Updates for Summer 2023:

  • Based on student and employer feedback, we will be returning to the pre-COVID requirement of in-person internships co-located with the supervisor (except in exceptional circumstances). Please visit Columbia Global Travel for additional information on international travel.

The Tamer Center for Social Enterprise supports the Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship Program, a unique and exciting opportunity for students to apply learning from the classroom with an organization making social change in the world. This fellowship was expanded in 2015 to provide financial support to undergraduate and graduate students at Columbia, Barnard, and Columbia-affiliated institutions engaged in summer internships that create social and environmental value.

The fellowship program provides students with opportunities to gain experience in their major or area of interest as it is relevant to these organizations; and social enterprises that create social and environmental value with access to talented students from the following programs:

  • Architecture, Planning & Preservation
  • Arts
  • Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
  • Barnard College
  • Climate School
  • College of Physicians and Surgeons
  • Columbia College
  • School of Professional Studies (degree programs only)
  • Dental Medicine
  • Earth Institute
  • Engineering
  • General Studies
  • International & Public Affairs
  • Journalism
  • Jewish Theological Seminary (List College joint degree program with Columbia College or Barnard College)
  • Law
  • Nursing
  • Public Health
  • Social Work
  • Teachers College
  • Union Theological Seminary

Questions? Contact [email protected].

Student Eligibility

Currently enrolled full-time first-, second-, or third-year undergraduate students and graduate students in good academic standing may apply for funding for a 6- to 10-week, full-time summer internship (at least 35 hours/week) with a social venture or social entrepreneurship-focused organization in the US or abroad, provided that the internship has been secured and accepted at the time of application. The Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship Program contributes a $200 to $600 per week stipend to assist with expenses associated with the internship to summer fellows, depending on the availability of funds.

Note: This fund does not cover students working on their own ventures, as students can access other programs and resources through Columbia Entrepreneurship such as the Columbia Startup Lab.

Student Eligibility Guidelines

  • Applicants must be currently enrolled full-time as a first-year, second-year, or third-year Columbia or Barnard undergraduate or graduate student;
  • Applicants must be in good academic standing and not subject to any disciplinary proceedings;
  • For multi-year degree programs, applicants must be returning to campus and enrolled as a full-time student during the fall semester after their fellowship, either on campus or participating in an approved Columbia University off-campus program;
  • For students in dual-degree programs, applicants need to have completed at least one semester at Columbia University before applying;
  • Applicants must agree to the terms and requirements of the Social Enterprise Fellowship Program (see below); and
  • Applicants must have secured and accepted an internship matching the criteria prior to submitting their application.

Note: Students on leave from Columbia University during the spring semester prior to the desired summer of funding are ineligible to apply for internship funding.

Eligible Organizations

The social venture or organization can be a nonprofit 501(c)(3) (or its equivalent outside the US), for-profit social venture, or social venture capital firm with a clearly defined social or environmental mission. The intent of the fellowship is to support early-stage social ventures, or ventures which have existed for fewer than seven years. (Please note that new projects, departments, or offices <7 years old are not eligible – the original age of inception of the parent organization is considered for SESF eligibility.)

For social for-profit ventures (including Benefit Corporations “B-Corps”) to be eligible, they must be aimed at producing products and/or services that:

  1. Focus on addressing the needs of low income communities or customers, with an explicit purpose of increasing the welfare of these groups; or on alleviating a market failure, and creating significant public good or benefits that are not wholly captured in the price charged by the business; and
  2. Have attracted funding for the business by investors or grant makers who are seeking measurable social or environmental impact (evidence of these metrics and reporting should be included in the application).

If applying to work with a social for-profit social venture: Students must provide detailed evidence of a clearly defined social or environmental purpose and how this is incorporated into the core strategies and operations of the venture. 
The following are examples are organizations that are not eligible:

  • Nonprofit or NGO that has been in operation for 7+ years and is not wholly focused on social ventures (e.g. Ashoka);
  • Government or public sector organizations;
  • For-profit consulting firms that consult to social ventures;
  • Large or publicly listed companies that have a small division focusing on social innovation; and
  • Organizations with a narrow political or religious focus or with discriminatory hiring policies.

Internship Positions

We recognize that social enterprises have diverse needs across a range of projects and issues and need expertise drawn from disciplines such as engineering, public health, public policy, economics, medicine, biotechnology, nursing, journalism, arts, urban planning, social work, law/public interest, international development, sustainability, and education, among other areas. The internship role can relate directly to a student’s degree; it can also be an area of interest the student wants to explore especially if the student is thinking about starting a social venture or working for one in the future.

Criteria and Selection

Summer fellowships must meet the following criteria:

  • The internship is well-scoped, has clearly defined expectations and responsibilities;
  • The internship has an established supervisor from a professional in the organization;
  • The internship provides a workspace for the student during the internship that is co-located with the organization and supervisor;
  • Students will have mid- and end-of-summer reviews with the supervisor;
  • If your internship is abroad, travel to a country destination which appears as a high medical or security risk on the Columbia Global Assistance Program's ISOS risk ratings page may be grounds for denial. If you are considering an opportunity in a high risk country, please contact the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise prior to applying, with more details on your summer location and to find out whether internships in this country can be supported. In addition, all fellows planning to travel must register their trip on Columbia's travel registry system, prior to traveling.

Fellowship Requirements

By accepting the fellowship, students are committing to fulfilling the following requirements (the Program will review these obligations before the final payment):

  1. Attending an orientation and sponsored events;
  2. Writing or speaking about your experience which may involve:

    - Writing a short article or blog posts describing your experience for the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise website and/or newsletter
    ​​​- Creating a short multimedia piece highlighting key experiences from the fellowship (for example, a video or v-log);
    - Speaking at an information session on Social Enterprise Summer Fellowships, career or relevant student group/clubs event;
     
  3. Summary report to be featured in the summer fellowships website;
  4. Submitting at least 15 photographs throughout the fellowship;
  5. Completing an end-of-summer fellowship survey/debrief; and
  6. Producing a thank you note to the donors for the Summer Fellowship.

Application Process and Deadlines

Students should assess the viability of the venture prior to accepting and applying for funding by consulting with professors, career advisors at the appropriate home school, or the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise. Before accepting the internship offer, if you’re unsure of whether your employer is an eligible social venture or social entrepreneurship-focused organization, please provide information about the organization by email to [email protected].

Given the entrepreneurial nature of eligible organizations, these potential employers might not have officially sponsored internship programs; it will be up to the student to discuss scoping and salary for a summer role with the social enterprise, develop well-defined responsibilities and enlist a supervisor for the summer internship. Students can also speak with a career advisor or the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise if they have questions about how to conduct an internship search for social enterprises.

Once students have secured and accepted an eligible internship, they can then apply for a Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship from the Tamer Center.

Below are the key dates for the Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship application process. Please keep in mind that we encourage you to apply as soon as possible. We anticipate high demand for fellowships and applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until funds are depleted, which may occur before the final deadline. If you are applying in one of the later deadlines, please note that you may receive the actual payments later than the dates outlined below.

  • March 1: Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship application opens. Students who have secured and/or accepted an internship can complete the full application and other requirements and return it by the first round deadline of March 15.
  • March 15: First round of completed applications are due.
  • April 1: Second round of completed applications are due.
  • April 15: Third round of applications are due. If funds are still available after this date, applications will continue to be accepted.

Students who receive an SESF will receive an email from Columbia University’s vendor system requesting direct deposit (US bank account) details. The award is typically disbursed in two to three installments over the summer. Students should expect four to six weeks of processing time before receiving their first payment. The obligations outlined above will be reviewed by the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise before the final installment is paid. Students are advised to consult with a financial advisor regarding the tax consequences for this fellowship award.

Note: Please be advised the U.S. Department of Labor has outlined a list of criteria that must be met in order for an internship to be unpaid. Students should familiarize themselves with the legal requirements of unpaid internships by learning about the Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards and Columbia University’s internship policy.

Application Forms

Your application MUST be approved before you start your internship. Please submit all application materials AT LEAST one week in advance of starting your summer internship to allow time for processing.