Professor of International and Public Affairs Mark Blyth

"Professor Blyth offered to be my advisor within 10 minutes of our first conversation, early in my sophomore year," said Brown. "He encouraged me to study abroad in Berlin to take advantage of the European-centric focused courses I could find in Berlin."  

"Professor Ziegler was kind enough to offer additional research opportunities in addition to my undergraduate coursework," he said. "Those professors, along with Anthony Levitas [director of Watson's undergraduate policy concentration and a senior fellow at Watson], who led my senior honors thesis seminar, were remarkably generous in offering feedback on my thesis and helping me work through some very under-developed ideas."  

Currently, Brown is a Fulbright Scholar at the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi) in Berlin, a think tank focused on global governance. Working with GPPi Director Thorsten Benner, Brown has been fortunate to help organize and attend high-level dialogues between U.S. and German government officials and immerse himself in the Berlin policy research community. Brown added, "Some of the most valuable experiences from this year have simply been interactions with my colleagues at GPPi, which feels as much like home as any professional environment can." 

In addition, Brown noted, "My other professional experiences, such as interning at the Brookings Institution and the German Historical Institute, co-editing The Brown Journal of World Affairs, and writing for the Brown Political Review, could not have prepared me better for the Gaither Junior Fellowship at Carnegie."

“ I want to use my time at Carnegie to build as many meaningful connections as possible, both out of genuine interest and with the hope that they might lead to future opportunities down the road, whether in policy research or government work. ”

Erik Brown IAPA Class of 2023

As a Gaither Junior Fellow, Brown hopes to deepen his expertise in strategic approaches to critical and emerging technologies in the United States and Europe and in specific elements of international economic policy, including debt relief and international trade. In his work as a research assistant to senior scholars in the Carnegie Europe program, he will also address current areas of focus in the Europe Program, such as transatlantic relations, European defense, and the Baltic Sea region. 

"I want to use my time at Carnegie to build as many meaningful connections as possible, both out of genuine interest and with the hope that they might lead to future opportunities down the road, whether in policy research or government work," said Brown. "I am convinced that the fields of economics and security will continue to merge in the coming years." 

After Carnegie, Brown said he hopes to pursue a dual master's/law degree to gain the necessary legal training in international trade while further deepening his analytical and methodological skills.