The Human Rights Internship Program is an opportunity for University of Chicago students to explore human rights in practice, supported by a flexible grant of $5,000. The yearlong program supports students as they search out and prepare for a full-time summer internship, then integrate that experience into the rest of their academic coursework.
View the sections below for more details:
The Human Rights Internship Program is open to UChicago second- and third-year students in the College and returning master’s students in SSA. Among SSA students, we especially encourage those interested in mass incarceration and the criminalization of immigration to apply.
Students planning to study abroad during the 2020-21 academic year may be eligible. Given the uncertainties of the academic year and evolving recommendations and restrictions on traveling abroad, we are prepared to be flexible in working with students who are planning to study abroad.
The yearlong Human Rights Internship Program includes:
Internship Symposium: shortly after cohort selection, attendance at our annual Internship Symposium to mark the beginning of your program journey!
Recorded Webinars: review of four recorded webinars over Winter Break, at your own pace.
Check-ins: brief, biweekly written check-ins during Winter Quarter.
Training Sessions: participation in five required training sessions during Winter and Spring Quarters:
Group Power Assessment, Articulating Values, and Finding Your Narrative
Advocacy, Community Organizing, and the Power of Language
Equity Impact Assessments and Intersectional Identity
Preparing for Your Summer: Stipends, Best Practices, and More
Wrap Up, Logistics, and Safety
Work Plan: completion of a work plan agreement with a host organization by mid-April.
Coursework: completion of one approved Human Rights course before the summer internship begins. Previous Human Rights coursework is not a prerequisite for applying, but students must have completed at least one Human Rights course by the time they embark on their summer internship experience.
Summer Internship: completion of a 10- to 12-week, full-time summer internship with an approved host organization.
Reports: two reports sent to the cohort and Pozen Center throughout the summer, and a final report made upon return to campus. All returning interns present at our annual Internship Symposium, where they have an opportunity to share their experiences with the University community and network with program alumni.
We hold info sessions each Autumn Quarter, where prospective applicants can learn about program details and meet our staff and Human Rights Leaders. Students who can’t attend a session are welcome to meet with staff during office hours. Please take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions below for more details about the program and application.
We welcome any questions you may have about internships or applications, from the general to the specific.
Human Rights Leaders are former Human Rights Interns and are available to advise prospective applicants. Human Rights Leaders can review indvidual applications but can’t provide line-by-line edits. Note that HRLs will not be a part of the committee that evaluates submitted applications. To learn more about each of this year’s HRLs, check out our Student Staff page.
Human Rights Leader office hours for Autumn Quarter have now ended. Please direct any questions to Program Coordinator Michael Fischer.
What are the application requirements?
Applications include student information, special skills, essay questions, a resumé, and one letter of recommendation. Application forms and recommendation letters must be submitted by Sunday, October 25, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. (CST). Your letter of recommendation should come from a professional or academic contact (a professor or supervisor, not a family member or friend) who can speak to the applicant’s interest and qualifications for a Human Rights Internship.
What are the essay questions?
Question 1: Please tell us how you have demonstrated a serious interest in human rights. Include influential and formative academic work, work experiences, volunteerism, activism, personal experiences, and/or interests in particular issue areas that have (a) influenced your decision to apply and (b) prepared you for a Human Rights Internship. (500 word limit)
Question 2: Describe your ideal 10-12 week summer Human Rights Internship. Where might you work? What types of issues would you work on? Feel free to include specific tasks that could be accomplished as part of your ideal internship and what you would gain from the experience. Reflect upon one or two challenges you could potentially encounter as well. How would you address these challenges? (750 word limit)
Question 3: Explain which of your talents, skills, and/or insights could most enhance the Human Rights Internship experience for yourself and others in the program (volunteer experiences to share, or experience with social media campaigns, organizing online petitions, etc.). Conversely, are there personal and professional areas where you’re looking to grow? (250 word limit)
Question 4: Working in human rights requires collaboration across ethnicities, sexual identities, nationalities, socio-economic statuses, etc. Discuss a time you were in a community outside of your own. What were your takeaways from that experience? (250 word limit)
Question 5: Reflect on a time when you were in a group setting (in the classroom, on a sports team, in an RSO, etc.), and found yourself held personally accountable—a time when other members of a group challenged your actions, assumptions, or ideas in some way. How did you respond and what was the result? (250 word limit)
What is the selection committee looking for?
Above all, the committee is looking for maturity and flexibility. Strong candidates often have a history of engagement in activism or involvement with social justice, although formal work experience is not necessary. Candidates should be familiar with human rights principles and be able to propose a realistic project for a 10-12 week full-time summer internship.
I have experience in ____, but I don’t know if it qualifies as “human rights.”
The definition of “human rights” is constantly under debate. Strong applications do not just define the problem in terms of human rights, but also conceive of the solution in a human rights framework. We recommend that you consider the intersection between your interests and material found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, other international human rights instruments, or human rights scholarship. Think about how your proposed internship differs from a typical research or service project. Demonstrate that you have considered how your previous and/or future work furthers the field of human rights.
How specific should I be in responding to Essay Question #2?
Be flexible, but not unrealistic. The committee is interested in your capacity to describe a human rights issue or geographic area where you might want to work. The selection committee wants to see your ability to plan out a tangible, feasible project. You may suggest some organizations or types of organizations that interest you, but identifying a specific host organization is not necessary for the application. Your answers can be as specific as you want them to be—but as we’ve seen this year, a lot can happen between now and when you secure your placement!
Can I use the grant to fund an independent, personal, or research initiative?
No. The selection committee is looking for a proposal that involves supervision from a non-governmental or not-for-profit organization, government agency, international body, social movement organization, or similar entity.
I have experience in ____, but I am interested in exploring a new topic or region. Is this okay?
It could be! Strong candidates are able to explain the connection between their past experience and proposed project. Some students use the internship to deepen their interest in a certain topic or region, and others use it to explore a new but related topic, strategy, or place.
Are there any countries that are off-limits for travel?
All internship placements (including the host organization and location) must be approved by the Pozen Center. College students who are considering travel to countries with a U.S. State Department Travel Advisory are also required to file a petition through the annual Study Abroad Risk and Security Assessment Committee (SARSAC). SARSAC has approved some petitions in the past, but not all. While each case is different, we generally encourage students filing petitions to work on an alternate plan in case their proposed travel is not approved.
Human Rights Interns are responsible for securing the appropriate visa prior starting their internship. The Pozen Center will provide appropriate verification for visa applications, as needed. All Human Rights Interns traveling outside of the U.S. are required to register their travel with UChicago Traveler.
Can I see a list of past intern placements?
If you are selected for this year’s cohort, a password-protected section of our website will be made available to you. This section allows you to search the list of past internship host organizations by name, region, or topic, and to look at past intern profiles to see the types of projects they worked on during their internships. We also encourage you to reach out to one of the Human Rights Leaders for any additional help.
Is there anyone who can offer help with the application process?
Human Rights Leaders (past interns with firsthand experience of the process), Pozen Center staff, and Career Advancement are available to answer questions and provide feedback on application materials during office hours or by appointment. Note that Human Rights Leaders are not part of the decision-making process when submitted applications are evaluated. See above for information about upcoming office hours.
Can I apply even if I am studying abroad?
During a typical application cycle, we make arrangements to work with students who will be away during either the Winter or Spring Quarters but consider students who will be away during both Winter and Spring Quarters to be ineligible. However, given the uncertainties of the upcoming academic year and evolving recommendations and restrictions on traveling abroad, we are prepared to be flexible in working with students who will be away from campus or abroad during any part of the 2020-21 academic year.
I applied to the program last year, as a second-year, and wasn’t chosen. Does that mean I can’t apply this year (or that I shouldn’t bother trying again)?
Absolutely not! We encourage you to apply again as a third-year. While third-years make up the majority of successful candidates in any given year, it’s important to note that many of those candidates applied the year previous, as second-years, and weren’t chosen. But the experience of applying to such a competitive program and the work those candidates do during the intervening year puts them in an even better position to apply as third-years.
Can first-year or fourth-year College students apply?
No. Only second- and third-year students in the College are eligible for the program. Because the application process is highly competitive, most successful candidates are third-year students, with a limited number of slots in each cohort often secured by second-year students.
I heard that I have to pursue a minor in Human Rights to apply. Is that true?
No. A minor in Human Rights is not required.
I have not taken a HMRT course with the Pozen Center. Will that hurt my chances as an applicant?
Interns come from a variety of backgrounds and should be able to demonstrate a serious interest in human rights. Previous Human Rights coursework often helps provide some of that background, but it is not required. However, selected interns are required to have taken at least one approved Human Rights course at some point before the start of their internship.
Can graduate students apply?
Students who are currently earning a master’s degree at SSA and will be enrolled during the 2021-22 academic year are eligible to apply. Among SSA students, we especially encourage those interested in mass incarceration and the criminalization of immigration to apply. We recommend that graduate students in other divisions and programs explore the Graduate Global Impact Internship Program and the other excellent resources offered through UChicago GRAD.
Does the selection committee have a preference for students going abroad for their internships, or can I pursue something domestic?
No preference is given to those who plan to go abroad. Each year, up to two-thirds of the internship cohort chooses to work in the U.S.
How should I format my application for online submission?
The applications are submitted online through a webform; in order to avoid formatting errors, we strongly encourage you to draft your essay responses in plain text on your computer and then copy/paste into the webform. We recommend that you use a plain text editor to save your essay responses, use your regular word processor and “Save As” plain text (.txt), and use block paragraphs (i.e. line between paragraphs instead of indented paragraphs) to separate text.
What does a good recommendation letter look like?
Your recommendation letter should come from a professional or academic contact (a professor or supervisor, not a family member or friend). The selection committee wants to know how well you will work in an NGO setting, or its government, union, or social movement equivalent. Can you perform independent tasks, while also fitting into an organizational structure? Can you learn from difference, in a new and challenging setting? Will you be able to leave behind something that will be meaningful to the people with whom you work?
The committee also looks for evidence of your capacity to reflect deeply on important questions, and to consider the implications of your experiences. Ideally, letters should be uploaded on letterhead. Please remember that it is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that their recommender submits a letter of recommendation by the deadline. Both the recommender and applicant will receive a confirmation email when the letter is submitted.
When will selection decisions be announced?
Applicants will receive an email by the end of October indicating whether they will be invited to a final round interview with members of the Human Rights Internship Selection Committee. Interviews will take place in early November, and applicants are notified of the results by mid-November. Selected candidates are expected to attend the annual Internship Symposium later that month.
Who is on the committee? What will the interview be like?
If you are chosen for the interview round, you will be interviewed by staff from the Pozen Center and Career Advancement who are knowledgeable about human rights issues and organizations. Interviews are relatively short (about 15 to 20 minutes) and you don’t need to prepare anything in advance. Casual or business casual attire is fine.
After interns are selected, how does the internship search and placement work?
Some interns choose to work with organizations that have hosted our students in the past, while other interns seek out new placements. For assistance and accountability throughout the search process, each awardee will have access to the Human Rights Leaders, in addition to staff from both the Pozen Center and Career Advancement. Program alumni can also be an invaluable resource in finding ideal host organizations.
Can you tell me more about what the program timeline looks like, once I’ve been accepted?
Once accepted, an intern’s first order of business is to attend our annual Internship Symposium, held in mid-November.
Over Winter Break newly-selected interns watch, at their own pace, a series of four recorded webinars designed to prepare them for work in the human rights space. They also begin developing a list of potential host organizations.
Throughout Winter Quarter, new interns brainstorm ideas, contact organizations, and follow up on leads. Interns always have the option to contact a student Human Rights Leader from the previous year’s cohort, who will advise them during the search process. Interns are required to attend one advising appointment with Career Advancement before the end of January (or UChicago GRAD for SSA students), in order to go over their job search materials, progress, and discuss anything else on their minds. They make brief biweekly reports about their searches, participate in three mandatory group trainings, and take Human Rights classes. Some students choose to intern with organizations that have hosted students in the past, while others seek out new placements. By the end of Winter Quarter, each student has a confirmed placement or has developed several strong leads.
In Spring Quarter, students develop a work plan in collaboration with their host organization supervisors, identifying projects that fulfill both the student’s and organization’s goals. Upon completion of the work plan, each intern is issued a check for $5,000 to cover summer expenses. Interns also finalize travel and housing plans, take Human Rights courses, and participate in the final two required training sessions.
Lastly, over the summer, students embark on their full-time internships lasting 10 to 12 weeks! Throughout the summer, interns keep in touch with us and submit two check-in reports to their peers and the Pozen Center staff. As the new academic year begins, interns arrive back on campus. Each student writes a final report about their experiences and prepares for a presentation at the Internship Symposium.