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 – and apply for funding from WDI. 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, Energy, Financial Sector Development, or Healthcare in emerging markets.

Students selected for a WDI Student-Initiated internship project will receive a $10,000 fellowship and up to $1500 airfare reimbursement for round-trip direct international flights between Detroit and the internship base city.

Internships should be scoped for 12 consecutive weeks, not including travel time.

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 organic tea, impact investing in Uganda, and impact assessment of a global NGO’s programs in Brazil.


University of Michigan students enrolled full-time in a Master’s degree program and returning in Fall 2020 for the full 2020-21 academic year. Students graduating in May 2020 and part-time students are not eligible.

Planning Your Student-Initiated Internship

  1. Start researching as early as possible, i.e. start in October for the following summer.
  2. Reach out to  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, Energy, Education, or Finance. We do not fund clinical projects.
  5. Since our institute’s focus is on emerging market countries, we do not fund internships that are primarily located in the US or other developed countries, i.e. more than 2 weeks out of the 12 weeks.

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 Advisory Levels 3 and 4. On a case-by-case basis at our discretion, we may provide an exception for Level 2 Advisory. As you review your internship options, please check and revisit this link periodically as world events develop. Note that conditions can change rapidly in a country at any time. Therefore, 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 advisory level changed between proposal approval and your departure date.

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.


Stage 1

  • Submit pre-proposal and resume any time before November 21, 2019.
  • Receive feedback from WDI within 3 weeks.

Stage 2

  • Submit full proposal by noon Friday, January 31, 2020.
  • WDI might schedule an interview within the following two weeks after submission
  • Applicants will receive a decision by February 10.
  • Students accept and commit by February 21.
  • 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 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 Sectors’ research and consulting activities to determine your project’s relevancy with our sectors.
  2. Stage 1:  send your resume and a brief 2-page description of the project you have in mind to .   WDI will review your overview and inform you with an initial recommendation within 3 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.
  4. Stage 2:  submit your complete package (see below).

Submit ALL of the following by NOON  Friday, January 31, 2020:

  1. Resume.
  2. 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 preliminary project description submitted in November, other details may be requested on a case by case basis.
  3. 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).
  4. The organizational structure of the host organization.


  1. Email your resume, statement of interest, letter of commitment from host organization, host organization chart as separate attachments to .
  2. In the subject field of your email, enter “Your Last Name – Host Organization – 2020 Student-Initiated Internships.”  Example: “Smith – Gates Foundation – 2020 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.


  • Projects should be scoped to address a particular issue or challenge, and the final proposal must outline specific expected outcomes and deliverables.
  • Internships are expected to be at least 12 weeks in duration.
  • Any potential 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 guidance.
  • 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. defray all or part of your housing and local 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.
  • The number of applicants and the quality of proposals will impact the number of awards granted.
  • Travel to other cities in the US or in-country will not receive additional WDI funding.  The host organization is responsible for such type of expenses if it is required for project success.
  • WDI and/or its partners reserve the right to revoke an internship at any time based on new evidence on the student’s fit to a project.

Please email  if you have any questions.

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