COVID-19 Program Update

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

As this global crisis has developed across Asia and the world, Princeton in Asia’s highest priority has been the safety and wellbeing of our Fellows. We commend our Board of Trustees and staff for their tremendous efforts to support our Fellows and safeguard our organization during this tumultuous time. We are grateful to our partner organizations for their flexibility, understanding, and continued support of our program, even as they navigate the impacts of COVID-19 on their own work and lives. Lastly, we would like to thank our our alumni and friends community for the myriad ways they have mobilized to support both PiA and their communities at home.  


Due to the health and security risks posed to our Fellows by the COVID-19 pandemic, all 2019-20 PiA fellowships were cancelled earlier this year.  In early February, we cancelled our program in mainland China, followed by the cancellation of our programs in South Korea, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan in early-mid March. On March 16, 2020, we cancelled the remaining 2019-2020 PiA fellowships.  

Our country program cancellations were handled with specificity to the local COVID-19 situation. By March 23, 2020, all of our Fellows had safely returned home or elected to stay in their host countries and continue working independently of PiA.  

We remain committed to helping our newest alumni weather this transition. We have offered various financial, mental health, and network resources, including: 

  • Financial assistance to every alumni whose post was cancelled due to COVID-19 

  • Need-based travel grants and emergency funds upon request  

  • Extended access to mental health resources, including PiA-specific group process sessions with a licensed psychologist  

  • Opportunities to connect with alumni and Trustee mentors 

  • Professional support through our jobs board and the PiA Alumni Network, and the opportunity to take on paid project-based work for PiA 

The Class of 2019 has shown great resilience, strength, and grace in difficult circumstances, and we thank them for upholding PiA’s mission and values through this unprecedented situation. 


The PiA team has worked diligently with the Board of Trustees, and in consultation with our partner organizations in Asia, to conduct a thorough and robust scenario planning process as we move forward.  

Balancing the needs of partner organizations, applicants, future Fellows, and PiA as an institution, we plan to relaunch fellowships in select countries in January 2021. Decisions to re-start fellowships and country programs will be made on a country-by-country basis, in consultation with our partner organizations and advisors. In making decisions on when and where to re-launch, we will take into account many factors, including the status of COVID-19 locally, travel and immigration restrictions, limitations on obtaining work visas, healthcare infrastructure, and safety support structures in each location.  It may take us a few years to get back to the scale of the pre-crisis period. 

While PiA fellowships typically last for 12 months or the duration of an academic year, we will be working with our partners in Asia to offer 18-month fellowships for the cycle beginning in January 2021. This decision was made to honor the needs of our partners, who make significant investments in onboarding and hosting PiA Fellows and who are also navigating significant disruptions to their work as a result of COVID-19. 

We will plan to conduct a new cycle of recruiting and applications for fellowships launching in summer 2021, with accommodations made to current applicants who wish to defer their application to the summer 2021 cycle. 

In this time of upheaval and division, we are more committed than ever to our mission of building bridges. We look forward to resuming fellowships and to exploring new ways to fulfill our mission and connect with our communities in Asia, across the US and beyond.  

We are grateful for the steadfast support and partnership of our global community of partners, Alumni, friends and family. community. Your generosity and collaboration mean the world to us, and your support makes it possible  to continue our work during even the most challenging of times.  

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