Student-Initiated Internships

Student-initiated internships allow students to create internships based on their own educational, personal, and career interests within the context of WDI’s focus areas. Students identify and contact the organization themselves and work with one of the organization’s senior managers to co-define the scope of a 12-week project.   Project proposals are expected to be focused on Education, Financial Sector Development, Healthcare, Performance Measurement, or  Scaling Impact in emerging markets.

Examples of past Student-Initiated internship projects: business model analysis and market research for an early stage startup in the renewable energy sector in India, development of a marketing strategy for exporting organic tea from China, impact investing in Uganda.

Planning Your Student-Initiated Internship

  1. Start researching  as early as possible, i.e. start October or November for the following summer.
  2. Reach out to WDI (at with your project idea to receive an initial review
  3. Plan on spending at least two months on research, narrowing down, pitching your idea, and finalizing discussions with organizations
  4. Projects must be focused on business or economic development within an emerging market, and within one or more of these focus areas:  Healthcare, Scaling Impact, Education, Performance Measurement, or Financial Sector Development.  We do not fund clinical projects.
  5. Since our focus is on emerging market countries, we do not fund internships located in the US or other developed countries.   If you are not sure about the classification of the country you are planning to go to, check the UN or World Bank  country classification.

WDI accepts funding applications for coverage of student’s in-country living expenses and international airfare.  Participating host organizations are encouraged to contribute resources to your internship to ensure successful outcomes.

Student safety is of primary importance

WDI does NOT support internship projects in countries that are on the US Department of State Travel Warning List.   As you review your internship options, please check and revisit this link periodically as world events develop.  Also consider the long-term stability of your country of interest as we will not be able to give a final approval for departure if the country’s status changed between proposal approval and your departure date.   We may provide an exception on a case-by-case basis.

International StudentS

If you are an international student, a student-initiated internship in your home country is not encouraged. Our mission is to provide challenging new international experiences; therefore, working in your home country generally will not be considered an “international” experience. We may make an exception on a case-by case basis. If you feel you have a compelling project proposal,  send an email to as early as possible.



University of Michigan students currently enrolled full-time in a Master’s degree program and returning in Fall 2018 for the full 2018-19 academic year.  Students graduating in May 2018 and part-time students are not eligible.


  • Rolling Applications:  applications are accepted starting February 1 up till noon on Thursday, March 1, 2018
  • WDI might schedule an interview within the following two weeks after submission
  • Applicants will receive a decision within 3 weeks of submission or by March 23 at the latest
  • Students accept and commit  within a week after an offer is extended or by April 2 at the latest
  • Interns are required to attend a mandatory orientation session.  Date and time: TBD.
  • Internships are at least 12 weeks in length (not including travel time) and expected to occur from early or mid-May to mid-August, though the exact start and end-dates and the work schedule are directly negotiated between the intern and the host organization.


If you are interested in applying for a Student-Initiated internship, we recommend the following steps:

  1. Review the WDI Initiatives research activities to determine your project’s relevancy with our initiatives.
  2. Send a brief 1-page description of the project you have in mind to   WDI will review your summary and inform you with an initial recommendation within 2 weeks.
  3. Once you have a tentative green light, reach out to the organization as soon as possible to flesh out details as communications with organizations outside the US may take longer.

Submit ALL of the following starting February 1 or by NOON on March 1, 2018 at the latest:

  1. Online Application   (link will be activated January 2018)
  2. Resume.
  3. A 4-to 6-page statement-of-interest. The statement is a brief proposal which identifies the organization and what it does, the project supervisor’s brief bio; describes the nature and scope of proposed internship work;  project objectives (the organization’s project goals and your own 3-month internship objectives), internship deliverables, expected outcomes (for both the student and the host), how your interest, skill set, and relevant experience will benefit the project; and how the internship may impact your future career path.    Based on the 1-page preliminary project description, other details may be requested on a case by case basis.
  4. A letter of commitment from the host organization, describing the project, scope and objectives, the importance of your project for their organization, designation of a Project Supervisor, and any additional support from them for your  internship (in-kind or financial).  Do not wait until February to request this from your host organization (email connectivity may be a problem where your contact is, s/he may be travelling, time differences also delay communications).
  5. The organizational structure of the host organization.
  6. A budget which outlines expected costs, as well as funding from other sources when applicable.  Please include reference information to support your budget request (examples: airfare quote, cost of living information (accommodations/rent, meals, transportation expenses) which you may get from the host organization, alumni living in the area, or internet sources (include website URL), immunizations price list from a health provider, etc.     Click the following for a Budget Template.

Your statement of interest and budget should have your name and email at the top of all pages.


  • Complete and submit the online application.
  • Email your resume, statement of interest, letter of commitment from host organization, host organization chart, and budget as separate attachments in ONE email to
  • In the subject field of your email, enter “Your Last Name – Host Organization – 2018 Student-Initiated Internships.”  Example: “Smith – Gates Foundation – 2018 Student-Initiated Internships.”

WDI may request an in-person interview after receiving your application.


In addition to project deliverables to the host organization, interns are required to submit three reports to WDI during their internship.   Details and other requirements will be discussed at the mandatory orientation session.



  • Student safety is of primary importance.   WDI does NOT support internship projects in countries that are on the US Dept. of State Travel Warning List.   Please revisit this link periodically as world events develop and consider the long term stability of your country of interest in general.   Contact us if you have any questions.
  • Projects should be scoped to address a particular issue or challenge, and the proposal must outline specific expected outcomes and deliverables.
  • Internships are expected to be at least 12 weeks in duration.
  • Any changes to the project scope or length of internship after the funding has been approved has to be communicated to WDI  as soon as possible for review and re-approval.
  • We strongly encourage you to request the organization you are engaging with to contribute some resources for your internship so they have a stake in your project’s success.  This could be in-kind (e.g. use of a room in their guest house), or financial (e.g. to defray all or part of your housing and transportation expenses).
  • Students may submit project funding proposals with more than one source of funding. These include financial or in-kind contributions by the host organization, your own School’s financial support/fellowships, or other UM funding sources
  • WDI will not fund every proposal that is submitted, and accepted proposals may not receive the amount proposed.
  • The number of applicants and the quality of proposals will impact the number of awards granted.
  • Budget: Costs related to housing maintained in Ann Arbor will NOT be considered for funding.  Travel to other cities in the US or in-country are not eligible for WDI funding.  The host organization is responsible for such type of expenses if it is required for project success.

Please send an email to  if you have other questions.

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