Guest Scholar Program

The Aspen Institute Communications and Society Guest Scholar Program is a scholarship initiative meant to give students of color the opportunity to foster their professional and academic career in the field of media and technology policy. The program first began in 2001. Each year doctoral (or other advanced graduate program) students of color are invited to apply for a Guest Scholarship to attend the Annual Aspen Institute Conference on Communications Policy that takes place at the Aspen Meadows Conference Center in Aspen, Colorado. As a Guest Scholar, students are full participants in roundtable discussions. Scholars have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of competing tensions on important technology issues and get the opportunity to gain a network of professional colleagues.

In Harm’s Way: Smart Regulation of Digital & Network Technology, August 11-14, 2019

Digital and network technologies have transformed the world in many positive ways. But it is increasingly clear that those benefits come with costs, many of which are difficult to measure and even harder to mitigate. Misuse of personal information, manipulation of platforms to influence elections, and failure to extend broadband to underserved areas are a few of the problems facing governments at all levels. Increasingly, policymakers are taking up the challenge of shaping legal solutions to these problems, only to find they lack both the tools and technical expertise to regulate wisely, meaningfully and efficiently.

Policymakers continue to face the task of identifying what entity should regulate emerging digital and network technologies. The Federal Communication Commission addresses telecommunications providers but not information platforms.  The Federal Trade Commission’s competition and consumer protection authorities are broad in scope but apply only to information providers not telecommunications providers.  State and local attempts to affect communications policy run up against federal regulation, and regulators such as the European Commission affect domestic actors.

Accordingly, there has been a range of debates about the roles and responsibilities of technology companies in addressing emerging issues that impact users. ‘Smart regulation’ encompasses governmental regulation, self-regulation and co-regulation, to deliver effective results in the least burdensome way. Today there is a need to consider how to manage the digital ecosystem across local, state, federal and international jurisdictions.

Given the current technological environment, what goals are appropriate to assure that emerging technologies are used to benefit the populace and do not harm society? How do those goals align among local/state regulation, FTC, FCC, European Commission and others?

This Conference aims to encourage benefits and examine harms brought on by digital and network technologies now and in the future. What regulatory framework can provide a successful model for future problems as they inevitably appear?  Conferees will develop an approach to impede harms from digital and network technologies by creating policies that address user protection, promote consumer choice and competition, and foster access to essential services. They will also seek to create a framework to identify jurisdictional authority and enforcement.


The Guest Scholar’s travel and accommodations will be paid for by the Communications and Society Program. Scholars will attend all conference sessions as a full participant in the discussion. She or he will be expected to read the pre-conference materials provided. The scholar will also be asked to write a blog for the Communications and Society Program on a topic of interest after the Conference.


The Guest Scholar should be a U.S. resident and a minority student, based on the definition of minority created by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: African American, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian, or Alaskan Native.

  • Currently enrolled in a Ph.D. or other advanced graduate program at an accredited college or university; and have attained a cumulative GPA of 3.3 on a 4.0 scale (un-weighted).
  • Applicants must provide a statement of interest.
  • Applicants must provide one reference (name, title, phone number, and email).
  • Applicants must provide an unofficial copy of transcripts from currently enrolled university.
  • Applicants must commit to attending the entire conference.


Friday, May 17th, 2019




If you have any questions, please contact Dominique Harrison by email at

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