Graduate Student Volunteer Program


Wu Chen
2016 Graduate student Wu Chen interviews Chief Rwot of the Acholi tribe as part of a documentary project in Uganda.

The Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR) invites human rights graduate students in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and the School of International and Public Affairs to apply for an eight-week summer internship with alumni of the Human Rights Advocates Program (HRAP) and the Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability Program (AHDA). Students selected to participate in the Graduate Student Volunteers Program (GSVP) will receive a travel grant of $1500 from ISHR.

GSVP enables graduate students to expand their own professional skills and human rights knowledge and experience through fieldwork with participating grassroots human rights organizations.

Application Details

To apply, students should email a cover letter and resume to with the subject line “GSVP application.” ISHR staff will conduct interviews in late March/early April. Applications and interview results will then be sent to the hosting organizations, which may request interviews. Final decisions will be announced in late April. Students are asked to confirm their participation in the program no later than May 5th. At that time, students will be asked to sign a Memorandum of Understanding about their participation in the program as well as provide proof of medical insurance that includes medevac.


Margo Goll
In 2015, graduate student Margo Goll volunteered with the Hope Development Initiative in Uganda.

Please note that the disbursement of the $1500 stipend may take 4-6 weeks. There is no way to expedite this so you should have funds available to move forward if chosen. Students are solely responsible for arranging and purchasing their own plane tickets, accommodation, and other expenses incurred during their internship. Students are solely responsible for identifying their own accommodations, although some organizations may assist students in finding housing options. Students are solely responsible for obtaining a visa if one is necessary.

Please make sure to read each internship description carefully and to review each organization’s website. If selected for an interview with the host organization, be sure to identify questions in advance regarding both the internship itself and accommodation options.

Students coordinate the exact start and end dates of their internship directly with the hosting organization prior to their departure, but must commit to volunteering for a minimum of 8 weeks.

Preference is given to first-year graduate students who expect to continue their graduate studies at Columbia University in the fall. Upon their return, students will be expected to discuss their volunteer experience at brown bags sponsored by ISHR in the fall semester as well as contribute at least one article each to ISHR’s blog, RightsViews as well as a written report to ISHR on their volunteer experience.

Please contact with any questions. Please do not directly contact the organizations or their affliated personnel.