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 intent of the fellowship is to support early-stage social ventures (defined as having existed for fewer than seven years) unless the organization is wholly focused on social ventures.
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
- Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
- Barnard College
- Climate School
- College of Physicians and Surgeons
- Columbia College
- Dental Medicine
- Earth Institute
- General Studies
- International & Public Affairs
- Jewish Theological Seminary (List College joint degree program with Columbia College or Barnard College)
- Public Health
- School of Professional Studies (degree programs only)
- Social Work
- Teachers College
- Union Theological Seminary
Questions? Contact [email protected].
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.
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:
- 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
- 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.
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.
The Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship Program supports full-time internships for a minimum of six and a maximum of 10 weeks. Internships can commence anytime after exam period ends and should conclude sometime before the last week of August. Internships must be in person at least 50 percent of the summer (ideally 100 percent). Entirely remote internships are not eligible for funding.
At a minimum, students are expected to work Monday through Friday for at least 35 hours per week. Part-time work during the summer is not eligible for funding, and students must not work for two employing organizations concurrently.
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 is in-person at least 50 percent of the time (ideally 100 percent to maximize learning opportunities) and the organization provides a workspace for the student during the internship that is co-located with the organization and supervisor. Completely remote internships are generally ineligible (except for compelling safety/security reasons).
- 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.
By accepting the fellowship, students are committing to fulfilling the following requirements (the Program will review these obligations before the final payment):
- Attending an orientation and sponsored events;
- 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;
- Summary report to be featured in the summer fellowships website;
- Submitting at least 15 photographs throughout the fellowship;
- Completing an end-of-summer fellowship survey/debrief; and
- 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 send the website link of the organization and provide any additional 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 should speak with a career advisor at their home school 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 may not begin their internship until after the end of May finals period, and all internships must be concluded by the last week of August.
Students who receive a social enterprise summer fellowship will be asked to register in PaymentWorks, an online platform used by Columbia University Central Finance to process payments. You will receive detailed instructions on how to complete fields in the system — please very carefully complete registration EXACTLY as described, otherwise the registration risks being denied. Submissions may also be returned for correction or additional detail, so please keep an eye out for return email from PaymentWorks and respond to these requests promptly, as delays in replying will result in later payments.
Awards are disbursed in equal lump-sum payments, one submitted as soon as you are accepted and the other processed at the end of the summer. It may take 10 weeks or more to receive your first payment, so please plan accordingly. The obligations outlined above will be reviewed by the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise before the final installment is paid. Please note that if you are an international student, Columbia University policy mandates upfront withholding of taxes, sometimes up to 30 percent. All 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.
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.